As of August 8, C Jahlil Okafor and the New Orleans Pelicans have reached an agreement for a two-year non-guaranteed deal at $3.27M. Since Jahlil has 3 years of service in the NBA, he is slated to earn the 3YOS veteran’s minimum of $1.567M in 2018-2019 and $1.702M in 2019-2020. Likely, this deal is a training camp/summer agreement, meaning that Okafor is contending on the 20-man summer roster for a spot on the final 15-man roster for the season.
The Pelicans return starting All-NBA C Anthony Davis, as well as backup C Alexis Ajinca and C Emeka Okafor. Ajinca is returning from injury last season, and shot 60% of his baskets inside 10 feet and 38% of his shots in the midrange, while taking a three point shot just 2% of the time in 2016-2017. He’s a fair rebounder (10.9/36 minutes) and contributes only little defensively (1.2 steals, 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes). His 7’9” wingspan is certainly impressive, but he is a backup center that neither scores, defends, or rebounds particularly well.
Enter Jahlil Okafor. The former ACC Player of the Year, No. 1 Recruit, and 2015 NCAA National Champion came into the league with Tim Duncan comparisons. After bouncing between Philadelphia and Brooklyn, he has been criticized as an average rebounder, a below-average defender, and a good scorer around the basket with no outside game and it out of shape. Okafor shot 82% of his shots in 2017-2018 from 10 feet inward, taking his game to the midrange on 15% of his attempts. He is not known as a 3-point shooter. His rebounding/36 minutes for his career is lower than Ajinca at 8.2, though he averages slightly more blocks at 1.5. With F Nikola Mirotic neither being a great rebounder or defenseman, the backup center would need to at least be able to contest in the lane and secure defensive rebounds.
The summer of 2018 has allowed Okafor to rework his jump shot, with training videos appearing of him knocking down 3-pointer after 3-pointer. With a new focus on better conditioning, Okafor could combine his inside game with a solid midrange and enough of an extended range to keep defenses honest.
If Okafor plays in the second unit alongside Mirotic, the two can form a serviceable inside-out combination, with Okafor’s interior gravity allowing Mirotic to operate as the stretch 4.
Given the chance to play alongside and learn from his cousin, Emeka Okafor, Jahlil should have one of his best chances to succeed. If the family experiment works, likely one Okafor makes the 15-man roster. A passing of the torch from one generation to the next, or at least a solid attempt to reclaim the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft if he is waived before the start of the season.
Stats provided by Basketball Reference.
I'm Jake, a recent graduate of Duke University pursuing a career in collegiate or professional basketball operations.
Cap #s 2018 - 2019
Salary Cap: $101.869M
Lux. Tax: $123.733M
Tax Apron: $129.827M
Tax Floor: $91.682M
Room MLE: $4.45M