Former Brooklyn Nets center Jahlil Okafor finally found a home Wednesday, reportedly signing a partially guaranteed two-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that Okafor has agreed to a deal that includes a partial guarantee for 2018-19 and a team option for 2019-20.
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Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights has the value of the contract at $1.6 million for next season, to become fully guaranteed on Jan. 10, and includes a $1.7 million team option for 2019-20.
The Pelicans were still looking for inside depth after losing center DeMarcus Cousins to the Golden State Warriors in free agency. They had added former Los Angeles Lakers power forward Julius Randle last month.
The move means that the Pelicans will have the market cornered on Okafors, with Emeka Okafor already on the roster. Emeka and Jahlil (distantly related, per the Chicago Tribune) are the only two players named Okafor to play in the NBA.
It has been a rapid fall for Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2015 NBA Draft and an All-Rookie first-teamer in 2015-16 after averaging 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 30.0 minutes per game.
He missed 29 games with a knee injury as a rookie, however, and appeared in only 50 in his second year with Philadelphia, with his playing time dropping to 22.7 minutes a game and his production falling to 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per night.
Last season, Okafor played in only two of the 76ers’ first 23 games and was traded to the Nets with Nik Stauskas and the New York Knicks’ 2019 second-round pick in exchange for Trevor Booker on Dec. 7.
Okafor played in just 26 games with Brooklyn, however, averaging 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.6 minutes per game, strictly as a reserve.
The 76ers had declined Okafor’s fourth-year option last October and the Nets declined to extend him a qualifying offer before renouncing his rights altogether on July 6 to eliminate his cap hold from their salary cap sheet.
The problem for Okafor is that he is stylistically a bad fit for today’s NBA. He’s a classic back-to-the-basket big with no discernable shooting range outside of 10 feet. Last season, Okafor shot 67.8 percent at the rim and 53.8 percent inside of 10 feet.
He was 9-for-27 — 33.3 percent — from outside that range.
That profile fits his entire career — he’s taken 74.9 percent of his shots inside of 10 feet and has shot 36.7 percent from 10-16 feet, 27.0 percent from 16 feet out to the arc and he’s just 2-for-10 from 3-point range.
Throw in an alarming lack of defensive awareness or aptitude and you have a player who has very limited playability in the pace-and-space era of the NBA.
Okafor’s defensive rating with the Nets last season was an ungodly 115.9 and he played to a minus-23.5 net rating in his 26 appearances with Brooklyn.
His defensive rating with regular minutes is only slightly better – 108.7 and 109.5 for his two full seasons in Philadelphia — with net ratings of minus-16.6 and minus-14.5 respectively.
Okafor’s performance in his career is part of a 2015 draft class that has been widely disappointing. First overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns has reportedly annoyed teammate Jimmy Butler with his work habits, even as he became a first-time All-Star last season.
No. 2 pick D’Angelo Russell has had locker-room problems, injury woes and has been traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Nets.