Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor Talks Joining Pelicans, Improving Defense

Jahlil Okafor‘s latest NBA opportunity with be with the Pelicans. He signed a two-year deal with New Orleans early in August after a frustrating season in which he saw limited playing time for two organizations with the Sixers and Nets.

Speaking to C.J. McCollum on his Pull Up with CJ McCollum podcast, Okafor expressed excitement for his new opportunity with the franchise. The former third overall pick addressed the weaknesses in his game and what he has done to address them (via The Bird Writes).

“The knock on me has always been my defense and my rebounding,” Okafor said. “I let the coaches know that I’m aware of that, and obviously they’re aware of that. They know that I’m 150% bought into doing whatever it takes to win. I think I’ve taken the necessary steps this summer just to become a better defender, a better rebounder — just because I’m moving better and I’m doing all of the right stuff. I’m really excited about it.”

In just 28 games last season, Okafor averaged just 6.3 PPG and 3.0 RPG with Philadelphia and Brooklyn. Okafor showed an improved physique this offseason as he prepares to join his third team in two seasons. Given the Pelicans’ strong core of talent, led by fellow Chicago native and superstar Anthony Davis, Okafor is excited for what the team can accomplish.

“With the Pelicans in particular, I’m going to a team with aspirations of winning a championship, and that the whole organization and atmosphere is all about winning,” he said. “That’s not something I’ve been accustomed to since I’ve been in the NBA; it’s sort of been the opposite.”

Southwest Notes: Poeltl, Okafor, Matthews, Batum

Jakob Poeltl is hoping an offseason trade to the Spurs will give him a better shot at playing time, relays Tom Orsborne of The San Antonio Express-News. Poeltl was an overlooked part of the deal that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto and DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio, but the former first-round pick may find a greater opportunity to show off his skills with his new team. Poeltl describes himself as willing to do the “dirty work” and is thrilled about the opportunity with the Spurs.

“That is one of the things I am most excited about, just the fact that this program has such a big history of developing players,” Poeltl said. “Players that stay here or players that then go somewhere else and become really good players. So, I am really excited for the process. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I am looking forward to it.”

There’s more news from the Southwest Division:

  • In an Instagram post, Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor thanks Kevin Love for bringing mental health issues into the open last season. Okafor, who signed a partially guaranteed two-year deal earlier this month, displays a more toned body in the post, but states that he underwent a greater change on the inside. “I’ve learned how to identify and manage different stressors such as anxiety,” Okafor wrote. “Learning how to identify certain stressors has also allowed me to over come them. Often times because of my size and profession people may view me in a certain way, but in reality I deal with the same struggles as countless others.”
  • Trade speculation will continue to follow Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews in the upcoming season, according to a Dallas Morning News profile. At age 31 and entering the final year of his contract after opting in over the summer, Matthews could be expendable after the team assembled its backcourt of the future in the past two drafts.
  • The Rockets should consider gambling on Hornets forward Nicolas Batum, writes Rahat Huq of Forbes. Houston could use another strong wing defender after losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, and Charlotte may be willing to take Ryan Anderson in return because Batum’s contract is even larger. Batum is owed more than $49.5MM over the next two seasons and has a $27.1MM player option for 2020/21.

Western Notes: Nunnally, Booker, Brooks, Powell, Okafor

Euroleague sharpshooter James Nunnally has no doubt he can make an impact with the Timberwolves, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reports. Nunnally, who made 55.4% of his threes while playing for Fenerbahçe of Turkey last season, signed a two-year deal with Minnesota. “I’m ready to get out there and play and take advantage of every opportunity that comes,” the 6’7” Nunnally said. “I know this team needs three-point shooting and wants to pick up the pace of play this year. I know that I can bring that and help in that aspect.” Nunnally’s minimum deal has a $350K guarantee, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Devin Booker may be just 21 years old but he needs to assume a leadership role with the Suns, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic opines. Booker must set a standard for players such as top pick Deandre Ayton and 2017 lottery pick Josh Jackson to follow after signing a max contract extension, Somers adds.
  • Grizzlies’ second-year guard Dillon Brooks sees himself growing into a leadership role and plans to start laying those seeds during the upcoming season, as he told Peter Edmiston of the Memphis Commercial Appeal“For me, as a future leader, I need to connect with every single player somehow, someway, so you can get the best out of them,” Brooks said.
  • Dwight Powell needs to continue to grab rebounds in bunches, as he did toward the end of last season, in order to solidify his spot in the Mavericks’ rotation, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. It’s unlikely he’ll start, so he needs to be tough around the boards to stand out among a frontcourt reserve corps that includes Salah Mejri, Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith, Sefko adds.
  • Only $50K of Jahlil Okafor‘s two-year contract with the Pelicans is guaranteed, Pincus reveals in another tweet. The second year is a team option but just a little over $54K is guaranteed even if it’s exercised, Pincus adds. The signing became official on Thursday.

Western Notes: Okafor, White, Canaan, Curry

The signing of big man Jahlil Okafor is a low-risk, high-reward proposition for the PelicansScott Kushner of The New Orleans Advocate opines. The former No. 3 overall pick was signed this week to a partially guaranteed two-year, $3.27MM contract, which includes a team option for the second year. That means Okafor can easily be cut loose if he doesn’t impress in training camp, Kushner notes. If he sticks, Okafor’s scoring ability could allow him to carve out a niche role off the bench behind starters Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic, Kushner adds.

We have more from around the Western Division:

  • The losses of Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Anderson, Danny Green and Tony Parker should expand Derrick White‘s role with the Spurs next season, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio News Express. The 6’4” guard appeared in just 17 games last season but the 2017 first-rounder is poised to be a rotation player after a strong showing in summer-league play. “It’s nice to know they have faith in me, that they are confident in me,” White told Orsborn. “It’s tough to see all those guys go. They did so much for the organization. But I’ve got to make the most of my opportunities.”
  • Point guard Isaiah Canaan wants to repay the Suns organization for helping him recover from a fractured left ankle, Clevis Murray of the Arizona Republic reports. Canaan re-signed with Phoenix this summer after rehabbing the injury with the team’s medical staff. Canaan was waived in February after playing 19 games with the Suns but they committed to helping him with his recovery. “The Suns organization helped me get back on my feet and back to doing what I love to do,” Canaan said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else but an opportunity and I told them they won’t regret it and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
  • Warriors guard Stephen Curry was both surprised and delighted that DeMarcus Cousins signed with the club in free agency, according to an Associated Press report“It’s interesting because nobody going into free agency thought about DeMarcus as an option then all of a sudden he found his way onto our team,” Curry said. “So for us to have a new dynamic, a new look, whenever he’s fully healthy it should be amazing. I think we got better.”
  • The addition of LeBron James has made the Lakers national TV darlings once again, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register notes. The team will have 43 nationally-televised games, three more than the two-time defending champion Warriors.

Pelicans Sign Jahlil Okafor

AUGUST 9: The Pelicans have officially signed Okafor, according to the NBA’s official transactions log.Jahlil Okafor of the Brooklyn Nets vertical

AUGUST 8: The Pelicans have agreed to sign free agent center Jahlil Okafor, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links). A source tells Wojnarowski that Okafor will sign a two-year contract with a partial guarantee in the first year and a team option for year two.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate first reported on Tuesday that the Pelicans and Okafor were engaged in discussions about a possible deal. As we noted at the time, the 22-year-old could be a good fit on a Pelicans roster that is short on traditional centers. Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle are expected to see the majority of the frontcourt minutes for the club, but none of those players is a natural five.

While Emeka Okafor, Alexis Ajinca, and Cheick Diallo are also options at center for the Pelicans, Okafor’s salary is still non-guaranteed, Ajinca missed the entire 2017/18 season with a knee injury, and Diallo has played primarily at the four since arriving in New Orleans.

The Pelicans currently have 12 players on fully guaranteed salaries for 2018/19, with Emeka Okafor, DeAndre Liggins, Troy Williams, and now Jahlil Okafor among the players with non-guaranteed deals or partial guarantees. That should open the door for the former Sixer to potentially earn a spot on New Orleans’ 15-man regular season roster.

Okafor, drafted by the 76ers with the third overall pick in 2015, averaged 17.5 PPG and 7.0 RPG during his rookie year, but has seen his playing time and production decline since then. After being traded to Brooklyn this past season, he posted 6.4 PPG and 2.9 RPG in 26 contests (12.6 MPG) with the Nets.

Because Okafor isn’t a strong rim protector or outside shooter, he has had trouble carving out a consistent role over the course of his NBA career. However, there shouldn’t be much pressure on him to make an impact in New Orleans — the team has already used its mid-level exception on Randle and its bi-annual exception on Elfrid Payton, meaning Okafor’s new partially guaranteed contract will only be worth the minimum.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Heat Notes: Richardson, Newman, Okafor, Babbitt

The Heat had calls from teams wanting to trade for Josh Richardson this summer, but Miami isn’t looking to move him, according to Manny Navarro and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. The organization wants Richardson to take a larger role on offense, with team president Pat Riley telling him that he should be able to average 18 points per game.

Richardson put up a career-best 12.9 PPG last season while shooting .375% from 3-point range. The authors say Richardson has been concentrating on shooting off the dribble and creating his own shot during offseason workouts.

Teams may have been trying to take advantage of the Heat’s desire to shed salary, but Richardson has an affordable deal that will pay him nearly $42MM over the next four seasons, including an $11.6MM player option in 2021/22. If he is able to increase his scoring numbers, Richardson’s contract might look like a bargain.

Navarro and Jackson pass along some more Heat info in the same piece:

  • Miami wasn’t swayed by Malik Newman‘s experience with the Lakers when the team opted to sign him this week. The 21-year-old guard inked a two-way contract with L.A. at the beginning of July, but spent less than three weeks with the team before being waived. A source said the Heat were “intrigued” with Newman because of his outside shooting prowess and his performance with Kansas in the NCAA Tournament. At 6’3″, Newman will have to learn to play point guard to succeed in the NBA, the source added. His contract is believed to be a training camp deal.
  • Even though the Heat have roster openings, they never considered trying to sign free agent center Jahlil Okafor. The No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft agreed to a partially guaranteed deal with the Pelicans today after disappointing performances with the Sixers and Nets. Miami only has 12 players with guaranteed contracts, along with a two-way deal for Duncan Robinson, but the team believes it has enough centers with Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo backing up Hassan Whiteside.
  • Veteran forward Luke Babbitt, who finished last season in Miami after a February trade from the Hawks, continues to examine offers in Europe. Babbitt, 29, is hoping to find a place where he can get more playing time after barely being used by the Heat. He appeared in 13 games after the deal, averaging 11.2 minutes per night, and played just three total minutes in the postseason.

Pelicans, Jahlil Okafor Discussing Possible Deal

The Pelicans are in discussions with free agent center Jahlil Okafor on a possible deal that would see him come to training camp with the club, according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate (Twitter link). New Orleans has used its mid-level and bi-annual exceptions, but could offer Okafor a minimum-salary contract.

Okafor, drafted by the Sixers with the third overall pick in 2015, averaged 17.5 PPG and 7.0 RPG during his rookie season, but has seen his playing time and production decline since then. After being traded to Brooklyn this past season, he posted 6.4 PPG and 2.9 RPG in 26 contests (12.6 MPG) with the Nets.

While Okafor hasn’t generated a ton of interest this offseason, he reportedly worked out for four teams in Las Vegas in July. At the time, the 22-year-old was said to be “hopeful” about finding an NBA deal before training camps opened in September. The former lottery pick has also allegedly received interest from teams in China.

Okafor would be an interesting addition for a Pelicans roster that is short on traditional centers. With Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle expected to serve as New Orleans’ primary power forwards, Anthony Davis figures to see plenty of time at the five, even if it’s not necessarily his natural position.

Emeka Okafor, Alexis Ajinca, and Cheick Diallo are also options at center for the Pelicans, but Okafor’s salary is still non-guaranteed, Ajinca missed the entire 2017/18 season with a knee injury, and Diallo has played primarily at the four since arriving in New Orleans.

Chinese Teams Interested In Jahlil Okafor?

Jahlil Okafor appears to have offers waiting in China if he can’t find an NBA team to sign him, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

The third player taken in the 2015 draft, Okafor washed out in Philadelphia and didn’t play much after being traded to the Nets in December. He got into just 26 games with Brooklyn and averaged 6.4 PPG in 12.6 minutes per night.

Okafor is working out in Miami, but the Heat aren’t interested in signing him, Carchia writes. We detailed several other franchises that have apparently withdrawn their interest earlier this week, including the Nets, Pacers and Bulls. However, four teams sent representatives to Okafor’s recent workout in Las Vegas and he remains hopeful of catching on with someone before training camps open.

Latest On Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor is an unrestricted free agent this summer, but hasn’t exactly been a hot commodity among teams looking for frontcourt help — this is our first story about the former third overall pick since free agency began 17 days ago.

Still, Okafor appears to be generating at least a little interest. Sources tell Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that Okafor worked out for four teams in Las Vegas last Wednesday, and remains “hopeful” about signing an NBA contract before camps open in September.

It’s not clear which teams were in attendance at Okafor’s workout last week, but Deveney rules out a few clubs. According to the Sporting News scribe, Okafor had drawn some interest from the Pacers and Bulls earlier in the year, but neither team was at last week’s workout. The former Duke standout also won’t be returning to the Nets next season, Deveney adds.

Okafor, originally a Sixer, averaged 17.5 PPG and 7.0 RPG during his rookie season in 2015/16, but has seen his playing time and production decline since then. After being traded to Brooklyn this past season, he posted 6.4 PPG and 2.9 RPG in 26 contests (12.6 MPG) with the Nets.

As TNT’s David Aldridge details, Okafor has been working this summer with Miami-based trainer Idan Ravin, who has been “reconstructing” Okafor’s jump shot and looking to expand the 22-year-old’s offensive game. We’ll see if that work helps earn him another NBA shot this fall.

Nets Notes: Lin, Russell, Vaughn, Okafor

Jeremy Lin went down with a season-ending injury on opening night, adding another chapter to what has been an injury-riddled first two seasons in Brooklyn. However, the veteran point guard is on track to return to full health for next season and he expects to start for the Nets, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.

Lin appeared in just 36 games last season and just 25 minutes this season before a ruptured patella tendon shut him down. Despite his limited playing time for the Nets, the 29-year-old —  focused on improving his health — envisions himself on the court as a starter.

“I came here having the same role. I don’t expect it to change,” Lin said. “if it does, it’;l be something we communicate over. But I’m not even thinking that far in advance. I’m thinking about my health, about moving properly. And I have full confidence if I’m doing that, everything will be [OK]. Everything will make up for lost time, and we’ll see what I’d envisioned my time in Brooklyn being.”

With Lin healthy, the Nets face a crowded backcourt with D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Caris LeVert on the roster.
Check out more Nets news below:
  • D’Angelo Russell played well for stretches in his first season with the Nets and the organization is excited for what he can produce if he can be consistent, Lewis writes in a separate story. Still 22 years old, Russell has All-Star potential for a team that hasn’t had an All-Star since Joe Johnson in 2013/14.
  • Nets assistant coach Jacque Vaughn has received interest from collegiate programs at Connecticut and Memphis about becoming a head coach, tweets Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Vaughn has been credited for working diligently with Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson this season.
  • As we relayed this week, impending free agent Jahlil Okafor has a mixed perception around the NBA as a talented but generally flawed player.