Nets acquire Jahlil Okafor from Philadelphia
No. 3 pick from 2015 NBA Draft accompanied by Nik Stauskas in trade
For the second time in less than six months, the Brooklyn Nets have snared one of the top selections from the 2015 NBA Draft, this time acquiring center Jahlil Okafor from the Philadelphia 76ers.
The third selection just over two years ago, Okafor joins 2015 No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell in Brooklyn. It’s the latest aggressive move by general manager Sean Marks in his Brooklyn makeover.
Okafor arrives along with guard Nik Stauskas and a 2019 second-round pick that originally belonged to the New York Knicks in exchange for veteran forward Trevor Booker. With the Nets roster full at 15 players prior to the trade, the Nets have also announced that they’ve waived guard Sean Kilpatrick to clear space for the two new arrivals.
“I think there’s a lot to say about Jahlil,” said Nets general manager Sean Marks before Thursday night’s win against Oklahoma City in Mexico City. “We’ve been following him for a long time, like everybody has. Maybe a change of scenery. We’re looking forward to getting him in our environment, around our coaches, around our development coaches. I can say the same thing about Nik.”
In exchange for the 30-year-old Booker, who was in his second season with the Nets, Marks has acquired a 21-year-old who had the look of a franchise building block not long ago. Okafor, who will turn 22 next week, was drafted by the Sixers after leading Duke to the NCCA title and earning ACC player of the year honors in his lone college season.
He was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team in 2015-16 after averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field. But Okafor’s role in Philadelphia began to decline last season with the emergence of another young big man, Joel Embiid. So far this season he’s played in just two games, scoring 10 points in 25 minutes.
The 6-foot-11, 255-pounder is a traditional post player who has attempted just six career 3-pointers, none since his rookie year. For his career, just over half of his shots have come within five feet of the basket, and he’s shot 65.5 percent on those attempts. In his third NBA season, Okafor has still just played a bit more than one full NBA season, with 105 career games in which he’s averaged 14.6 points and 5.9 rebounds.
In swapping Booker for Okafor, the Nets get significantly younger. They now have five players selected in the first round of the last three NBA drafts and nine players aged 25 or younger.
The under-25 group includes Stauskas, selected eighth overall in 2014 by the Sacramento Kings. Stauskas was part of the same recruiting class at the University of Michigan as Nets swingman Caris LeVert. The pair were members of an NCAA Final Four team in 2013, reaching the national championship game. Stauskas was named Big Ten player of the year as a sophomore the following year before declaring for the NBA Draft.
A 6-6 guard who shot 44 percent from 3-point range while at Michigan, Stauskas fits the Nets’ preferred profile of good-sized wings with shooting range, although that stroke has yet to translate at the NBA level. He was dealt to Philadelphia after his rookie year and has a career average of 7.3 points per game with 34.3 percent shooting from 3-point range.
"Obviously two very talented offensive players," said Atkinson. "I think like anybody that comes into our program, we need to defend the basketball. That will be a challenge for both of them. We need those guys to be two-way players. That’s going to be the challenge for them. We’re going to demand it, as we do of everybody that comes in our program. Again, two talented guys. It’s our job to get them to fit into our system. That’s the coach’s job."
In Booker and Kilpatrick, the Nets move on from two players well-liked by fans and the organization alike.
Kilpatrick was Marks’ first acquisition as Nets GM in 2016, signed out of the G League to a succession of 10-day contracts in February and March before ultimately getting a multi-year deal. Over 93 games with Brooklyn during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, Kilpatrick averaged 13.3 points with a hard-charging offensive style. But the acquisitions of Russell and Allen Crabbe left little room for him in the guard rotation, although he had seen more action over the last three weeks since Russell was sidelined by knee surgery.
Booker started 48 of his 89 games with the Nets at either power forward or center. Rugged and reliable, the 6-foot-8 eighth-year pro averaged 10.0 points and 7.8 rebounds in 24.1 minutes per game during his Brooklyn stint.
"Loved coaching him," said Atkinson. "And I think he appreciated the things we helped him with, whether it was his game or his family. He is on a flight tonight to Philadelphia I think. They want him there, which is normal. I think we’d do the same thing. 'Hey, can you get here as soon as possible?' I know they had an injury. It makes total sense to us. Not an easy situation, but I can’t imagine, and I’ll put Sean it that, two guys handling it with more class than those two guys. Speaks a lot about their character."