Five things to know about Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

1)      Okafor was drafted third overall in 2015, after Minnesota selected Karl-Anthony Towns at No. 1 and the Lakers picked D’Angelo Russell second. Despite being very sporadically used by his two NBA teams during his three-year pro career, Okafor has the fifth-best scoring average from that draft class at 12.9 points. The ’15 class is topped in that category by Towns (21.6), Devin Booker (19.8), Kristaps Porzingis (17.8) and Russell (14.6), per Basketball-Reference.com.

2)      During his rookie campaign with the 76ers, Okafor was the club’s leading scorer and generated 11 double-doubles, including eight games of 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds. Philadelphia won a meager total of 10 games during that 2015-16 regular season, with Okafor tallying 20 points or more in three of those victories. An injury caused him to miss the final 23 games of ’15-16.

3)      Prior to the trade deadline two seasons ago in February 2017, there were numerous media reports that the Pelicans were interested in potentially acquire Okafor from the 76ers (the two clubs had been active on the trade market before, including the summer ’13 that brought Jrue Holiday to New Orleans and sent Nerlens Noel to Philadelphia). A deal never materialized, however, so Okafor spent the remainder of that season with the 76ers, who eventually traded him to Brooklyn in December ’17. Okafor played in just 26 games for the Nets, logging a total of 328 minutes.

4)      Like Pelicans perennial All-Star forward Anthony Davis, Okafor is a Chicago native who was one of the nation’s premier high school players and spent one year at a marquee college hoops program before turning pro. The addition of the 22-year-old also gives New Orleans a pair of Okafors (35-year-old center Emeka is the other), as well as two Duke University products (rookie Frank Jackson is a fellow Blue Devil).

5)      Although Okafor has never been a range shooter on offense – he is 2/10 from three-point distance in his NBA career – he’s been fairly efficient at that end of the floor, shooting over 50 percent from the field in all three pro seasons. Analysis of his shot-chart data shows that he’s taken a larger chunk of his attempts closer to the hoop each successive year in the league, with 42.8 percent of his shots coming from 0 to 3 feet from the basket in ’17-18, via Basketball-Reference.com. He’s posted videos this offseason that emphasize mid-range and perimeter shooting.