Free agent big man Jahlil Okafor has agreed to a partially guaranteed one-year contract with the Pelicans, reports ESPN. The deal also includes a team option for the 2019-20 season.
Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, has struggled to find his footing in the league since a productive rookie season with the 76ers. The Pelicans will be his third team since December after he left Philadelphia for a brief stint with the Nets.
The future seemed to be bright for Okafor after starring at Whitney M. Young and a dominant one-and-done performance at Duke, where he was a unanimous All-American and led the Blue Devils to a national championship. In his first season with the 76ers, he averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in 53 games for a team that ultimately went 10-72.
However, the changing nature of the NBA has made it difficult for Okafor, who’s a traditional offensive-minded big man without strong third-point shooting or rim-protecting abilities. Those players are becoming increasingly rare in the league, and while Okafor has shown the ability to score buckets in the post, teams have soured on him given his limited skills beyond that.
Okafor didn’t start any of his 28 appearances last season and averaged just 12.6 minutes per game. He put up 6.3 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting.
The Pelicans are hoping to revive his career in a talented frontcourt led by Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic. The team lost DeMarcus Cousins, who’s recovering from an Achilles injury, in free agency but has now added Julius Randle and Okafor to help fill those minutes.