Former Duke standout Jahlil Okafor has signed a one year contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. The deal will include a partial guarantee for this season and a team option for 2019-2020.

Okafor was a highly sought after prospect coming out of both high school and college. Ranked the #1 recruit in the 2014 class, Okafor committed to Duke. At the North Carolina school, he averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game before declaring for the NBA Draft during his freshman year.

He was selected third overall in the 2015 Draft by the 76ers and he had a successful rookie season. Posting 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his first year, he was recognized for his play when he was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.

Okafor’s career looked promising, but he quickly fell over the ledge. His playing time diminished, and he was then traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a package deal for Trevor Booker. The change of scenery only made matters worse for Okafor, as his stat line suffered in the new environment. He averaged 6.4 points and less than three rebounds per game in just over 12 minutes a game, losing whatever value he had left. The struggles which Okafor endured weren’t limited to the offensive end, as he finished 70th of 79 qualifying centers in Defensive Real Plus-Minus.

Now, in the wake of Demarcus Cousins departure, the Pelicans have taken a chance on the former NCAA champion to fill their need for an active big man presence alongside 5-time All-Star Anthony Davis.

This may be Okafor’s last chance to crack the rotation of an NBA team before he is forced to look elsewhere for work due to a lack of productivity. Okafor stated:

“As a player, I recognized some key areas in my game that needed work,” said Okafor. “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.”

He is a low risk, high reward option for the Pelicans. The team is hoping that Okafor will provide solid depth in addition to possibly reaching the ceiling which NBA scouts used to think was unbelievably high.


Featured Image via Flickr/The Wing