If Jahlil Okafor ends up on the Boston Celtics, it doesn’t sound like he’ll arrive via trade.
From The Vertical’s Chris Mannix:
That DPE is an interesting tool for Boston to work with. My understanding of the situation is that the Celtics would prefer to hold onto it until closer to the buyout deadline, when they can use it to entice a veteran on the market. They don’t want to use it in, say, a trade for Jahlil Okafor, though there is real interest in Okafor if he were to hit the free-agent market.
The Celtics applied for that DPE (Disabled Player Exception) on the heels of Gordon Hayward’s injury. It allows them to sign or acquire a player in the last year of his contract for up to $8.4 million. Hence why they’ve been a long-speculated destination for Okafor, who is completely and utterly out of the Philadelphia 76ers’ plans after they declined his fourth-year team option.
If any team could justify throwing a second-rounder in the pot for Okafor, the Celtics are it. And yet, they don’t have any real reason to go that route. For one, they have the best record in the NBA. But, mostly, Okafor isn’t a real asset. The Sixers have zero leverage after declining his team option; there should be no rush to give up anything to get him—not even precious cap flexibility.
Waiting for the buyout market to develop is a smart play from Celtics president Danny Ainge. You never know who could become available around the trade deadline, and sometimes, those additions can really make an impact. (Think along the lines of when Joe Johnson signed with the Miami Heat in 2015-16.) And if no opportunity arises by mid-February, Boston can contemplate whether a partial-season flyer on Okafor is worth anything. Heck, who knows, by that point Okafor could have agreed to a buyout and be existing among free agents himself.