On December 7th, GM of the Brooklyn Nets, Sean Marks, made another exceptional move. Marks sent Trevor Booker to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, and a 2019 2nd round pick.
Booker, 30, is a veteran who’s value does not stand with a team like Brooklyn, who is years away from reaching the playoffs. He will be a helpful hand on the Sixers, who needed a backup big to replace the not-so-effective Amir Johnson. Booker will do just that as someone who can score and rebound as well as being a veteran voice on a younger team.
While the trade was not bad for Philadelphia, the Brooklyn Nets came away from the trade as the clear winner.
The biggest addition is Jahlil Okafor, who still has potential to be a serviceable big man in the NBA after riding the bench in Philadelphia all year. He appeared in just two games this season and only played 25 minutes combined in said games.
Oakfor played 103 games over his first two years in the league. In his rookie year, he averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes per game. When his minutes dipped to just 22.7 per game in his sophomore season, he averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds.
Obviously, Okafor’s defensive limitations have been well-documented and the concerns on that end of the floor are very legitimate. But, there are plenty of players, specifically, big men, who are not great defenders in the NBA. Names such as Al Jefferson, Brook Lopez, and Nikola Vucevic come to mind when thinking of centers who make their money on the offensive side of the court.
And the biggest factor when it comes to Okafor is his age. He is just 22 years old and had a productive first two years in the league. He can score the ball and if he makes any strides defensively, it will only help him become a more usable and successful player on the court. He has the size to be a rim protector, but if he does not start to play with a demeanor on the defensive end then the likelihood of him ever becoming even an average defender drops significantly.
But, for the cost the Brooklyn Nets paid in this trade, Okafor alone, would have been a good enough return for the potential he possesses.
The other player the Nets received in the deal, Nik Stauskas, may also have a chance to develop into something after being the 8th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. While he has not done it recently in the NBA, Stauskas can shoot the lights out of the ball. He did so at Michigan, where he played a key role on the team that ended up losing to Louisville in the NCAA Championship.
Like Okafor, Stauskas rode the bench this season in Philadelphia, as he averaged just 0.7 minutes in six games. This is his fourth year in the NBA, but he played his best season in the league last year when he averaged 9.5 points in 27.4 minutes per game. He posted his best field-goal percentage, although it was still a very below average 39.6 percent. However, he did shoot a career-high 36.8 percent from the three-point line.
The common factor between both these players is when they play, they produce. Neither were great when they played, but they both were useful and still have untapped potential. Okafor and Stuaskas head to a system that thrives on developing players with Kenny Atkinson at the helm. For example, Spencer Dinwiddie, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and D’Angelo Russell before he suffered a left knee injury, have all had career years in the league.
This trade is no different than any other moves Marks and Atkinson have made in their short tenure. Whether it was drafting an oft-injured Caris Levert, trading their franchise cornerstone for the past eight seasons in Brook Lopez, or signing and playing Spencer Dinwiddie heavy minutes, the Nets continue to make similar moves time after time.
Those moves are to take chances, and recently the chances the Brooklyn Nets have been taking have opportunity to pay off.