Jahlil Okafor

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.

Nets Notes: Okafor, Harris, Backcourt, Ownership

With the Nets‘ season complete, one subplot to watch this offseason will be what happens to Jahlil Okafor as he enters free agency. After Okafor was traded from the Sixers to the Nets, there was an expectation that he’d see more playing time in Brooklyn, but that was not the case. After the early-December trade, Okafor only appeared in 26 games.

Michael Scotto of The Athletic (subscription required) spoke to several Eastern Conference personnel to gauge possible interest in Okafor as a free agent. While the former third overall pick does have upside, particularly on offense, his limited rebounding and defensive skills will impact his ability to secure guaranteed playing time. One Eastern Conference executive described Okafor’s style as “antiquated” while another said that Okafor’s best bet may be a one-year deal where he can rebuild his value as a starter.

“He’™s a pretty impressive force in one singular area,” an Eastern Conference scout told The Athletic. “œHe doesn’t defend, and he doesn’™t rebound. Coach K did not do him any favors by hiding him for that year. He’™s become a better person after having made a few tough mistakes in his rookie season. He’™s changed his body and developed a bit of range to his game, but those things were easier than committing himself to the other effort improvements.”

Check out more Nets notes below:

  • With Jeremy Lin slated to return in the fall, the Nets will enter the 2018/19 season with a crowded backcourt, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. In addition to Lin, DAngelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert will all be in the mix for Brooklyn next season.
  • Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris will be a free agent as well and it’s been reported he could be in line for a substantial raise. However, Harris said he wants to remain in Brooklyn and that the front office is aware, tweets Brian Lewis of the New York Post.“I’ve been in talks here – especially recently – a lot with my agent, and I’ve reiterated that I’d like to be here,” Harris said. “And I told that to Kenny (Atkinson) and Sean (Marks)…I think everybody is kind of on the same line (of thinking) right here.”
  • As we relayed earlier today, Mikhail Prokhorov has sold a 49% stake in the Nets to Joseph Tsai.

Nets Rumors: Harris, Okafor, Russell

In his second season with the Nets, Joe Harris has enjoyed a career year, establishing new career bests in PPG (10.7), FG% (.486), 3PT% (.411), and several other categories. However, as Michael Scotto of The Athletic details, Harris isn’t necessarily eager to parlay his success into a big payday with a new team.

“In my short experience in the NBA, this has been a very ideal fit just overall in terms of having the opportunity to play and all the great people that are within the organization,” Harris said of the Nets. “It’s hard to say the grass is greener on the other side or somewhere else.”

While Harris sounds interested in staying in Brooklyn, and agent Mark Bartelstein calls the relationship between the Nets and his client a “great marriage,” the young wing will be in line for a raise. Scotto cites eight NBA executives who believe that Harris will command between $4-7MM annually on a new deal after earning the minimum in 2017/18.

“He shoots, plays hard, cuts, and moves well off the ball,” one Eastern Conference executive said of Harris. “He’s really improved.”

Given how well wings have done in free agency over the past couple years, a deal in the $4-7MM range sounds to me like a conservative estimate for Harris and a possible bargain for a team that ends up with him. If his price tag is in that neighborhood, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Harris back with the Nets next season.

Here’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • A midseason trade from Philadelphia to Brooklyn initially seemed to be the opportunity Jahlil Okafor needed to earn some minutes, but the third-year center isn’t playing much more for the Nets than he did for the Sixers. With unrestricted free agency approaching, Jahlil Okafor said he’ll consider several factors when deciding on a team, but it sounds like an opportunity for more playing time will be at or near the top of his list. “At the end of the day, I want to play basketball,” Okafor said, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post.
  • Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson indicated that Okafor would be in better positioned for a regular role if he’d spent a full offseason and training camp with the squad. However, the 22-year-old sounds unconvinced by that line of thinking, as Lewis details. “I don’t really know what that means. I’ve been here for three or four months,” Okafor said. “Saying a full offseason would help me, I’ve been with these guys for three or four months now, done everything they’ve asked of me. I’m not sure what they want. But everybody’s treated me really well.”
  • Although D’Angelo Russell is still considered an important part of the Nets’ long-term future, there have been some bumps in the road this season. The latest one came on Saturday, when Russell was benched for the final three quarters and overtime in Brooklyn’s win over Miami. NetsDaily has the story.
  • On Sunday, our Austin Kent took a closer look at the stocks of several Nets free-agents-to-be, including Harris and Okafor.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Brooklyn Nets

With little other options available, Nets general manager Sean Marks has made the most out of his biggest asset: cap space. For that reason, the Nets will likely be diligent as to how they handle free agency in 2018.

While Brooklyn will have its first-round pick in 2019 and doesn’t necessarily have to use its payroll as a landfill for unwanted player contracts just to add assets, the club may continue to leverage its cap space during what continues to be the early stages of a rebuild.

With no set core in place, the Nets won’t feel much pressure to make deals this summer, which is actually kind of a luxury. Don’t expect the franchise to stretch itself thin to bring back any of its free agents if doing so will put them in a bad position.

Jahlil Okafor, C, 22 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $14MM deal in 2015Jahlil Okafor of the Brooklyn Nets vertical
Is there another player in NBA history who, despite a solid first-year campaign and reasonable health throughout, saw his value plummet more over the course of a rookie contract? It’s hard to imagine that Okafor’s decline is solely a product of his old-school game — he’s also had the misfortune of being employed by two franchises that couldn’t seem to care less about legitimately developing him as an asset. There will be at least one team willing to give Okafor another shot. It could even be the Nets, considering they’d get for an entire offseason and training camp this time. In any case, Okafor will probably have to sign a short-term, prove-it deal before he gets another significant NBA contract.

Quincy Acy, PF, 27 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $4MM deal in 2017
Acy is an affordable role player who has served well in two stints with the Nets. Since he comes with a cheap price tag, appears to be content with a minor role, and is a serviceable veteran who contributes when called upon, it’s hard to imagine Brooklyn wouldn’t welcome him back. Acy may get a longer-term commitment from the Nets this time around, but he isn’t likely to draw much more than a modest raise above the league minimum from Brooklyn or anybody else.

Dante Cunningham, SF, 31 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
The Nets absorbed Cunningham’s contract in a midseason deal, so there’s no guarantee that either party would be interested in a commitment beyond 2017/18. Cunningham is a utility forward seemingly intent on contributing to a reasonably competitive team so maybe their timelines just don’t match. In any event, the eight-year veteran isn’t likely to top the $2MM-$3MM threshold he’s flirted with for the majority of his career.

Joe Harris, SG, 26 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $3MM deal in 2016
The return on investment for Harris has been great, but the Nets may want to pump the brakes when it comes to re-signing him in the offseason. While Harris has been an excellent example of how the Nets franchise has developed youngsters, overpaying for a niche player without a set core in place isn’t the wisest course of action. If it looks like Harris might get poached by a more competitive team looking to add a solid depth piece, the Nets shouldn’t reach to retain him — not with so many other holes to fill first.

Nik Stauskas, SG, 24 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $12MM deal in 2014
The Nets have given Stauskas something of a tryout to prove that he could possibly live up to his eighth overall selection back in 2014, but he hasn’t done enough to warrant a raise from his rookie deal. While Stauskas may get another chance to prove himself next season, it’ll have to come cheap and potentially non-guaranteed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

New York Notes: Okafor, Lee, LeVert

Jahlil Okafor hasn’t found much success on the court since being traded to the Nets, but coach Kenny Atkinson believes the big man is simply a “victim of circumstance,” as Brian Lewis of the New York Post relays.

“Sometimes it’s just circumstances,” Atkinson said. “I’d say his approach, his buy-in to what we’re doing, has been phenomenal. His buy-in to our performance team and getting his body, improving his body has been phenomenal. So, very pleased.”

Atkinson had shortened his rotation before giving the Duke product some run against the Sixers on Sunday. Okafor, who will be a free agent after the season, had four points in his five minutes of action and he may see more court time during the last month of the season.

“He has some days where he gets a little down, which is normal,” the coach added. “But he picks it right back up and has really busted his tail. So hopefully in these last games we can find opportunities for him to get there. I’d like to see more, so hopefully we get to that point.”

Here’s more from the Big Apple:

  • Courtney Lee, who was the subject of trade rumors earlier this season, isn’t happy with the Knicks‘ effort on the court lately. “Effort is the key to everything,” Lee exclaimed (via Fred Kerber of the New York Post). “It takes no talent to run from the paint out to contest a 3-point shot, that’s just all effort. We have to get everybody’s effort. Everybody’s got to be locked in.” The shooting guard is under contract with New York through the 2019/20 season.
  • Nets GM Sean Marks always believed former No. 20 overall pick Caris LeVert would develop into a reliable playmaker despite criticism from naysayers who argued that the team made a mistake by taking the Michigan product that high, as Bryan Fonseca of SB Nation relays. LeVert, whom the team gave up Thaddeus Young in order to acquire, is averaging 5.3 assists per contest this season.

New York Notes: Noah, Ntilikina, Okafor, Nets

Although March 1 isn’t an official deadline for the Knicks to make a decision on Joakim Noah, the team will have to waive him on or before that day if he wants to retain his postseason eligibility. That makes it a date worth watching, and according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, the National Basketball Players Association will have an eye on the situation.

Berman hears from sources that the NBPA will “intensify its interest” in the Noah situation if he remains on the Knicks’ roster – but not with the team – beyond March 1. If the veteran center wants to return to the Knicks at that point and the club wants him to remain in exile, things “could get ugly,” per Berman.

Sources tell Berman that the Knicks were within their right to suspend Noah for insubordination after he cursed out head coach Jeff Hornacek last month, but chose not to do so — Noah continues to receive his full salary during his absence. If the big man isn’t released this week, one potential scenario, Berman suggests, would see the Knicks brass telling him to sit tight and prepare for the 2018/19 season, when Hornacek may no longer be the club’s head coach.

While we wait to see what happens with Noah, let’s round up a few more items from out of New York City…

  • In a separate article for The New York Post, Berman examines the upcoming summer for Frank Ntilikina. The rookie point guard has suggested he’ll spend much of his offseason in his home country of France, but the Knicks will likely want him to play for their Summer League team in July.
  • Jahlil Okafor hasn’t seen any action for the Nets since February 12, but still believes he’s capable of fitting in with Brooklyn’s fast-paced style of play, writes Fred Kerber of The New York Post. “I wish we’d had him since training camp,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said of Okafor. “It makes it easier. We’re scrambling here trying to find a lineup so he’s a little bit of a victim of that.”
  • Speaking of the Nets‘ lineup, it got a boost on Monday, as both Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson returned from injuries. Tom Dowd has the details at the club’s official site.

Atlantic Notes: Okafor, Crabbe, Casey, Celtics

The Nets‘ acquisition of Jahlil Okafor signaled a change of scenery for a talented yet displaced player. With 24 games left in the season, however, the Nets seem to be wasting their opportunity to audition Okafor as a potential long-term commodity, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.

Since being traded to Brooklyn, Okafor has appeared in 22 games while averaging 6.2 PPG and 3.0 PPG. Okafor’s playing time has been inconsistent, which makes it difficult to assess both his value and interest in retaining him beyond this season.

“Getting on the floor is very important,” Okafor said. “As a basketball player we all want to be on the court. My minutes have been fluctuating up and down, but the coaches say it’s nothing on my end.”

Head coach Kenny Atkinson noted that the team feels comfortable with 19-year-old Jarrett Allen playing at power forward with Okafor at center. As it stands, the team will have a decision to make in terms of Okafor’s playing time and future.

Check out other notes from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets shooting guard Allen Crabbe has been on a tear, averaging 25.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG over the team’s last four games. It has taken a while but Crabbe is finally playing and scoring the way the Nets hoped he would, Brian Lewis of the New York Post relays.
  • Dwane Casey is headed to Los Angeles to coach Team LeBron this weekend, but his proudest accomplishment is entering the break with the Raptors wielding the best record in the Eastern Conference. Despite the improvements the franchise has enjoyed under Casey, there always seems to be a perception that the Raptors head coach is on the hot seat, Chris Mannix of Yahoo! Sports writes.
  • After a rough stretch in which they’ve lost nine of their last 15 games, the Celtics may explore changing their lineup after the All-Star break, Chris Forsberg of ESPN writes.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Porzingis, Powell

The issue with the shooting shoulder of Sixers rookie Markelle Fultz has taken an interesting turn, reports Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Fultz, who has missed all but four games this season, was apparently upset with his head coach Brett Brown after it was reported that Brown classified Fultz’s injury as “psychosomatic”.

Fultz took to social media to air his frustrations, while Brown insisted that he was misquoted, that he has never wavered from the narrative that Fultz’s shot is being affected by a shoulder injury, and that Fultz’s shoulder still hurts sometimes when he rises to shoot a jump shot.

Brown understands Fultz’s frustration, but believes Fultz will ultimately accept the misunderstanding. “Last night’s erroneous reporting was disappointing,” Brown said, “(but Markelle) knows the organization. He knows me. It doesn’t require much more to be said than that.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Kristaps Porzingis is planning to use his first All-Star game appearance as a recruiting opportunity, reports Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. One of his first targets? Team LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving, who is from the New York area and listed the Knicks as a preferred destination before being traded to Boston.
  • After not playing in three of the team’s previous four games and having being relegated to mop-up duty lately, Raptors guard Norman Powell played well in a come-from-behind win against Minnesota last night, and his teammates weren’t surprised one bit, writes Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, who reports that Powell is still a popular locker room figure.
  • The Nets have benched veteran center Tyler Zeller in favor of youngsters Jahlil Okafor and Jarrett Allen, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post. While head coach Kenny Atkinson wouldn’t confirm the move as permanent, Allen started in Zeller’s place in last night’s loss to the Knicks after Zeller had started 33 of the last 34 games.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Nets, DeRozan, Burke, Knicks

Markelle Fultz has missed almost 40 games this season as he’s battled a phantom shoulder injury that has taken away his ability to shoot the ball. While Fultz is practicing with the team, he is still a long way from making a return and the situation has head coach Brett Brown confused, per ESPN.

Fultz shot 50% from the field in his lone college season; he impressed the Sixers so much that the team traded up to draft him first overall in last year’s draft. However, a muscular imbalance in the shoulder hampered Fultz’s shot so much that he did not even attempt a three-point shot while healthy. Brown said he has “never experienced anything like this” but that Philadelphia is dedicated to helping Fultz find his stroke.

“It’s reclaiming the shot that he used to have,” Brown said. “The timeline of when that happens, none of us know. But I feel like there is discomfort in his shoulder and it does affect his shot.”

In four games this season, Fultz averaged 6.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, and 1.8 APG while shooting 33% from the field.

Check out other Atlantic Division notes below:

  • Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell, two of the first three overall picks in the 2015 NBA Draft, are with the Nets organization now and general manager Sean Marks is impressed with their maturity. As Net Income at NetsDaily writes, Marks spoke to WFAN recently gave a glowing review of the organization and how it has helped its young players get acclimated.
  • Raptors star DeMar DeRozan was fined $15,000 for public criticism of the league’s officiating, the NBA announced on Tuesday.
  • Trey Burke played just eight minutes of the Knicks‘ win over the Nets on Monday but his impact was noticeable, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Burke lit up the G League with the Knicks’ affiliate and showed glimpses of the player who was the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
  • In a separate story, Berman of the New York Post examines the Knicks‘ potential strategy as the trade deadline nears. At 20-24, the Knicks are currently three games out of the eighth playoff spot. A strong run could put the team in playoff position but head coach Jeff Hornacek has repeatedly stated the developing the young players comes before worrying about the playoffs. Berman notes that if the Knicks sell, their main priority will be clearing up the logjam at center that features four capable players (Enes Kanter, Kyle O’Quinn, Willy Hernangomez, and Joakim Noah).