Jahlil Okafor, Pelicans Reportedly Agree on Contract

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2018

PHILADELPHIA, PA -  MARCH 16: Jahlil Okafor #4 of the Brooklyn Nets grabs the rebound against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 16, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans and free-agent center Jahlil Okafor reached a contract agreement Wednesday. 

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the signing and added the contract is partially guaranteed for the coming season with a team option for 2019-20.

Okafor has struggled to reach expectations since the Philadelphia 76ers selected him with the third pick in the 2015 NBA draft.

The Duke product averaged 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 assists across 53 appearances during his rookie season. His offensive numbers have faded considerably over the past two years, though, and he's remained a defensive liability.

He put up just 6.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game in 28 contests split between the Sixers and Brooklyn Nets, who acquired him in a December trade, last season. He ranked 70th of 79 qualified centers in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, per ESPN.com.

In January, the 22-year-old Arkansas native wrote in The Players' Tribune he understood there were areas he must improve to crack an NBA rotation consistently moving forward:

"As a player, I recognized some key areas in my game that needed work. One, I've gotta improve on defense—improve both my physical quickness and my mental discipline. Two, I have to rebound better—maintain smarter positioning, be more aggressive on the jump. And three, I want to be the type of player who makes his teammates better—whether that's by gaining confidence as a passer, or getting more comfortable spacing the floor, or even just being a supportive guy in the huddle. I've been working hard, and I'll continue to work hard, to make those things happen."

Okafor has already lost the additional leeway given to high draft picks, as evidenced by his limited playing time with both the 76ers and Nets last season. Now he must showcase substantial improvement if he's going to blossom late and turn into a valuable asset.

Ultimately, joining the Pelicans represents another fresh start for Okafor, but he shouldn't be viewed as anything more than a fringe roster player at this stage. He's going to need a strong showing throughout training camp and the preseason to earn regular minutes to open the year.

He should slot in behind Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Nikola Mirotic, Emeka Okafor and Cheick Diallo in the New Orleans frontcourt rotation at the outset. However, his addition provides extra depth following the departure of DeMarcus Cousins, who signed with the Golden State Warriors earlier in the offseason.

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