By Brandon Apter, Sports Talk Philly editor
The Philadelphia 76ers declined to pick-up Jahlil Okafor's 2018-19 team option, meaning the third-year big man out of Duke will become a free agent at season's end. Don't expect Okafor to accept not playing though, as there are early indications that he could look into a contract buyout with the Sixers. He's slated to make just under $5 million this season.
The buyout seems like a plausible situation for Okafor, who probably wouldn't want to go into free agency having not played for the majority of the season with Philadelphia due to him not being in Brett Brown's rotation. It remains to be seen whether the Sixers decide to accommodate a buyout. Marc Stein also reports that Jah believes there have been opportunities for the Sixers to trade him, but nothing has come to fruition.
At this point, it seems like it would be best for the Sixers to move on from Okafor sooner rather than later. The situation has gotten ugly once again. Last season, Okafor was told to stay home while the Sixers went on a road trip, indicating a deal was imminent. Bryan Colangelo was unable to get a deal done, so Okafor rejoined the team a couple of days later.
“It was awkward,” Okafor told SB Nation's Jordan Brenner. “I'm at home, watching my team play on TV, not a part of that team, but not a part of any other team. I was anxious. Eager to figure out where I was going to be. Kind of excited to have an opportunity to be with a new team and have a fresh start. Sad that I was leaving my teammates that I'd gotten really close with. And then I ended up playing the next night. I can't really put into words how difficult it was.”
After having a handful of off-court issues during his rookie season, Okafor has remained professional throughout this situation while also slimming down and cutting meat out of his diet. He had a strong preseason, but has only played in one game during the regular season. Dario Saric has gotten the nod at the five during games over Okafor, who will be the teams' fourth option at center once Richaun Holmes returns.
UPDATE (11/1, 11:45am) - After practice on Wednesday in Camden, New Jersey, Okafor confirmed he asked the Sixers for a buyout or to be traded and that he didn't want the Sixers to pick up his option.
The Sixers have yet to comment on the matter, but we'll update here if anything happens. If they cannot find a trade for the third-year big man, hopefully both sides can reach an agreement on a buyout to end this saga.