Jahlil Okafor

And-Ones: MVP Race, 2024 Draft, Korkmaz, Okafor, More

With Joel Embiid no longer eligible for this season’s MVP award due to the number of games he has missed, the race appears wide open, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, who conducted another version of his straw poll ahead of the All-Star break.

The 100 media members polled over the weekend by MacMahon selected Nuggets center Nikola Jokic as the current MVP favorite, with Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the runner-up. Jokic earned 69 first-place votes and was the only player selected by all 100 voters on their five-player ballots, while Gilgeous-Alexander was listed on 99 ballots and was the top choice on 24 of them.

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, and Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard rounded out the top five in Bontemps’ latest poll, with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, and Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell also appearing on double-digit ballots. Notably, while just four of 100 media members had Anthony Edwards in their top five, one made the Timberwolves guard their MVP choice.

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

  • Although Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN (Insider link) still feel as if the 2024 draft class is short on high-end talent, they believe it could end up being a relatively deep draft. Givony and Woo suggest that some teams will be able to find rotation players later in the first round or in the second round, even if there are no sure-fire stars at the top of the class.
  • After being traded from Philadelphia to Indiana and then waived by the Pacers, veteran swingman Furkan Korkmaz has turned down interest from Turkish club Besiktas for now and is hoping to remain in the NBA, according to a report from Eurohoops. Korkmaz didn’t play much for the Sixers the past two seasons, but is still just 26 years old and is a 36.1% three-point shooter over the past five years.
  • Former lottery pick Jahlil Okafor is on the move again, having recently signed with Puerto Rican team Capitanes de Arecibo, as Dario Skerletic of Sportando relays. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Okafor played in Spain and China earlier this season. He last played in the NBA with Detroit in 2020/21.
  • Grizzlies guard Vince Williams has been chosen to replace injured Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels in this Friday’s Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend, while Indiana Mad Ants guard Kyle Mangas will replace Sixers two-way player Kenneth Lofton Jr. in the G League Next Up game, according to a pair of announcements from the NBA and NBAGL.

And-Ones: Okafor, Ferrell, Rookies, Player Empowerment

Signing with Zaragoza in Spain hasn’t gone exactly according to plan for former No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor, with the team stumbling out to a 3-7 record after he signed this summer. According to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia, Okafor is now departing Zaragoza to sign with a Chinese club, the Zhejiang Lions, who will pay for his buyout.

It sounds like the magnitude of the offer received from Zhejiang was the biggest sticking point for Okafor, and that it was more than he could’ve received from Zaragoza, as detailed in a piece from BasketNews.com.

Zaragoza head coach Porfirio Fisac openly discussed his thought process on the matter before Okafor left, as relayed by BasketNews.com.

If he leaves, for me right now in his career, it’s a mistake,” Fisac said. “I think he’d be mistaken. He’s played 15 or 20 games and is in good physical condition. It is true that he still has a lot to improve, but we cannot put more pressure on him in terms of changes of pace and efforts.

We are taking care of him. If he stays here, his career will be extended by 10 years. If he goes somewhere else, he will play five more years. It all depends on where the money is or whether you want to earn it today or later. Everyone has their own way of thinking.

Okafor, 27, holds six seasons of NBA experience across stints with the Sixers, Nets, Pelicans and Pistons. His last NBA appearance came in 2020/21 with Detroit. He averages 10.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 247 games (116 starts) for his career.

We have more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard Yogi Ferrell is receiving overseas interest, with Serbian club Partizan reaching out to the 30-year-old guard, according to Eurohoops.net. Partizan is currently dealing with injury issues in the backcourt, leading to their interest in Ferrell. Ferrell appeared in 259 games (53 starts) across five seasons in the NBA with the Nets, Mavericks, Kings, Cavaliers and Clippers. His last NBA appearance came in 2020/21 and he holds career averages of 7.7 points and 2.3 assists.
  • While Chet Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama have seemingly made the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award a two-man race early in the season, the entire crop of first-year players has been impressive. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie took stock of rookies across the league, ranking Dereck Lively, Brandon Miller, Ausar Thompson, Jordan Hawkins and Cason Wallace as the next five (in order) behind Holmgren and Wembanyama on the league’s rookie ladder. It’s a different take on the rookie class than what ESPN’s Bobby Marks and Kevin Pelton offered last week — ESPN’s duo was a touch higher on Detroit’s Marcus Sasser and lower on Lively, though all of Marks, Pelton and Vecenie agreed Holmgren was the overall most impressive rookie so far.
  • This summer’s trade requests from Damian Lillard and James Harden added another chapter to the NBA’s player empowerment saga. According to Heavy Sports’ Steve Bulpett, NBA owners are seeking ways to prevent or minimize the practice of players demanding trades in the fashion we’ve been accustomed to. “I think the whole player empowerment piece that has been running in the league for last couple of years? I think it’s about run its course, because so many just haven’t worked out,” Bulpett’s Eastern Conference source said.

Jahlil Okafor Officially Signs With Spanish Club

Free agent center Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2015 draft, has officially signed with Casademont Zaragoza of Spain’s Liga ACB, the team announced (via Twitter). According to Eurohoops.net, Okafor inked a one-year contract.

Olga Lorent of Onda Regional was the first to report that Zaragoza was trying to close a deal with Okafor.

A college star at Duke who helped lead the Blue Devils to the NCAA Championship in 2014/15, Okafor was drafted by the 76ers, spending his first two-plus seasons with the club. The 27-year-old bounced around the NBA for the next handful of seasons, playing for the Nets, Pelicans and Pistons from 2017-21.

Known as a strong post scorer who is limited defensively, Okafor’s last season in the league came back in 2020/21 with Detroit. In six NBA seasons, he holds career averages of 10.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 247 regular season games (116 starts, 19.5 minutes).

Okafor signed a training camp deal with Atlanta ahead of ’21/22, but was released before the season started. He wound up playing for the Zhejiang Lions in China. Last season, the veteran big man played for the Mexico City Capitanes of the NBA G League, averaging 19.2 points and 7.5 rebounds in 16 games (27.0 minutes).

This will be the first European stint for Okafor, who suited up for Team Nigeria during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Zaragoza finished 12-22 during the ’22/23 regular season, 13th out of 18 Liga ACB teams.

And-Ones: Kaminsky, Okafor, Jones, Las Vegas

Frank Kaminsky is reportedly drawing interest from Maccabi Tel Aviv, Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops.net relays. Kaminsky has been in the NBA since 2015 with 413 regular-season games under his belt. An unrestricted free agent this summer, the veteran forward/center appeared in a total of 36 games last season for the Hawks and Rockets. He’s averaged 8.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 19.8 minutes during his career.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Jahlil Okafor is another veteran NBA big man who might be signing a contract overseas. Eurohoops.net relays a report by Olga Lorent from Onda Regional (Twitter link) that Spain’s Casademont Zaragoza is close to signing the 2015 lottery pick. Okafor hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since he played 27 games for the Pistons during the 2020/21 season. The former No. 3 overall pick signed a contract with the Hawks the subsequent offseason but was waived in October 2021.
  • Mason Jones has signed with the Turkish team Darussafaka, according to Sportando. Jones has appeared in a total of 36 NBA games, most recently a four-game stint with the Lakers during the 2020/21 season.
  • The Las Vegas Summer League has turned into a major event and the city will host the semifinals and final of the new in-season tournament. Mark Medina of TheSportingTribune.com takes a look at how Vegas has become an NBA hot spot.

And-Ones: Russia, Okafor, Clark, Overtime Elite, Kuzminskas

Despite its war with Ukraine and controversial imprisonment of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Russia is still viewed as a viable destination for some U.S. basketball players, writes Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times. There are projected to be about 30 American men participating in Russia this year, which is twice the normal rate. Those who made the decision cited the financial incentives, which include salaries of more than $1MM, along with free housing and cars.

“Everybody’s going to say, ‘Why would you go there?’” said 35-year-old K.C. Rivers, who has played for several Russian teams. “But at the end of the day, you still have mouths to feed. You still have family to provide for. And sometimes it is not always the easiest decision, but you have to do what’s best for you. You can’t make decisions based off of what the general society says.”

Female players, even those in the WNBA, formerly viewed Russia as a great money-making opportunity, but that has largely changed because of the Griner case. However, those who are still willing to travel to Russia are finding offers more lucrative than ever. An agent told Abrams that Russian teams are paying 50% more this year to women and sometimes they triple the salaries offered in other countries.

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

  • The Mexico City Capitanes, who will be a full-fledged participant in the G League regular season for the first time in 2022/23, have acquired the returning rights to NBA veterans Jahlil Okafor and Gary Clark, league sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link).
  • Overtime Elite will add three high school teams for its upcoming season, states Jacob Polacheck of Zagsblog. The programs are Hillcrest Prep (Arizona), Our Saviour Lutheran (New York) and Word of God (North Carolina). The league will have 20 players returning from last season, including Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson, who are both projected as top-10 picks in the 2023 draft. The newest addition to Overtime Elite is 7’0″ high school junior Somto Cyril, who is considered among the 25 best players in the Class of 2024, per Eric Bossi of 247 Sports.
  • Former Knicks player Mindaugas Kuzminskas has signed with Pinar Karsiyaka in Turkey, according to Eurohoops. The 32-year-old small forward played for Lithuania during EuroBasket.
  • USA Basketball will resume its Junior National Team minicamp after a two-year absence due to the pandemic, writes Jonathan Givony of ESPN. It will take place October 7-10 in Colorado Springs. “This camp has been an important part of developing our junior national team, and we’re really happy to be back doing it again,” said Sean Ford, national team director of USA Basketball. “The world is getting better at a faster rate than we are improving, so we need to continue to improve with more camps, continuity and teaching.”

China Next Stop For Jahlil Okafor?

Jahlil Okafor is expected to sign with Guangsha in the Chinese Basketball Association, sources tell Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

The 26-year-old center appeared in 27 games for the Pistons last season, averaging 5.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per night. He was traded in September to the Nets, who waived him five days later. He signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Hawks for training camp, but was released before the season began.

The Sixers selected Okafor with the third pick in the 2015 draft, but he only lasted a little more than two seasons in Philadelphia before being traded to Brooklyn. He also spent two seasons with the Pelicans, but was never able to approach the numbers he put up in his first season when he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and earned first team All-Rookie honors.

Hawks Release Jahlil Okafor

Veteran center Jahlil Okafor has been cut for the second time this offseason, as the Hawks announced in a press release on Monday that they’ve requested waivers on the big man. Atlanta now has 19 players under contract.

A former third overall pick, Okafor spent last season in Detroit, averaging 5.4 PPG and 2.4 RPG in a very limited role (12.9 MPG) across 27 games. The big man has also spent time with the Sixers, Nets, and Pelicans since entering the NBA out of Duke in 2015. He was traded from Detroit to Brooklyn in September and was subsequently waived by the Nets before catching on with Atlanta for training camp.

Okafor was on a non-guaranteed contract with the Hawks, so he was never a great bet to make the team’s regular season roster. However, Atlanta only has 14 players with fully guaranteed contracts, so someone with a non-guaranteed deal could still make the 15-man squad. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and DaQuan Jeffries are among those in the mix.

Okafor, meanwhile, will be looking for another opportunity if and when he clears waivers on Wednesday.

Hawks Sign Jahlil Okafor To Non-Guaranteed Contract

SEPTEMBER 22: The deal became official on Tuesday, per RealGM’s transactions log.

SEPTEMBER 16: Former No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor is signing with the Hawks, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (via twitter). The contract will be non-guaranteed.

In a follow-up tweet, Hawks beat reporter Chris Kirschner of The Athletic notes that Okafor and recently-signed Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who is also on a non-guaranteed deal, are the most likely candidates to claim the 15th and final spot on the team’s regular season roster.

The team currently has 14 players on guaranteed contracts and 19 players signed to its training camp roster, so Okafor will be their 20th man on the roster, with no corresponding moves necessary to add him.

It’s worth noting that the Hawks could have claimed Okafor off waivers when he was released by the Nets last week, but doing so would have meant taking on a guaranteed minimum contract for the upcoming season. Waiting until he cleared waivers gave them the opportunity to sign him to a non-guaranteed deal, granting the team more flexibility with their roster.

Okafor has bounced around the league in recent years and struggled to break Detroit’s big man rotation last season before being traded to Brooklyn in the offseason. However, he does hold career averages of 10.4 PPG and 4.7 RPG in just 19.5 MPG, so he’s capable of packing an offensive punch when given the opportunity.

Nets Waive Jahlil Okafor

The Nets have waived veteran center Jahlil Okafor, the team announced today in a press release. Brooklyn acquired Okafor from the Pistons last week along with Sekou Doumbouya in the DeAndre Jordan trade.

A former third overall pick, Okafor spent last season in Detroit, averaging 5.4 PPG and 2.4 RPG in a very limited role (12.9 MPG) across 27 games. The big man has also spent time with the Sixers, Nets, and Pelicans since entering the NBA out of Duke in 2015.

Okafor’s release had been expected, since the Nets were carrying more than 15 players on guaranteed contracts and were overloaded in the frontcourt, having recently added LaMarcus Aldridge and agreed to terms with Paul Millsap.

Once they officially sign Millsap, the Nets will have 15 players on guaranteed contracts, plus DeAndre’ Bembry on a partially guaranteed deal. If the club wants to keep Bembry on its regular season roster, at least one more player will have to be traded or waived before opening night.

Okafor, meanwhile, could be claimed off waivers by any team using the minimum salary exception, but that’s unlikely, since his $2.13MM salary for 2021/22 is fully guaranteed. If he goes unclaimed, he’ll clear waivers and become an unrestricted free agent on Saturday, and the Nets will be on the hook for his salary.

Nets Trade Jordan, Draft Picks To Pistons For Okafor, Doumbouya

SEPTEMBER 4: The trade is official, according to a Brooklyn press release.

“We appreciate everything DeAndre has contributed to our organization over the past two seasons both on and off the court and wish him and his family the best moving forward,” Nets GM Sean Marks said in a statement.

SEPTEMBER 3: The Nets and Pistons have reached an agreement on a trade, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who reports that Detroit will acquire center DeAndre Jordan, four second-round picks, and $5.78MM in cash. Brooklyn will receive Jahlil Okafor and Sekou Doumbouya in return.

The draft picks headed to Detroit in the deal are the Nets’ own 2022 and 2027 second-round picks, plus the Wizards’ or Grizzlies’ 2024 second-rounder (whichever is more favorable) and the Warriors’ or Wizards’ 2025 second-rounder (whichever is more favorable), sources tell ESPN (Twitter link).

According to Wojnarowski, the plan is for the Pistons to work out a buyout agreement with Jordan, who has about $20MM left on his contract over the next two years.

The Nets had been trying for much of the offseason to find a taker for Jordan, a three-time All-NBA center who joined the team as a free agent in 2019 along with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving but fell out of the rotation in 2020/21. A report earlier this week indicated Jordan and the Nets were exploring a possible buyout — now it’ll be up to the Pistons to complete those talks.

Although the Nets had to give up four second-round picks to dump Jordan’s salary, the financial benefits will be significant. Jordan is making more than Okafor and Doumbouya combined this year and has multiple years left on his contract, while Okafor and Doumbouya are on expiring deals. Wojnarowski estimates (via Twitter) that the club will save $47MM in the deal after accounting for salaries and projected tax penalties.

That money could be reinvested in buying back second-round picks down the road. However, as Woj points out, Brooklyn is confident in its ability to acquire minimum-salary talent to complement its Durant/Irving/James Harden core, as the team did this week by reaching an agreement with Paul Millsap.

The Nets will also acquire a pair of players in the deal, though it’s unclear if either Okafor or Doumbouya is in their plans. The team will have 14 players on guaranteed contracts and one (DeAndre’ Bembry) on a partial guarantee even before accounting for the incoming Pistons. Perhaps the Nets will give Doumbouya – 2019’s No. 15 pick – a shot, but I’d be surprised if they retain Okafor.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter), Brooklyn will create a $6.27MM trade exception in the swap, which is the difference between Jordan’s $9.88MM salary and Doumbouya’s $3.61MM figure. Okafor can be acquired using the minimum salary exception, so the Nets don’t need to match his salary.

As for the Pistons, they’ll take on some dead money as a result of this transaction, but the pros outweigh the cons. Detroit had traded away its own second-round picks from 2022 through 2026 in previous deals, so this gives general manager Troy Weaver a chance to restock his cache of draft assets. Additionally, the $5.78MM in cash the Pistons are getting in the deal – which is the max the Nets could offer – will help cover some of Jordan’s salary.

On top of that, the Pistons had been facing a roster crunch, with 16 players on guaranteed contracts. A two-for-one trade, followed by a Jordan buyout, will reduce that number to 14, giving Detroit an open roster spot to work with. The club could give a camp invitee such as Jamorko Pickett the opportunity to earn that spot this fall or could simply carry 14 players to start the regular season.

Once Jordan is bought out, he’ll be officially placed on waivers and will become an unrestricted free agent two days later. Multiple recent reports have suggested the Lakers are a suitor to keep an eye on, and Wojnarowski reiterates that point today (via Twitter), calling Los Angeles a “serious contender” to sign the veteran center.