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Jahlil Okafor and Eric Bledsoe Are Only Losing Their Value

The longer the Sixers and Suns let these sagas go on, the less they will get in return

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Picture this: You’re back in middle school, sitting in the worn-down cafeteria at a lunch table covered with wrappers and Ziploc bags and half-open Tupperware. You have a bologna sandwich on wheat, and you’re looking for a lunch swap, but your friend who is about to take a bite of a BLT isn’t giving that up. You don’t want this bologna. The bologna doesn’t want you. You’re Ryan McDonough.

You look up and around the table. Every one of your other friends has sleek Lunchables, tasty Fruit Roll-Ups, and perfect Oreos. Nobody wants your sandwich, not even if you throw in your bag of slightly stale Goldfish to go with it. You’re Bryan Colangelo.

This is the conundrum the Suns and Sixers general managers face with Eric Bledsoe and Jahlil Okafor, respectively. Both players want fresh starts. The problem is everyone knows it, and it’s tanking their value.

It’s been five days since Bledsoe lit up the internet with a tweet that spun the Suns into chaos and sent Earl Watson packing after just three games. Now, after being linked with the Nuggets, Knicks, and Bucks, Bledsoe is in limbo.

On Friday, ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported that the Philadelphia 76ers are looking for trade partners for center Jahlil Okafor, who has played in only one game this season and has effectively lost his rotation spot to 30-year-old Amir Johnson.

This isn’t the first time the Sixers have tried to shop Okafor. Rumors around his eventual departure from Philly have been out there for a while, but there’s never been any legitimate takers on the third-year center. Friday’s report indicated that there are “no frontrunners” for Okafor at the moment. We’ve been down this road before.

This isn’t the first we’ve heard of a Bledsoe-Suns breakup, either. Phoenix was reportedly trying to trade Bledsoe long before the tweet, but never got the deal in order. Now, this offseason-style drama is leaking into the regular season. McDonough’s been talking to the media, trying to paint Bledsoe as a malcontent, but it’s just tanking his trade value. How long will the Suns wait for a deal that’s to their liking? And will they ever get a fair return on a player they are keeping away from the court?

The Sixers may have bigger problems to worry about than Okafor, but it’s a similar situation of patience backfiring on an organization. Philly should have dealt Okafor at near the height of his value; the Sixers knew full well he wasn’t a fit for the team they were putting together. Okafor has suffered because of the league’s pace-and-space evolution. He’s an archaic talent, but not useless. As the Spurs are showing this season, you can win with the 2-point shot and two big men. (At least until the playoffs.) There’s a way Okafor can still be effective in the right place at the right time. And by time, I mean 10 minutes of playing time, tops.

The lunch bell signaling the start of the next class is close to ringing. The Sixers are on the clock, and the only way they can get rid of this bologna is by giving it to someone who didn’t bring a lunch at all. If you’re the Suns, you might as well settle for an apple and a bag of celery. They can’t afford to throw their lunch away.