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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.

Anthony Davis: DeMarcus Cousins became ‘enemy’ by leaving Pelicans for Warriors

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Anthony Davis showed his respect for DeMarcus Cousins by wearing Cousins’ jersey during the All-Star game, which Cousins missed due to injury.

But that was when they were Pelicans teammates. With Cousins on the Warriors, Davis views him quite differently.

Davis, via Angel Diaz of Complex:

I’m happy for him. He did what he did. He chose the right team for his career right now with his injury, I’m assuming. I wish the best of luck to him and we’ll see him three maybe four times this year, and try to beat him. Now he’s the enemy. Anybody who’s not on the Pelicans is an enemy to me. He went from a teammate to an enemy.

Davis has an awesome competitiveness. I don’t know his long-term future in New Orleans, but as long as he’s there, the Pelicans will get their money’s worth.

Really, New Orleans has helped instill this attitude in Davis. Jrue Holiday is his only teammate who has been a keeper. Davis is used to moving on when teammates depart. With replacements for DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon RondoJulius Randle and Elfrid Payton – eligible for 2019 unrestricted free agency, Davis can’t get too comfortable with this group.

But he’ll sure try his hardest to make it work for at least next season, just as he did with Cousins before Cousins turned into the “enemy.”

Five things we’ve learned through four days of free agency

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In the free agency of 2018 players were grabbing the bag. Fast.

Ordinarily free agency — especially for the big names — plays out over the first week of July as players meet with various teams, try to play teams off one another, and push for the best offer out there. Not in 2018. Not with most teams cash-strapped (only nine teams had more than $10 million in pure cap space to spend signing free agents before free agency). Knowing the market was tight, players grabbed the deal in front of them. Fast.

What did we learn from the first four days of free agency? Here are the five big takeaways.

1) Everyone — players and teams — are focused on 2019. As of this writing, there have been 52 contracts handed out to NBA players this free agency period — 29 of them (56 percent) have been one-year deals, or contacts with an opt-out after one year (stat courtesy Marc Stein). For comparison, the previous couple of years about 30 percent of contracts were one-year deals. This year’s the list of short deals includes big names such as DeMarcus Cousins to the Warriors, as well as the more expected ones, such as Raymond Felton staying with the Thunder.

Why? Money. As mentioned in the intro above, not a lot of teams had money to spend on free agents — the majority of teams were over the cap and/or into the luxury tax, many didn’t even have the full mid-level exception to offer. That changes next summer when many of the contracts signed during the drunken sailor spending spree of 2016 (when the cap spiked) come off the books.

The end result is players are reading the marketplace, then taking one-year deals to get back into free agency when there is more money out there. Cousins did it. Derrick Favors did it with Utah. Tyreke Evans did it. Rajon Rondo. The list goes on and on.

Teams also are biding their time, looking to make a splash in 2019 rather than in this market. Teams are trying to avoid long-term contracts that impact next year’s cap space.

One caveat now for 2019 — the market is going to be saturated. There always will be money to pay the top guys (Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, etc.), and in 2019 that money will trickle down couple tiers below those guys, but there is not going to be enough big money for everyone. Some players who think they are going to get paid next summer will be disappointed.

2) The Lakers won free agency by getting LeBron James, but they are focused on 2019, too. LeBron wasted no time making his call — no formal meeting with the Cavaliers, his agent had a perfunctory one with the 76ers basically just to let them know he wasn’t coming, and that was it. Before free agency was 24 hours old LeBron had made his call and let the world know — he was going to the Lakers.

More than just that, he signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, showing Magic Johnson and company the kind of trust he showed Pat Riley in Miami but never gave to Dan Gilbert or anyone in Cleveland.

With that trust, the Lakers are not overpaying to win now. They have ignored the line thinking that with LeBron at age 33 they can’t spend a year building and must win immediately. Talks to trade for Kawhi Leonard cooled, and the Lakers didn’t throw their remaining cap space at long-term deals for the best players available. Los Angeles didn’t even keep Julius Randle. The roster the Lakers have put together for the 2018-19 season coming up — the young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, plus now veterans (and interesting personalities) Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, and JaVale McGee — will be good, it’s a playoff team, but it’s no threat to Golden State or Houston. Even with the greatness of LeBron, this is a team that will hover around 50 wins in a brutally deep Western Conference, and at best make the second round of the playoffs.

The focus is on getting another superstar, another All-NBA level player. Maybe Leonard, via trade or as a free agent next summer. Maybe another star free agent they can sign into cap space (Jimmy Butler or Klay Thompson). Maybe another star unexpectedly becomes available via trade. Maybe a lot of things, but the Lakers have prized flexibility above all, the ability to sign guys or make deals. They want to contend for titles, but they — with LeBron’s blessing — are thinking a season or two down the line. As part of that plan, they want to get LeBron working off the ball more.

3) Yes, the Golden State Warriors got better, but it was more than DeMarcus Cousins that fell their way. The Golden State Warriors got better this summer. No doubt. Not in the “they formed the Death Star” kind of way that NBA Twitter freaked out about, but Cousins — despite his expected mid-season return and being less than 100 percent, lethargic defense, ball-stopping offense in the post — is an upgrade over JaVale McGee or Zaza Pachulia. Cousins will hit some threes, make some passes, and fit in as best he can in the Warriors’ system.

However, the list of things that have given the Warriors a better shot at a title now goes way beyond just Cousins. For one, the only team that was a real threat to them last playoffs, the Houston Rockets, got a little bit worse when Trevor Ariza took Phoenix’s cash. LeBron James came to the West on a team that is not yet a threat. The Spurs are dragging their feet on the Kawhi Leonard situation, keeping on the bench a player who (if healthy) could help form a contender somewhere. The list goes on. Things have gone right for the Warriors this offseason, but it is more than signing a guy coming off a torn Achilles.

4) Restricted free agents have been left hanging. Clint Capela should have some team offering him a max or near max contract to try to poach him from Houston. Marcus Smart has no offers yet. Nor does Jabari Parker. Or Zach LaVine. Or Jusuf Nurkic. Or Kyle Anderson. Or Rodney Hood.

In a tight financial market, teams have spent on the guys they could get rather than tie up their cap space for a few days trying to snag one of the NBA’s restricted free agents. Remember, these are the guys where the team they played for has the right to match any contract. In the case of Capela, Houston GM Daryl Morey has made it abundantly clear he would match any offer and that has scared off potential suitors. In the case of Parker or LaVine, injury concerns have teams hesitant to jump in with the level of commitment it would take to scare off the Bucks or Bulls. And so on and so on down the list.

The bad news for these restricted free agents is there are not a lot of teams with money left — Sacramento, Atlanta, a few others — and those teams are not looking to spend a lot and win more right away. Those teams are more likely to take on a bad contract for a future asset than overpay to try to steal a player away. The options for the restricted free agents are not getting any better. Expect a few to play for the qualifying offer then become free agents next summer (see item No. 1 on this list).

5) Oklahoma City got the band back together, but they are going to pay a lot to do it. The number is staggering — $300 million. The Thunder got their man — Paul George will be back on a new max contract. As expected, Carmelo Anthony opted in to his $28.7 million. Jerami Grant will return and sign a three-year, $27 million contract. Combine all that with Russell Westbrook‘s max contract that kicks in, plus the repeater tax, and the Thunder are lined up to pay the largest salary plus tax bill in NBA history. That $300 million bill would make the Lakers or Knicks blush.

Is it worth it to run back a 48-win team that was bounced in the first round of the playoffs?

In OKC, they know that in the past nine months two stars have chosen them, chosen to stay in their market over going to Los Angeles or New York or wherever. That’s a big win. This team believes it was better than it showed down the stretch and into the playoffs. Ownership says its worth whatever price and they will pay it for a year.

Around the league, other teams expect the Thunder to make a couple of cost-savings moves. Just something to keep an eye on.

Report: Warriors loading up super team with DeMarcus Cousins

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The Warriors had All-Stars at four of five positions:

And now Golden State will add an All-Star center in DeMarcus Cousins.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Cousins – recovering from an Achilles tear – wasn’t getting the offers he desired in free agency. The Pelicans are signing Julius Randle. The Mavericks are signing DeAndre Jordan. The Lakers are signing a pu pu platter of players to surround LeBron James. Few other spending teams need centers.

He probably could have gotten more than the $5,337,000 taxpayer mid-level exception Golden State will pay him, but Cousins wasn’t getting a better chance at a ring and environment to prove himself. Remember, Cousins has never played in the playoffs. He can gain so much next season – except a high salary. But, if all goes well, he’ll generate massive demand in 2019 free agency.

This is a low-risk, high-reward swing for the Warriors. Cousins’ attitude could disrupt their ecosystem, but they’ve dealt with difficult personalities before – maybe more than we realize.

Cousins could also clash with Golden State’s up-tempo, quick-decision preferences, but these Warriors can play multiple styles. Especially as their veterans age, they might embrace slowing the pace.

This will be a fascinating experiment, and – chemistry aside – the floor is a championship-caliber team with Jordan Bell at center. The ceiling? It’s a lot higher than Cousins can jump right now.

LeBron and the Lakers’ moment lasted barely a full day. Golden State is staking an even stronger case as the greatest team of all-time.