Emeka Okafor

And-Ones: E. Okafor, Trade Season, 2020 Draft, Cacok

Former No. 2 overall pick Emeka Okafor made an NBA comeback during the 2017/18 season, appearing in 26 regular season contests for the Pelicans after being out of the league for nearly five years. Although Okafor made 19 starts for a New Orleans team that ultimately made it to the Western Conference Semifinals, the veteran big man hasn’t appeared in the NBA since then.

Still, that doesn’t mean Okafor is giving up on his professional career. As Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays, the former UConn star has found a new home in South Korea, where he has already appeared in a pair of games for Mobis Phoebus. At age 37, Okafor may not return to the NBA again, but he’s averaging a double-double so far in the KBL, with 11.5 PPG and 10.5 RPG.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) shares his comprehensive and invaluable trade guide for 2019/20, while John Hollinger of The Athletic provides five reasons why the ’19/20 trade season may turn out to be a dud.
  • Within his article, Hollinger makes a case for why the Warriors may push hard to get out of luxury-tax territory before the end of the season, noting that doing so would allow the team to avoid repeater penalties in 2020/21. It won’t be easy for Golden State to sneak below the tax line, but if the team is willing to discuss a Kevon Looney trade, that could open up one path, Hollinger observes.
  • Jeremy Woo of SI.com and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic have published their first big boards for the 2020 NBA draft. Georgia freshman guard Anthony Edwards tops both lists, but they diverge from there, with LaMelo Ball coming in at No. 2 in Woo’s rankings, while Vecenie has UNC’s Cole Anthony at No. 2.
  • Devontae Cacok‘s new two-way contract with the Lakers is a two-year agreement, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Cacok is one of six two-way players who is in the first year of a two-year deal.

Sixers Waive Okafor, Jefferson, Johnson

Veteran center Emeka Okafor wasn’t able to earn a roster spot with the Sixers, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Okafor was waived today, along with Cory Jefferson and Darin Johnson.

Okafor, 36, signed a non-guaranteed deal for the veteran’s minimum shortly before training camp opened last month. He had been hoping to win a spot as a backup to Joel Embiid and a veteran leader on one of the NBA’s top teams.

Okafor completed a remarkable comeback story when he earned a roster spot with the Pelicans in February after signing a pair of 10-day contracts. It marked his return to the league after missing four seasons because of injury. He appeared in 26 games, starting 19, and averaged 4.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per night. However, he barely played in the postseason.

New Orleans waived Okafor last month and he signed with the Sixers two days later.

Jefferson and Johnson signed with Philadelphia yesterday and both appear headed for the G League.

Sixers Sign Center Emeka Okafor

The Sixers have added veteran center Emeka Okafor to their training camp roster, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Okafor’s contract is for the non-guaranteed minimum, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets.

Philadelphia now has a full camp roster with 14 players on guaranteed deals, four on partial or non-guaranteed contracts, and two two-way players.

Okafor just cleared waivers on Friday after being let go by the Pelicans. New Orleans made the move before a $100K guarantee in Okafor’s contract kicked in.

Okafor will compete for a roster spot and Norvel Pelle, who also has a non-guaranteed deal, seems the most vulnerable among the other big men.

After missing four seasons due to injuries, Okafor returned to the NBA for the Pelicans in 2017/18 and delivered quality minutes for the team after DeMarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles tear.

In 26 games (19 starts) for New Orleans last season, Okafor posted 4.4 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 13.6 minutes per contest. He was out of the club’s rotation by the postseason, appearing in just one playoff game.

Pelicans Waive Emeka Okafor

12:04pm: Bobby Marks of ESPN.com clarifies (via Twitter) that the date for Okafor’s $100K partial guarantee had been pushed back to September 21, which helps explain the timing of today’s move. As such, New Orleans won’t be on the hook for any 2018/19 money for Okafor.

Marc Spears of The Undefeated adds (via Twitter) that Okafor has previously communicated a desire to continue his NBA career into the ’18/19 season, so we’ll see if he’s able to catch on with another club.

11:42am: The Pelicans have parted ways with veteran center Emeka Okafor, announcing today in a press release that the former second overall pick has been waived. Assuming Okafor goes unclaimed, he’ll clear waivers on Friday, becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Okafor, who was selected after Dwight Howard in the 2004 draft, played nine NBA seasons before health problems derailed his career in 2013. After missing four seasons, the big man returned to the NBA for the Pelicans in 2017/18 and provided solid minutes for the team after DeMarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles tear.

In 26 games (19 starts) for New Orleans last season, Okafor contributed 4.4 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 13.6 minutes per contest. He was out of the club’s rotation by the postseason, however, appearing briefly in just one playoff game.

Okafor was one of several players on the Pelicans’ roster who didn’t have a fully guaranteed salary — he reportedly had a $100K partial guarantee, so New Orleans will only be on the hook for that amount. With Okafor no longer in the mix, the Pelicans will have an open spot on their 20-man offseason roster, even after the team officially completes its deal with Jarrett Jack.

Okafor’s departure may be good news for a fellow big man who shares a last name with the veteran. Jahlil Okafor is now the only frontcourt player with a non-guaranteed salary on the Pelicans’ roster, and could be in good position to earn one of the open spots on the 15-man regular season squad.

Few Early NBA Salary Guarantee Dates This Fall

Over the summer, NBA teams faced a number of decisions on whether to keep a player and guarantee his salary or waive him and avoid that extra cost. In total, nearly 50 players had some sort of guarantee deadline on their contracts in June, July, and August.

Typically, that pattern continues to some extent in the fall. All NBA contracts for a given year become guaranteed on January 10 (not counting 10-day deals), but several contracts include trigger dates that come before the new year, most frequently around the start of the regular season.

A player with a mid-October salary guarantee date in his contract receives a sizable bonus if he makes his club’s regular season roster, perhaps even having his entire salary guaranteed. If he doesn’t earn a spot on his team’s 15-man squad, he’s waived without getting that guarantee, but has the opportunity to seek a new job elsewhere.

For the 2018/19 league year though, fall salary guarantee dates are scarce. While there are plenty of players on non-guaranteed contracts around the NBA, virtually all of those contracts will remain non-guaranteed until January 10.

According to data from Basketball Insiders and ESPN, the Knicks are one of the few teams carrying players with salary trigger dates this fall. Trey Burke, whose deal is currently partially guaranteed for $100K, will have that partial guarantee bumped to $400K if he remains under contract for the first game of the regular season. Noah Vonleh, on a non-guaranteed contract for now, will receive a $100K partial guarantee if he’s not waived by September 25.

Outside of those two dates, September 1 represents the other deadline of note for salary guarantees. The Thunder and Abdel Nader reportedly agreed to push his guarantee deadline from August 1 to September 1, so Nader – who currently has a $450K partial guarantee – should be in line for a fully guaranteed salary if he’s not waived by Saturday.

Elsewhere, there’s some conflicting info on a pair of Pelicans players. Emeka Okafor and DeAndre Liggins have $100K and $75K partial guarantees, respectively, according to Basketball Insiders. However, ESPN’s Bobby Marks indicated this week (via Twitter) that those partial guarantees won’t actually lock in until after September 1. If Okafor remains under contract through October 16, his guarantee would increase to $200K, per Basketball Insiders.

Salary details are still trickling in for some recent signees, and it’s possible that a few more free agent deals between now and the start of the season will feature trigger dates. For now though, there aren’t many salary guarantee deadlines worth keeping an eye on this fall.

Pelicans Notes: Offseason, Rondo, Cousins, Okafor

While the Pelicans’ season came to an end on Tuesday night in Golden State, there’s reason for optimism in New Orleans going forward, writes Ron Higgins of The Times-Picayune. As Higgins details, head coach Alvin Gentry said after the game that he believes the Pelicans are “headed in the right direction as a franchise,” praising Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday as long-term anchors.

The 2017/18 season was also one of redemption for general manager Dell Demps, says Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune. Demps was believed to be on the hot seat a year ago, but kept his job and saw the roster he built blossom during the eighth year of his tenure in New Orleans.

Demps’ decision to sign Rajon Rondo to a one-year, $3.3MM deal last offseason was one of his best moves in recent memory, as Duncan notes. In Higgins’ view, re-signing Rondo to a new contract in the coming months should be at or near the top of Demps’ list of priorities. It’s imperative that the team bring back at least one – or both – of Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins in order to continue its uphill climb, Higgins contends.

Here’s more on the Pelicans as their offseason gets underway:

  • Asked after the game about whether he wants the Pelicans to re-sign Cousins, Gentry suggested it “goes without saying” that he’d want the big man back. “That’s something we’ll discuss,” Gentry said, per Ben Golliver of SI.com (video link). “The guy is averaging 26 points and 12 points, you’d like to have him on your team.”
  • The Cousins situation will be the biggest question for the Pelicans to answer this summer, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) writes in his preview of the team’s offseason. As Marks outlines, letting Cousins walk wouldn’t open up cap space, and moving him in a sign-and-trade probably isn’t realistic, so the Pels should make a strong effort to re-sign him. However, New Orleans will also have to be careful not to overpay a player coming off a major Achilles injury, especially given the luxury-tax implications.
  • In his end-of-season look at New Orleans’ next moves, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer suggests that a Cousins/Otto Porter trade would make sense for both the Pelicans and the Wizards. However, as Marks details in his article, a straight-up swap of the two wouldn’t work within CBA rules, so some maneuvering would be required.
  • Having returned to the NBA this season following a layoff of nearly five years, veteran center Emeka Okafor is eager to continue his career in 2018/19, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “I want to play as long as I can,” Okafor said. “We’ll see with New Orleans. … It’s sports. You don’t know. I know my profession. I know anything can happen. But I am very happy to be here. I’m having a great time, and it feels like home.”

Emeka Okafor Received Multiyear Deal From Pelicans

After initially inking a pair of 10-day contracts with the Pelicans, veteran center Emeka Okafor signed a standard deal with the team last month. That agreement was reported as a rest-of-season contract, but according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, it could keep Okafor in New Orleans next season too.

As Marks details, Okafor’s new contract includes a non-guaranteed minimum salary for 2018/19. If the Pelicans keep the former No. 2 overall pick on their roster through the offseason, the deal would have trigger dates for a partial guarantee.

Based on Okafor’s performance so far with the Pelicans, the team’s decision to include a second year on his contract looks like a savvy one. New Orleans hasn’t lost since the 35-year-old entered the starting lineup, having posted a 7-0 record in Okafor’s starts. He has averaged a respectable 5.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 1.7 BPG in those games (15.9 MPG), holding his own in his first NBA action since 2013.

As Marks notes, the only downside of the Pelicans potentially keeping Okafor for a second season would be his $2,445,085 cap hit. The NBA covers a portion of a veteran player’s minimum salary if he signs a one-year deal, but doesn’t do so for multiyear agreements. That means that Okafor will count for nearly $1MM in extra salary for cap and tax purposes than he would if he were to re-sign with New Orleans on a one-year minimum deal. Still, if Okafor finishes the season strong, that modest investment could be worth it to keep him off the open market.

Pelicans Sign Emeka Okafor For Rest Of Season

6:30pm: The Pelicans have officially signed Okafor to a rest-of-season deal, the team announced today in a press release.

8:31am: After his second 10-day deal with the Pelicans expired, Emeka Okafor will re-sign with the team, earning a rest-of-season contract, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Okafor, 35, entered this season having played his last NBA game during the 2012/13 campaign. However, after a solid G League showing with the Delaware 87ers, the former second overall pick was called up by the Pelicans earlier this month.

With DeMarcus Cousins sidelined due to a torn Achilles, Okafor has assumed the role of starting center in New Orleans. The big man hasn’t contributed much on offense, posting 3.7 PPG and a .346 FG% in six games (16.2 MPG). However, he remains a difference-maker on the defensive end, chipping in 6.3 RPG and 2.0 BPG. The Pelicans have won all four games he has started.

Once Okafor officially re-signs, he’ll become the second Pelicans player to parlay a pair of 10-day contracts into a rest-of-season deal — DeAndre Liggins also did so, as our 10-day tracker shows. New Orleans currently has 13 players on rest-of-season or multiyear NBA contracts, with Okafor poised to become the 14th. The 15th roster spot is occupied by Walter Lemon Jr., who is on a 10-day deal.

Assuming Okafor signs his new contract on Monday and it’s worth the minimum salary, it will count for approximately $374K on the Pelicans’ cap.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Okafor, Benson, Grizzlies

The strange injury situation with the Spurs and superstar Kawhi Leonard took an unexpected turn earlier this week. Head coach Gregg Popovich said that it is unlikely that Leonard returns this season. A separate report indicated that Leonard — who has been medically cleared to resume his return — has personally made the decision to remain inactive.

Leonard, last year’s third-place finisher in MVP voting, has missed all but nine games this season. The Spurs have not missed much of a step without Leonard, wielding the third-best record in the Western Conference (35-24). Leonard’s longtime teammate and Spurs legend, Manu Ginobili, weighed in on the situation.

“Nobody is in his body,” Ginobili said, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (via Twitter). “He feels the way he feels and we don’t know. Yeah, we know he has been cleared. But, again, if he is feeling pain, isn’t sure, he is not ready to come back, then he’s not.”

Check out other Southwest Division notes:

  • Emeka Okafor has fought his way back to the NBA and earned a pair of 10-day contracts with the Pelicans, Rod Walker of The New Orleans Advocate writes that Okafor, a former second overall pick, is glad to be back in the league. “It’s been an awesome ride so far,” Okafor said. ” I’m happy to be here trying to earn my way back in. Now that I’m back, it feels good and it feels natural. I’m going to keep on going until I’m told otherwise.”
  • Pelicans owner Tom Benson was recently admitted to a Louisiana medical facility after experiencing flu-like symptoms, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Benson, 90, is resting comfortably and is receiving top-notch care, per the statement.
  • The Grizzlies are finishing up a poor season that will not end in a postseason berth, but the team – led by veteran Marc Gasol and interim head coach J.B Bickerstaff – wants to finish the year well, Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal writes.

Pelicans Sign Emeka Okafor To Second 10-Day Deal

FEBRUARY 14: The Pelicans have officially signed Okafor to a second 10-day contract, the team announced today (via Twitter). Due to the All-Star break, it will run through February 25, technically making it a 12-day deal.

FEBRUARY 13: After earning his first NBA start since 2013 on Monday night, veteran center Emeka Okafor saw his 10-day contract with the Pelicans expire. However, the team won’t let him get away. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link), New Orleans will re-sign Okafor to a second 10-day deal.

The second overall pick in the 2004 draft, Okafor hadn’t played an NBA regular season game since the 2012/13 season before he signed with the Pelicans earlier this month. In three contests, including last night’s start, the 35-year-old has held his own, averaging 5.0 PPG and 5.7 RPG in 14.3 MPG.

The timing for Okafor’s second 10-day contract remains unclear. New Orleans plays one more game before the All-Star break, facing the Lakers on Wednesday. If Okafor finalizes his new deal today or tomorrow, it would run through February 25, since 10-day contracts require a player to be with the team for at least three games. As such, the All-Star break could turn Okafor’s new deal into a 12- or 13-day contract, assuming the Pelicans don’t wait until after the break to finalize it.

Having created two open roster spots when they sent three players to the Bulls in exchange for Nikola Mirotic, the Pelicans signed DeAndre Liggins and Okafor to fill out their squad. However, the club created another opening by waiving Rashad Vaughn after the deadline. After re-signing Okafor, the Pels will be carrying 14 players on their 15-man NBA roster.

When Okafor’s new 10-day contract expires, the Pelicans will have to decide whether to part ways with him or lock him up for the rest of the season.