Pelicans hope to catch lightning in a bottle with Jahlil Okafor
It’s worth a shot.
That’s my take on the New Orleans Pelicans’ signing of Jahlil Okafor.
Okafor made quite a splash when he entered the league in 2015 as the third overall pick in the NBA draft out of Duke.
He averaged 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 blocks in his rookie season with the 76ers, shooting 51 percent from the field. He was a first-team All-NBA rookie.
His second season saw reduced productivity but he was still solid, averaging 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds with 1.2 assists and 1.0 blocks, shooting 51 percent from the field.
Last year was a huge drop in stature and production for Okafor. He languished on the 76ers bench before he was traded to Brooklyn. Okafor saw action in just 26 games for the lowly Nets and averaged just 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds, playing just 12.6 minutes per game. He did not play in 11 of the final 12 games of the season, registering the dreaded DNP designation.
While he has seen his star fade and seen once promising career sink to a questionable future in the league, Okafor is just 22. There is time for a re-direct as a reclamation project.
Perhaps the change of venues will help. The Nets were a terrible team with little motivation, excitement or expectations. The Pelicans were a winning playoff team that improved and won a round in the postseason.
Okafor has not been durable. The most games he has played in was 53 and that was in his rookie season. He has battled knee injuries, including missing 29 in his rookie season due to the knee problem. Over the last year or so, Okafor has made a conscious effort to lose weight to lessen the stress on his knees.
His game is a classic post-up game around the block. Okafor can score down low and possesses a soft, deft touch around the hoop. He lacks shooting range and plays best with his back to the basket. His style of play would appear to make him a player who can play in matchup situations.
Okafor lacks real defensive ability and presence. He is not athletic, does not have much lift and as a result, is not a shot blocker or intimidator. He is all about the offensive end of the floor.
Okafor provides additional depth on the front line, joining newly signed Julius Randle, along with Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic. Emeka Okafor is on the roster as well.
The deal calls for a partial guarantee, team option for 2019-2020. The deal is reported to be worth $1.6 million next season to become fully guaranteed on Jan. 10 with a team option of $1.7 million for the 2019-20 season.
While Okafor may not pan out, the move is a sound one, a low risk, possibly high reward move. Perhaps the Pelicans will catch lightning in a bottle. In the final analysis, the move is certainly worth a shot.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…