MEXICO CITY — Nets general manager Sean Marks took another major step in his rebuilding program to get younger and more talented by acquiring 6-11 center Jahlil Okafor as the centerpiece of a trade with Philadelphia on Thursday.
The Nets will receive Okafor, perimeter shooter Nik Stauskas and a 2019 second-round pick via the Knicks in exchange for veteran forward Trevor Booker, who is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $9.125 million this season. The Nets also waived Sean Kilpatrick to make roster space for Stauskas.
Marks said the Nets had investigated a potential Okafor trade for some time and that talks heated up recently. “It’s an opportunity for both teams to move forward in a little bit of a different direction,” he said. “I think we get an opportunity to get a look at two young guys, we get a pick, and we replenish some of the assets that we need and move forward with these guys.”
Booker was with the Nets in Mexico City, where they faced the Thunder on Thursday night, when reports of the deal surfaced. In a tweet, he said: “It’s been real Brooklyn. Will always have nothing but love for you. Loved my time in New York!!!”
Clearly, the Nets under Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson are about developing young talent for the future. Despite Okafor’s declining performance since his rookie season and questions about his conditioning and dedication, the Nets viewed him as a risk worth taking.
“We’ve been following him for a long time,” Marks said. “Maybe a change of scenery . . . We’re looking forward to getting him in our environment, around our coaches, our development coaches. And I could say the same thing about Nik. I’m going to bet on my staff for sure.”
The Nets now have the second and third overall picks from the 2015 NBA Draft. They sent Brook Lopez to the Lakers for No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell, and Duke product Okafor was selected right after Russell.
The emergence of Joel Embiid made Okafor expendable. He appeared in only two games for the 76ers this season but has averaged 14.6 points and 5.9 rebounds for his career.
Stauskas, a shooting guard who was the No. 8 overall pick out of Michigan in 2014, also was limited to six appearances with the 76ers this season. He has averaged 7.3 points and shot 34.3 percent from three-point range.
As a traditional back-to-the- basket center, Okafor doesn’t really fit the system implemented by Atkinson.
Asked how he expects Okafor to adjust, Marks said, “Look at what Kenny and his staff have done over the course of the last 18 months with a lot of the guys, the guys who’ve bought in. The coaching staff has done a heck of a job and I expect nothing less than that with the two guys we’re bringing in.”
Okafor and Stauskas are expected to practice with the Nets on Monday in Brooklyn, but there are no guarantees of playing time. As Atkinson said, “The first thing we’ve got to evaluate when [Okafor] comes in is his medicals and conditioning. We’ve got to find out where he is first. There shouldn’t be this thing where all of a sudden you’re handed it. No one’s handed it. That’s Stauskas, too. They’re talented guys, but I think they’re going to have to earn their [way].”