Could the Brandon Knight be the key to a 76ers and Pelicans trade?

Dec 23, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the 76ers 123-116. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the 76ers 123-116. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers are looking for serious trade value for Jahlil Okafor from the New Orleans Pelicans, but without a 3rd party the trade could stall.

When news broke Monday night that the Philadelphia 76ers where in advanced trade negotiations with the New Orleans Pelicans in regards to Jahlil Okafor, a burst of energy surged throughout the collective fan base.

Finally, after an almost half season logjam at the center position, the team was ready to cash in come of its assets to cultivate a more balanced roster. Twitter feeds refreshed by the second, looking for any hint as to the Sixers intentions.

Okafor for a first round pick? What about Jrue Holiday? The team has already been linked to him as a potential free agent pickup this offseason, maybe they have grown impatient and would prefer Holiday join the squad ASAP. And oh, the irony. Trading Jrue effectively started The Process, and the ultimate return of Philadelphia’s prodigal point guard is almost too good to be true.

The Pelicans would love to add a player with Okafor’s skill set to play alongside Anthony Davis. Jahlil brings a potentially elite scorer in the paint to New Orleans, and could have his defensive shortcomings masked by Anthony Davis’s defensive dominance.

The major issue with the trade is that similar to the 76ers, the Pelicans also plan to go after Holiday aggressively in free agency. Jrue Holiday has proven himself to be a starting point guard in this league, and could be receiving a nice pay raise this offseason. After being traded to the Pelicans by the 76ers on draft day in 2013 Jrue Holiday, now 27, has dealt with his share of injuries and unexpected issues that have kept him from entering the upper echelon of the NBA.

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The Pelicans are in a unique position; they want to remain competitive in the Western Conference, but also build around a young nucleus of players. Trading for Okafor helps to accomplish both of these missions. Okafor is an accomplished scorer, and is still on his rookie contract. His addition could clear out cap room that is currently being occupied by lesser players, and allow the Pelicans to re-sign Tyreke Evans to a multi-year deal, and ultimately build a team with continuity. While Holiday is 27, the Sixers simply do not have a young point guard that they would be willing to trade in order to procure Holiday’s services and still retain a future draft pick for Okafor. If this trade is to occur, a third team would be needed.

Enter Brandon Knight

Much to the 76ers luck, there is an NBA team with a quality young point guard firmly planted on the bench, the Phoenix Suns.

Brandon Knight, who was traded to the Suns in 2015, has been relegated to sixth man behind starting point guard Eric Bledsoe. Knight, who is currently in the second year of a 5 year, $70 million contract, simply has too much talent, and makes too much money not to start for a team. While not as proven a player as Holiday, Knight could supply the Pelicans with an athletic combo guard, who could thrive both off and on the ball when paired with Tyreke Evans and Anthony Davis. Knight is also locked up for the next 3.5 years, for roughly $14 million a season, which ensures New Orleans a player to grow with.

While it is no secret that Brandon Knight is attainable via a trade, it is unclear what the Suns would require for his services. Would the Suns be willing include Knight in a three way trade in exchange for a player like Jerryd Bayless? Though Bayless is out for the remainder of the year after undergoing wrist surgery, he could serve as a true sixth man for the Suns the remaining two years of his contract.

Besides providing the team with some additional veteran leadership, Bayless can also play multiple positions, both point and shooting guard for the Suns going forward on a much more reasonable contract. In order to make the value work, the Suns may need to provide additional draft compensation for the Sixers, probably in the form of a second round pick.

According to the ESPN NBA Trade Machine, a hypothetical trade that sends Jrue Holiday and the contract of Omer Asik to the 76ers, Jerryd Bayless to the Phoenix Suns, and Brandon Knight and Jahlil Okafor to the New Orleans Pelicans is a legal trade.

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In addition to the marquee players being exchanged, the 76ers should also be able to acquire a fairly well protected first-round pick from the Pelicans in exchange for acquiring Omer Asik’s 10 dollars million contract, and additional second round draft compensation.

While this trade is far from a sure thing, it would ensure that every team leaves the table in a better position than when they arrived. The Sixers get a draft pick for Jahlil Okafor, a more balanced roster, and a veteran starting point guard. The New Orleans Pelicans lock up two young starters for their team going forward, protection for their 2017 first-round draft pick and ultimately free up roughly $5 million in cap space. The Phoenix Suns rid themselves of  Brandon Knight’s $70 million contract and receive a more willing bench playmaker.