Jahlil Okafor Wants To Revive His NBA Career With The Pelicans

Photo Credit: ClutchPoints

Jahlil Okafor Wants To Revive His NBA Career With The Pelicans

 

When Okafor was drafted third overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, he was supposed to be a key part of ‘the process’.

Then, after a promising rookie season where he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, Jahlil Okafor more and more became the odd man out on the 76ers. It was like he’s never really arrived in Philly and his playing time dwindled by the week.

Many thought that these days were over when he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets. Unfortunately for him, this didn’t work out either. Jah barley played and when he played, he wasn’t able to impress.

Okafor was meant to save the traditional big man. The NBA has definitely taken on a new identity and direction especially in recent years. Every season the league seems to be getting smaller and play at a much faster pace. The term “small ball” has never been more in effect. The recent Championship won by the Golden State Warriors are a prime example and evidence that going small aided them tremendously when they were struggling to get their rhythm and pace. Small ball was firstly introduced during the Magic Johnson “Showtime Lakers”, when they went small on occasion, mainly due to the versatility of Magic Johnson with his size and skillset. However, nowadays it’s a common theme. Teams will usually have a small ball line up that they will not hesitate to turn to if they need some pace or spark especially offensively. Thus, highlights the changing face of our league.

Although this may be a sign of change and growth, for some, it’s a sad reality that the game has turned away from the traditional dominant big man down low. Gone are the days of bigs winning MVPs and being franchise centrepieces. Some feel the days of dumping the ball into a big man in the post and letting them go to work, as well as crashing the boards, blocking shots and patrolling the paint were slowly fading.

Even though, he still is only 22 years old (less than three years ago he was seen as one of the biggest big man talents in the NBA) no team wanted him, until the New Orleans Pelicans gave him a chance and signed him to a partially guaranteed two-year contract (partially guaranteed in his first season, team option in his second season).

It was an easy, low-risk signing, that could potentially end up becoming a win-win situation with Okafor and the Pelicans profiting. On top of that, Okafor has spent the summer transforming his body and mind. He looks more than ready. On an Instagram post, Jah posted a picture of the transformation of his body and talked about the transformation of his mind.

 

My summer of transformation: First off I want to thank @idanwan & @dzandertraining for getting after it with me the moment my season ended. Grateful to have two of the best in their respective fields work with me all summer. Although the physical changes in this photo are evident, their has been extreme growth unbenounced to the eye. I’ve learned how to identify and manage different stressors such as anxiety. Learning how to identify certain stressors has also allowed me to over come them. Often times because of my size and profession people may view me in a certain way, but in reality I deal with the same struggles as countless others. Mental health awareness is a cause I will fight for the rest of my life and if you’re struggling today don’t be afraid to speak with someone and seek help. I would like to thank @kevinlove and the @playerstribune for helping me identify my feelings and informing me what I was dealing with was in fact normal. 6 weeks left in the off season; with a lot more work to do!”

 

Instagram @Jah8

 

On paper, Okafor doesn’t fit with the Pelicans because he doesn’t run the floor. But this could exactly be the reason it will work out eventually. Per CBS Sport’s Kevin Skiver:

 

The Pelicans’ big men that they’ll certainly be keeping in rotation next season now include Anthony Davis, Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic. Last season, each of those three players averaged over 12 percent of their points on the fast break. For Davis, it was 12.7 percent. For Mirotic, 14.6 percent. And for newcomer Randle, 16.8 percent with the Lakers. The Pelicans as a whole led the league in pace last season, according to NBA Stats, and their pace only increased after DeMarcus Cousins went down just before the All-Star Break. After Cousins’ injury, they led the NBA in percentage of points scored in transition at 17.7 percent.

However, it’s that complete counter-intuition that might allow Okafor to not only get minutes in New Orleans, but thrive there as a counterweight. Running more than any team in basketball takes its toll. Guys like Randle and Davis can’t run the floor forever, and Mirotic is a liability inside. He’s the quintessential stretch player. Over half of his attempted field goals were beyond the arc last season. So when Randle and Davis are gassed, someone needs fill the void in the paint.

Enter Okafor. Okafor is the type of player that can allow the Pelicans to slow down their game and get into some halfcourt sets when players are resting. The Pelicans will live and die by Davis (and, to a lesser extent, Jrue Holiday), so when Davis is off the floor the Pelicans can bide their time with Okafor until he returns. When Davis is on the floor with Okafor, he can play in the high-post or on the perimeter.

 

We’ll have a close look on the Pelicans and Okafor. This could be one of the most perfect non-fitting fits in recent history. I’d especially be really happy for Jahlil who instead of reviving the traditional big man style, has become outdated. This may change soon?!

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