New Orleans Pelicans reportedly reach deal with Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor is getting another shot at redemption.

The free-agent center has agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, league sources told ESPN.

Okafor’s deal includes a partial guarantee for the 2018-19 season and a team option for the following campaign. Financial terms of the contract are still unknown.

New Orleans will be Okafor’s third destination since December. He began last season with the Philadelphia 76ers, who later traded him to the Brooklyn Nets. 

The Pelicans lost elite big man DeMarcus Cousins to free agency, but did sign former Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle to fill the void. Nikola Mirotic also figures to see significant playing time in the frontcourt for New Orleans, so Okafor will likely be used only in a depth role off the bench. Still, he has a great chance of making the roster out of training camp.

The former third overall pick in the 2015 draft was selected for the NBA’s All-Rookie team in 2016, but his career has taken a dramatic turn for the worse ever since. He’s never been able to live up to expectations despite having a tremendous skill set. His defense is a liability, which is particularly concerning at the center position.

Okafor averaged 6.4 points per game in very limited minutes for the Nets last year, a stark contrast from the 17.5 per contest he recorded during his rookie season. 

The 22-year-old does have a few interesting connections to the Pelicans. He and forward Anthony Davis are both from Chicago and were top-ranked players in high school. Also, Okafor’s distant cousin, Emeka, plays for New Orleans.

Signing Okafor is a low-risk gamble for the Pelicans, who can easily cut him in training camp if they don’t like what they see.

The Pelicans enjoyed their best season since 2008-09 last year, posting a 48-34 record to qualify for the playoffs. After crushing the Portland Trail Blazers in four straight games in the opening round, New Orleans fell in five games to the Golden State Warriors, ending its season.

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