Tony Jones on the NBA: The Sixers need to free Jahlil Okafor from purgatory

Philadelphia 76ers' Jahlil Okafor, left, and Markelle Fultz watch game action from the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

The Philadelphia 76ers should trade Jahlil Okafor. If a suitable trade opportunity doesn’t materialize, they should work with Okafor for a suitable buyout of his contract.

My opinion on this isn’t controversial. It’s obvious the Sixers are keeping Okafor against his will. He’s not in Brett Brown’s rotation, and he won’t be. Philadelphia already has declined his fourth-year team option, making him an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Basketball is a business, and I’m well aware of that. If a team can trade a player they have given up on and get a solid asset in return — whether it be a draft pick or another player — it should do that.

In this case, however, the Sixers aren’t likely to recoup much, if anything, for Okafor. Both sides are at fault, and who’s most at fault is irrelevant. Even if the Sixers get nothing for the former Duke center they selected with the No. 3 pick of the 2015 draft, a divorce is best for all parties involved.

Full disclosure, I’m not a fan of Okafor’s game. To say he struggles as a defender would be complementary of his defense. His main strength — scoring with his back to the basket — is not valued in today’s NBA. Okafor wants the ball on the block in isolation in an era where the best big men are pick-and-roll savants who can shoot 3-pointers. He’d be a slightly better version of Al Jefferson if he had entered the league in 2005. Teams aren’t looking for those types of guys in 2017.

At the same time, Philadelphia owes Okafor the opportunity to explore his value sooner rather than later. They’ve cleared moved on and should let Okafor do the same.

The Sixers have played 17 games this season, and Okafor has been DNP-Coach’s Decision in all but two of them. Joel Embiid is the starter at center, and he deserves to be. He’s one of the most skilled bigs in the NBA. But now Amir Johnson and Richaun Holmes are ahead of Okafor on the depth chart. And when Embiid doesn’t play, coach Brown spreads the floor with Dario Saric playing in a small-ball alignment.

The Sixers feel that they are doing what’s best for them. Okafor is insurance in case Embiid goes down (and we all know he’s prone to injury). Okafor last played Nov. 7 against the Utah Jazz, getting three minutes in the first half and committing three fouls and one turnover while missing two shots. He hasn’t seen the floor since.

I feel for Okafor. He’s a victim of “The Process,” Philadelphia’s way of drafting the best player available, no matter the position. He has offensive ability; in his rookie season, Okafor averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds per game. He was awful defensively, but he was good enough on offense that many thought he had a bright future. But now Embiid is healthy. And it was evident who the better player was by the time last season rolled around.

There is not room for both of them in Philadelphia, especially when Embiid has established himself as an All-Star talent and figured out how to stay healthy. So with limited trade potential, the Sixers need to cut bait and buy Okafor out.

It’s the best thing for all parties involved.

NBA POWER RANKINGS <br>1. Houston Rockets • Why the Rockets and not the Celtics or Warriors? Houston has the NBA’s best net rating over the past 14 games. <br>2. Boston Celtics • The winning streak finally ended Wednesday against Miami, but they are the best defense in the league. <br>3. Golden State Warriors • Still get the sense they are bored to a degree. Or pacing themselves. OKC defeated them handily on Wednesday. <br>4. Cleveland Cavaliers • Don’t look now, but the Cavs are on a seven-game winning streak entering Saturday. <br>5. Detroit Pistons • Big win in the final seconds on the road against OKC this week. <br>6. Toronto Raptors • They lose Delon Wright for a month with a separated shoulder just as former Ute was coming into his own. <br>7. Philadelphia 76ers • A young team that only will get better in the weaker Eastern Conference. <br>8. San Antonio Spurs • When will they get Kawhi Leonard back is one of the burning questions in the league. <br>9. Indiana Pacers • One of the NBA’s surprise stories early in the season. <br>10. Portland Trail Blazers • Doing it with offense. Damian Lillard and Co. dropped 127 on Brooklyn in road win. <br>11. Denver Nuggets • How do they adjust to the big blow of losing Paul Millsap for an extended period? <br>12. Minnesota Timberwolves • Not defending the way they want. Only winning team in the West with a negative net rating. <br>13. New Orleans Pelicans • DeMarcus Cousins quietly is having the best season of his career. <br>14. Washington Wizards • Not clicking like they were last season. <br>15. New York Knicks • The Knicks are above .500 and we’re almost in December. This isn’t a typo, even if it sounds like it. <br>16. Milwaukee Bucks • People talk about Giannis and Eric Bledsoe, and you have Khris Middleton dropping 40 in a road win over Phoenix. <br>17. Oklahoma City Thunder • Russell Westbrook scores 34 against Golden State after Warriors said he was easy to guard. Point proven. <br>18. Miami Heat • Wayne Ellington made six 3-pointers off the bench in a win over Minnesota. <br>19. Charlotte Hornets • Fun stat: Charlotte is 1-25 against LeBron James since Michael Jordan became team owner in 2010. <br>20. Los Angeles Lakers • Have won two of their past three games is a tiny reason for optimism. <br>21. Utah Jazz • A 1-7 road record is troubling with so many road games on the horizon. <br>22. Orlando Magic • That fast start seems so long ago. <br>23. Memphis Grizzlies • Life without injured point guard Mike Conley has been rough. <br>24. Brooklyn Nets • More competitive than last season, but the reality of the schedule is catching up. <br>25. Los Angeles Clippers • Are they really thinking of trading DeAndre Jordan? <br>26. Phoenix Suns • Developing superstar guard Devin Booker leading them with 23 points per game. <br>27. Sacramento Kings • Road record of 1-9 is second worst in the NBA. <br>28. Dallas Mavericks • At least they have Dennis Smith Jr. and his development to look forward to this season. <br>29. Atlanta Hawks • Look on the bright side: Hawks had a nice road win over the Knicks. <br>30. Chicago Bulls • Led the Warriors by three at the end of the first quarter on Friday … and lost by almost 50.