NBA Free Agency: Pelicans targeting Looney is bad news for Okafor

NBA Free Agency starts in two days, and the New Orleans Pelicans are rumored to target another big man. Would adding Kevon Looney to the roster force Jahlil Okafor out of the rotation?

The direction the New Orleans Pelicans should take in NBA Free Agency this summer is up for debate. They have several routes they could go, including not adding any significant money to the payroll in order to fully invest in their young core. One rumor that trickled out yesterday involving the Pels is that they could look to add Kevon Looney from the Golden State Warriors to the lineup once free agency opens up.

The Warriors want to bring Looney back, but the Pelicans could have some more capital to throw at him if they choose to really go after him. With Golden State having to make decisions on and offer contracts to Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and DeMarcus Cousins this summer, Looney could be the odd man out monetarily.

For the New Orleans Pelicans, adding another center to the depth chart would be… interesting. The team already drafted rookie Jaxson Hayes 8th overall to be the center of the future. Christian Wood and Jahlil Okafor are still on the roster too, and New Orleans recently picked up Jah’s option for 2019-2020 last week to guarantee a roster spot for him. This was a low risk move, however, as his contract will cost the team under $2 million next season, so why not bring him back?

Jahlil Okafor and Kevon Looney are fairly redundant offensively. Neither can shoot from long range, opting instead to punish their defenders in the post for high percentage shots near the rim. Looney shot a better field goal percentage, and he was more efficient as well. In most other traditional stat areas, they’re pretty close to each other, though Looney is a slightly better facilitator as well.

The difference between these two players in on the other end of the court, as Kevon Looney is a better defensive player than Jahlil Okafor (which really doesn’t take much, if we’re being honest). This is bad news for Jah. Bringing Looney to the roster would mean that there would really be no reason to give Okafor significant minutes anymore, barring injuries or foul trouble.

Even Christian Wood would likely have a better argument for getting on the court over Okafor since Wood has a different skillset and seemingly more untapped potential. He’s got a much smaller sample size in the NBA in comparison, but it seems like he’s working hard to become a decent stretch-5, and his overall scoring/rebounding/shot-blocking ceilings all seem higher than Okafor’s at this point.

Kevon Looney could probably be the starter for the New Orleans Pelicans if they were trying to win now, but Jaxson Hayes will likely get that role since next season will be more about getting the young guys playing time. With Hayes/Looney being the first and second centers on the depth chart in this scenario, Wood would make sense to be third if the Pels truly believe in his potential (and they should). Jah is the odd man out.

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Of course, it’s possible that none of this even matters. For now, everything we hear about NBA Free Agency is just a rumor, so it’s totally possible that the New Orleans Pelicans don’t add Kevon Looney or any other big man this summer. If they do, however, don’t expect Jahlil Okafor to get much run anymore.

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