Jahlil Okafor takes a shot vs. Denver's Jamal Murray

NBA Superlatives 2019-20: Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

In his second season with New Orleans, Jahlil Okafor’s 2019-20 campaign is symbolic of how he’s fared in general since he arrived in the Crescent City. With the NBA’s style of play shifting away from traditional, back-to-the-basket centers like him, he doesn’t always get an opportunity to log major minutes, but when he does, he’s often been very productive. While filling in for the sidelined Derrick Favors, Okafor generated a 26-point game vs. Denver’s Nikola Jokic, as well as a 25-point, 14-rebound, three-block outing vs. then-Detroit center Andre Drummond, both in Pelicans wins. Fittingly, if you peruse career statistics among Okafor’s 2015 NBA Draft class (he was the third overall pick by Philadelphia), he ranks just 19th among players selected in minutes per game (20.4), but is ninth in both scoring average (11.0 ppg) and rebounding average (5.0 rpg). The 24-year-old discussed his five-year career and the league with Pelicans.com:

Most memorable moment in the NBA: “Playing in two Rising Stars games. Being a part of All-Star weekend, there is so much excitement around the game of basketball. I grew up watching that weekend, so to be a part of it was a dream come true.”

Most surprising thing about the NBA as a rookie: “The life on the road. There are so many different hotels and the constant travel. You are never in the same place for an extended period of time. That was probably the hardest adjustment.”

Toughest NBA player to face at his position: “Joel Embiid. I’m really good friends with him, but he’s a load to deal with. He’s 7-foot-3 and can do everything on the floor. I love playing against him, but he’s the toughest player I’ve played against.”

Most underrated player in the NBA: “Jrue Holiday, without a doubt. I didn’t realize it until I got here last year. I think we all realized he’s a good player, but when you’re actually a part of the organization, you see what he does night in and night out. You realize he’s phenomenal, not just good.”

Best uniforms in the NBA (besides the Pelicans’): “I wish we had black uniforms, but the best uniforms in the NBA are the Brooklyn Nets. I just love black uniforms.”

Favorite NBA road trip, based on the city: “I love going to Chicago. I’m from there, so I always get to see family. They come to the game and I get to spend time with them. My favorite thing about Chicago is the love for basketball in the city. That stemmed from Michael Jordan being there and all of the great players who came out of there. It was a lot of fun when I was playing in high school, because there was just a lot of excitement around the game of basketball.”

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