Sources — Pelicans pick up Okafor’s team option

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NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans have picked up the 2019-20 team option on Jahlil Okafor, league sources told ESPN.

Okafor — who was drafted third by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2015 and spent time playing with the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets — signed with the Pelicans during the summer of 2018.

During his rookie season in Philadelphia, Okafor averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds per game. His numbers steadily declined from there, and he began to see less and less playing time. By the time he came to the Pelicans, many around the league wondered if he would be able to make it in the NBA.

Since then, Okafor has transformed his body and worked to change his game.

The center has credited losing more than 20 pounds to his “mostly vegan diet.” He has recently added meat back into his regimen to help him regain some of the strength he lost when he shed those pounds. Losing that weight helped reduce the stress he put on his knees. He said he also began working with a therapist to help him learn to cope with anxiety and depression.

Okafor has also begun working on his 3-point shooting. He is still not consistent from beyond the arc — shooting just 1-for-5 over the course of the season — but has said he will continue to attempt to incorporate that into his game.

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Okafor is now guaranteed $54,000 of his contract. If he is not waived by Jan. 7, the full $1.7 million of his contract will become guaranteed.

Last season, Okafor averaged 8.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. The Pelicans see him as a logical fit next to Zion Williamson, who is expected to be drafted No. 1 overall by the team.

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