Pelicans pick up Okafor's '19-20 team option

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Pelicans have picked up the 2019-20 team option on Jahlil Okafor.

Okafor -- who was drafted third by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2015 and spent time playing with the 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.

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My summer of transformation: First off I want to thank @idanwan & @dzandertraining for getting after it with me the moment my season ended. Grateful to have two of the best in their respective fields work with me all summer. Although the physical changes in this photo are evident, their has been extreme growth unbenounced to the eye. I've learned how to identify and manage different stressors such as anxiety. Learning how to identify certain stressors has also allowed me to over come them. Often times because of my size and profession people may view me in a certain way, but in reality I deal with the same struggles as countless others. Mental health awareness is a cause I will fight for the rest of my life and if you're struggling today don't be afraid to speak with someone and seek help. I would like to thank @kevinlove and the @playerstribune for helping me identify my feelings and informing me what I was dealing with was in fact normal. 6 weeks left in the off season; with a lot more work to do!

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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 outside shooting 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.