By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Yesterday was the deadline for NBA teams to pick up club options on the contracts of former first-round picks for the 2018-19 season. In no-brainer moves, the Sixers picked up the third-year options on Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Simmons and Saric are core pieces of the franchise and TLC has shown plenty of flashes of becoming a 3-and-D rotation player.
In a move I’m sure the team at least mulled over for a minute, Philadelphia also picked up the fourth-year option for Justin Anderson. The jury is still out on whether Anderson can be a rotation player, but to his credit, his jump shot has improved slightly since last year. The Sixers understandably want to give him another year to see him continue to develop and the $2.5M he’s now guaranteed for next season is a reasonable price to pay. I would imagine the hope that they can point to him as some sort of return in the Nerlens Noel trade also played into the optics of the situation.
Finally, in the most-anticipated move of the option deadline, Philadelphia declined the fourth-year option for former third-overall pick Jahlil Okafor. A divisive figure in the City of Brotherly Love almost since the day he was drafted, this move means Okafor will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Sixers can still trade him as an expiring contract, but even in the likely event they can’t find a suitor, Jahlil won’t be in Philadelphia beyond next spring. The $6.5M he would have been owed in 2018-19 will now be freed up to try and attract a max-level player in next summer’s free agency.
The Sixers’ decision to bypass Jahlil Okafor’s fourth-year option could lead Okafor to press for a contract buyout, league sources say
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 31, 2017
The idea has also been floated that the Sixers could buyout Okafor for the rest of the season. Both sides would seemingly have interest in such an arrangement. Jahlil could go somewhere and actually play basketball rather than collect splinters for the rest of the season on the bench. Meanwhile, the Sixers would be able to put any cap savings from the buyout toward further frontloading an extension for Robert Covington. As Michael Scott would say, it would be win-win-win, because fans would also win by not having to keep discussing Okafor as a lame-duck former lottery pick on the end of the bench.
The Process was all about maximizing the number of opportunities to get a crack at drafting a franchise-changing superstar. Okafor was the biggest swing and miss during the Hinkie era. Passing on Kristaps Portzingis, who went one pick after, looks like pure player evaluation malpractice. At least now, we can all move on with our lives.