The Hawks were outrebounded on Sunday afternoon 43-31 during their 117-106 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. In fact, with the exception of their season-opening win in Dallas on Oct. 18, in which they outrebounded the Mavericks -a bad rebounding team- 50-41, the Hawks have yet to finish with more total rebounds than any of their past six opponents.
What was once a massive strength of the team with players like the recently departed center Dwight Howard who had 15 rebounds (four offensive, against his former team in the Hornets 109-91 victory on Oct. 20) and forward Paul Millsap, who grabbed six in the Nuggets 105-100 victory on Friday in the Hawks home opener, is no longer.
During Atlanta’s six-game losing streak they have been outrebounded 43-31 in the loss to Milwaukee, 46-43 to the Nuggets, 62-40 in Chicago, broke even at 41 in their loss to Miami, 51-48 in a game they should have won in Brooklyn (The game was tied at 99 with 5:14 and the Hawks in the midst of a 12-1 run) and 57-38 in Charlotte.
With their game in Philadelphia coming up on Thursday, the answer to their rebounding prayers just might be on the other bench and I’m not speaking of future all-star forward Joel Embiid or do-it-all rookie forward Ben Simmons. The player I speak of has only played in one of the 76ers seven games this season.
Former 2015 third overall pick Jahlil Okafor could be the Hawks answer at center -be it as a starter or as the backup to DeWayne Dedmon, who is averaging a career-high 7.4 rebounds per game this season.
The 76ers won in Houston 115-107 on Monday night and a huge part of that victory was how they outrebounded the Rockets 48-35. Embiid finished with nine while Simmons added seven boards. Robert Covington had eight, starting small forward Dario Saric had six and Amir Johnson led all 76ers with 10 off the bench.
76ers coach Brett Brown wouldn’t miss Okafor if he were to change jerseys minutes before Thursday’s game let alone in a trade for a future second-round pick. The Hawks need a natural center, more importantly, a natural rebounder and the 76ers no longer need Okafor. This trade would be a match made in hoops heaven.
Okafor grabbed nine rebounds in 22 minutes of play during the season opener. He has yet to play again. Fully recovered from knee issues that have sidelined him during the past two season (53 games as a rookie, 50 games last season), he’s not going to play in Philadelphia and should be moved. The Atlanta Hawks, head coach Mike Budenholzer and first-year general manager Travis Schlenk should be there to help pack his boxes.