Alexis Ajinca

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Report: Clippers trading Wesley Johnson to Pelicans for Alexis Ajinca

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The Chris PaulBlake GriffinDeAndre Jordan era already ended in L.A.

Now, the Clippers are losing the very last player from their 2016-17 team (just two years ago!) – Wesley Johnson, who’s being shipped to the Pelicans for Alexis Ajinca.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Johnson ($6,134,520) has a slightly higher salary than Ajinca ($5,285,394) with both players in the final year of their contracts. As long the Clippers have to waive a player, they’d rather drop the cheaper one.

The Clippers actually had to shed two players before the regular-season roster deadline. They’re also releasing Jawun Evans, the No. 39 pick last year. The point guard just didn’t acclimate to the NBA quickly enough to beat out Sindarius Thornwell and Tyrone Wallace. Though waiving Evans was probably the right move now, I wouldn’t write him off entirely.

Ajinca, on the other hand, has no place in a shrinking NBA. The 7-foot-2 30-year-old can’t stay healthy and hasn’t been productive when on the court.

Johnson fell out of favor with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, but the Pelicans desperate for a small forward. Though Johnson wouldn’t be an exciting addition for most teams, he’s worth the low cost – the $849,126 difference between his and Ajinca’s salaries – to New Orleans, where he might actually be a significant addition.

Jahlil Okafor ready to help Pelicans where ‘atmosphere is all about winning’

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Jahlil Okafor sounds like a guy who just wants a chance to prove himself.

The former No. 3 pick out of Duke has battled injuries in his short career but also has watched the game quickly evolve away from his style of play (his poor defense has become an anchor). He has signed on in New Orleans, where the Pelicans will give him a chance as a backup big, a chance to be the fourth man in a rotation with Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle.

Okafor talked about the chance and playing with fellow Chicagoan Davis, and improving on his weaknesses in a visit on C.J McCollum’s podcast (hat tip The Bird Writes).

“There were several guys there; AD was one of the guys there. You know, he’s a Chicago guy so he’s somebody that I’ve always been able to watch and monitor because when I was a freshman, he was the No. 1 high school player in the country as a senior. I was able to do the same thing. Then he went to Kentucky, won a national championship; then I went to Duke and copied him — did the same thing and won a national championship. He’s always been like a mark for me to look at. He’s not too much older than me, but a role model in the sense of just the success he’s had and he’s always done everything the right way. So, I’m excited to be able to team up with him and be with him on a day-to-day basis…

“The knock on me has always been my defense and my rebounding. I let the coaches know that I’m aware of that, and obviously, they’re aware of that. They know that I’m 150 percent bought into doing whatever it takes to win. I think I’ve taken the necessary steps this summer just to become a better defender, a better rebounder — just because I’m moving better and I’m doing all of the right stuff. I’m really excited about it…

“With the Pelicans in particular, I’m going to a team with aspirations of winning a championship, and that the whole organization and atmosphere is all about winning. That’s not something I’ve been accustomed to since I’ve been in the NBA; it’s sort of been the opposite.”

Before you think that’s some massive shot at Philadelphia and Brooklyn, think about it. He was on “the process” Sixers that were not winning games, and just as Philly started to get good last season Okafor was traded to Brooklyn, another team that was rebuilding. This season is different because he’s got a chance to contribute to a team thinking big (they’re not winning a title, but steps forward are possible).

Okafor is getting a chance, which is all he can ask. He says he has dealt with the anxiety and mental part of his game that was holding him back. He will be battling Cheick Diallo and Alexis Ajinca (if healthy) for minutes. Okafor needs to show he can run the floor and play the up-tempo style the Pelicans prefer, that he can set picks and roll to the rim, that he is more than a back-to-the-basket old-school guy with no shooting range, and that he can defend.

For New Orleans, bringing Okafor in was a low-risk gamble. For Okafor, this may be his last chance to prove he has an NBA role. He seems to get that, but we’ll see how it plays out.

Jahlil Okafor reportedly reaches partially-guaranteed deal with Pelicans

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Jahlil Okafor is getting another chance — but he’s going to have to prove he still has a fit in the NBA to make it work.

The New Orleans Pelicans are bringing the 2015 No. 3 pick in for training camp, but on a partially guaranteed deal, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Free-agent center Jahlil Okafor has agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, league sources told ESPN.

A source told ESPN that Okafor’s deal includes a partial guarantee for the 2018-19 season and a team option for the following season.

Okafor played for both the Sixers and Nets last season, was not healthy much of the time, and was on the court for just 353 minutes total all season (across 26 games).

It’s a good roll of the dice by the Pelcians, with little downside for them.

There is a rotation spot available in New Orleans if Okafor can show he’s healthy and earn it. Anthony Davis is going to start at center (with Nikola Mirotic at the four), then when he goes to the bench Julius Randle may get some small-ball minutes at the five, plus Cheick Diallo and Alexis Ajinca are on the roster, but there are minutes available. Okafor needs to show he can run the floor and play the up-tempo style the Pelicans employ.

The game has quickly evolved away from Okafor’s below the rim, back-to-the-basket offensive game, plus he has been a liability on defense. However, he can set picks and roll to the rim and find ways to contribute.

If he can find enough, he will play next season in New Orleans, but it’s on him now to prove he has real NBA value.

Report: Pelicans discussing contract with Jahlil Okafor

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Jahlil Okafor is only three years removed from being the No. 3 overall pick. He’s only two years removed from making the All-Rookie first team. He’s only one year removed from players around the league rallying to get him on the court.

But Okafor has been reduced to trying out for teams during free agency and just trying to get into training camp somewhere.

Maybe New Orleans.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

The Pelicans reportedly tried to trade for Okafor two seasons ago, and the 76ers even sat Okafor in advance of a potential deal. But some saw Philadelphia as just bluffing to drum up interest.

Either way, the price would likely be cheap for New Orleans now – a barely guaranteed, or maybe even completely unguaranteed, deal.

Okafor is just 22, but he has been so bad. His defensive struggles get most of the attention. He’s slow and ground-bound, limiting him in space and as a rim-protector. But he has also been an offensive minus, not scoring efficiently enough in the low post to make up for his null floor-spacing and passing.

The Pelicans could take a flier. Anthony Davis likes to play power forward, and perhaps a hodgepodge of Julius Randle, Emeka Okafor, Cheick Diallo, Alexis Ajinca and Jahlil Okafor allow Davis to do that more often. But maybe New Orleans decides Randle, Emeka Okafor, Diallo and Ajinca are enough.

Report: Former No. 2 pick Emeka Okafor to sign 10-day contract with Pelicans

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Emeka Okafor, the former No. 2 pick and 2005 Rookie of the Year who has been out of the NBA since 2013, was serious enough about an NBA comeback that he has played 26 games this season for the Delaware 76ers, the G-League affiliate of Philadelphia. He averaged 6.8 points on 61.2 percent shooting and 8 rebounds a game in 20 minutes a night, with a PER of 18.6.

That has been enough to get him a chance.

The New Orleans Pelicans, desperate for help at center since the DeMarcus Cousins injury (and with Alexis Ajinca out with knee surgery), are going to give Okafor a chance with a 10-day contract, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

After suffering career-threatening back issues, former No. 2 overall pick Emeka Okafor is planning to sign a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Okafor, 35, last played for the Washington Wizards in 2013, when he suffered a herniated disk injury and underwent multiple years of rehabilitation.

Right now the Pelicans are playing Anthony Davis at center, and while he dropped 43 on the Thunder in a key Pelicans’ win Friday night, he doesn’t want to deal with the nightly physical grind of playing that position. New Orleans tried to land Greg Monroe but he took the cash from a bigger deal in Boston. There are expected to be some centers bought out after the trade deadline that the Pelicans can then grab.

In the interim, Okafor will get his shot.