Posted by: Kingsguru21 | November 14, 2009

Emeka Okafor: Yay or Nay?

If you haven’t, read Tom Ziller’s analysis of said situation. Read the fellow who runs At the Hive for a Hornets analysis. Zach Harper of CK hasn’t elaborate greatly (in terms of actual analysis and not cursory off the top of the head type thoughts), but I suggest you read that as well. Eventually Hornets247 may have something to say as well.

The deal is a straight swap of Kenny Thomas for Emeka Okafor according to Sam Amick. I don’t think the Kings would even consider adding any other players to this deal because the reason you do this deal (from the Kings vantage) is simply to add Okafor to the core of players you already have. If you’re the Hornets, you’re eliminating just over 53 million in salary obligations for the next 4 years.

From a basketball perspective how does this work?

According to Basketball Reference, Emeka Okafor averaged 13.2 points and 10.1 boards a year ago. Per 36 mins, Okafor is averaging almost 8 defensive boards a night. The Kings have no one, including Kenny Thomas and Jon Brockman, doing that.

I think you can expect defensive rebounding to improve against every NBA team. (It’s already very good as is. The Kings currently rank 8th in overall rebounding, 15th in defensive rebounding, and 2nd in offensive rebounding.)

Additionally, Okafor is a better shot blocker than any of the Kings on the roster, and that would be a help as well.

Post defense is the question, and I think it’s a question of HOW GOOD Okafor would be in defending the bigs out West like a Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum, and what not. One of the knocks on Okafor would be that he can’t defend those type’s of players, and if you cant defend those guys one on one on the interior, it’s going to be very difficult to make the Kings a championship team without someone who can.

Thankfully we have splits, and we can check those numbers.

In the road game vs the Blazers, Okafor scored 18 and had 5 boards. That was the 2nd night of a b2b though, and Charlotte had played the Lakers the night before. (They won that game.) Okafor had 18 & 11 in a 2OT game. (Bynum had 24 & 14 in 7 less min’s on the floor.) In the rematch in March, Okafor had 13 points and 9 boards vs the Lakers who were not playing Bynum in that game. The Blazers against the Bobcats in Charlotte saw Okafor go for 22 & 11.

What strikes me is how steady Okafor is. He doesn’t have very high high’s, or very low low’s, and is pretty consistent. (It’s probably why Larry Brown doesn’t like him.)

Offensively, Okafor is not known for his passing skills. He also has a career FG% of just over 50%, but keep in mind that’s because he had several years well under 45% in his first 2 years in the League. You toss those out, and it’s much more like 53%. The one negative about Okafor is that he can’t shoot FT’s very well, and is a career 59.6% FT shooter. Lots of big men can’t shoot FT’s, and perhaps that’s something Okafor can work on as he comes to a situation where his hitting FT’s could be critical.

Okafor has a few post moves on the block, although nothing special, and has been characterized as a steady double double guy.

I would consider him a solid, very solid even, player who does many things very well, but nothing great.

So why would the Hornets get rid of Okafor when Chris Paul wants to make the team better?

According to John Reid of NOLA, Chris Paul will be out for the next 2 weeks with an ankle sprain. I’m not a doctor, but it sounds to me that Paul’s injury is worse than the Hornets originally advertised. You factor this in with Okafor’s long term, 53 million dollars owed beyond this season, and that’s a tough sell on why you would want to win more games in the interim when a higher draft pick can help you more. Frankly, I think the Hornets want to lose a lot of games to get a pick in what some are projecting to be a big heavy draft.

That would be the reason. You add that to two expiring contracts in Peja Stojakovic (14M), and Morris Peterson (6.3M), and suddenly you have 20M of expiring contracts that could net you a quality player (or two), along with a high draft pick that could rebuild the team. Or, you could let the two contracts expire, and sign someone in Free Agency in 2011.

More flexibility rarely hurts teams, and the Hornets are not in a position to say no to this.

From where I stand, the only holdup here is from the Kings end.

Financially, what does this do to any perspective Free Agents in 2010 or 2011?

This trade doesn’t diminish any prospects of acquiring a superstar Free Agent in 2010. The rub is it may in 2011 with several prominent players who perhaps could become Free Agents in the summer of 2011. I’ll quote TZ here:

I think free agency is a big risk. The best player the Sacramento Kings have ever acquired as a free agent (not including any extensions/re-signings) is Vlade Divac. At the time, the team overpaid for Vlade — he was making All-Star level money despite a reputation as an average starting center with a few special skills. No one (but Geoff Petrie, perhaps) knew how well Divac would mesh with Chris Webber and friends.

Who is No. 2 behind Divac? Bobby Jackson, who at the time of his signing was a three-year vet with a career 8 ppg average? Shareef Abdur-Rahim? John Salmons? The Kings, even when great, have never signed high-level free agents. This is not particularly Sacramento-specific, either: few great players move in unrestricted free agency. This coming summer is a bit of an anomaly that players are even getting to free agency … and it’s still unlikely many of the big names will move.

Yep. Sacramento is not LA, Miami, New York, or Chicago. That isn’t changing. You take risks such as Okafor when the time is right, in my opinion, because you need to take that risk.

The question: Is it time to take the risk? (I’ll put that off for a minute.)

Financially, it definitely changes the outlook of this team for the long term as Okafor instantly becomes the highest paid player on the Kings. You can bet that the Kings would be looking at 55-60 million dollars of salary for the next 2 seasons (10-11 & 11-12), and possibly more than that in 2012-13.

While it’s not necessarily enough to put the Kings into luxury tax, especially when the Kings aren’t even selling out Arco Arena with a fun young team now, it’s going to be difficult for the Maloof’s to justify a massive expense as Okafor.

What I can tell you is that the Maloof’s will be looking at a totally different team by trading Kenny Thomas for Emeka Okafor. This changes the complete financial outlook for a team that has been struggling at the box office, and it changes how the Kings spend money for the next 5-10 years potentially.

Is the time right?

It’s a matter of opinion and faith. If you believe the Kings can contend for a playoff spot THIS season, get better as the next several years go by, and your young core develops along with the acquisition of Okafor, than yes obviously it is. But, if you haven’t noticed, that’s a lot of if’s.

That’s IF Jason Thompson is an All-Star and one of the 10 best big men in the NBA for the next 5 years regardless of price. (Since when price doesn’t matter?)

That’s IF Emeka Okafor fits in with his teammates, and he doesn’t suffer a major catastrophic injury the way Chris Webber did. (I have little fear of a Webber injury with Okafor.)

You also assume that Spencer Hawes gets better as the 3rd big man (as it’s clear he doesn’t have the same level of effect offensively that Jason Thompson has right now) and becomes that great 3rd big every contending team needs.

Another assumption is that Tyreke Evans is in fact a franchise player, and the issue’s surrounding that particular point in of itself.

This isn’t just one move to pick up a very good player with an expensive contract; it’s a paradigm shift in how the Kings will be doing business for the next 5 years. That’s a question that, frankly, I don’t want hinging solely on Emeka Okafor’s contract. I especially don’t want that question hinging on whether Tyreke Evans and Jason Thompson become All-Star/Franchise Level players so quickly into their career’s. The preferable time would to be doing this over the summer. I’m not sure this deal can be achieved over the summer, for several reasons, but mostly because there isn’t any 2011 luxury tax relief for the Hornets by waiting, which is why the Kings are considering doing it now.

What’s the risk of not doing this deal now?

The risk of not doing a deal for Okafor now is several fold.

  1. New Orleans may change their mind down the road and decide they A) want more for Okafor or B) find a different taker willing to accept their terms of the deal at some point during the season.
  2. Sacramento may not have a better taker for using Kenny Thomas’ expiring contract as a trade chip.

So what other “ripple” effects are there?

Ripple effects are, by definition, small issue’s that build up to larger one’s as time goes on. The larger this issue becomes in terms of overall effect, the more difficult it is to see the Kings doing this deal.

Consider that Spencer Hawes new contract will come into play starting in the 2011-12 season. Jason Thompson and (possibly) Donte Greene would be in line for a new contract in the 2012-13 season. Tyreke Evans and (possibly) Omri Casspi would be in line for a new contract in the 2013-14 season.

Emeka Okafor has a contract for the next 3 seasons, and a player option in 2013-14 as well. That’s the risk. 38.3 million for the next 3 years, plus the option year with another 14 1/2 million tacked onto that. (Given that the current CBA is not likely to give more flexibility on a new contract, I don’t think it’s likely that Okafor will turn down his option.)

I think the first question that this does for the Kings is how they would negotiate any contract with Spencer Hawes, and then in turn with JT and the others down the road. With the new CBA looming in 2011, the advantage is that you could set a negotiating precedent and claim (rightfully) that you didn’t negotiate Okafor’s contract. I suppose this is one way the Kings could decide to solve the issue in terms of bringing Okafor in.

The other issue’s remain with the other bigger contracts on the roster: Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia, Andres Nocioni, and Beno Udrih.

Of the 4, Martin will be the most valuable, and Udrih may be the most difficult to command return value in a trade. This is especially true in relation to what Garcia does as opposed to what Udrih does. I think it also means that Andres Nocioni may be the most vulnerable to Emeka Okafor’s presence and what Okafor means to the offense. Right now Nocioni is a tough presence who provides a willing, if not steady, presence offensively while not usually creating for others. With Nocioni and Okafor, you would have 2 players with similar skill’s offensively, and Nocioni will be most likely a player you’re looking to move. Because Garcia can handle the ball, and shoot from deep, it may be much easier to fit Garcia long term within the offensive and defensive schematic that the Kings are running.

Nocioni is versatile, but part of his value stems from playing the 4. If he isn’t able to initiate more of the offense with Okafor on the court, suddenly he isn’t as valuable to the Kings. With acquiring Okafor, you’re certainly going to play Hawes more at the 4, and Thompson already is eating 35-40 min’s a night there as is.

Let’s say you acquire Okafor. You’re looking at this kind of depth chart:

C: Okafor, Hawes, Thompson, Brockman, May
PF: Thompson, Hawes, Brockman, May, Nocioni, Greene
SF: Nocioni, Garcia, Casspi, Greene, Evans
SG: Martin, Evans, Garcia, Udrih, Casspi, Greene
PG: Evans, Udrih, Rodriguez, Garcia, Casspi

The only players who arent listed beyond anything other than their primary position is Okafor and Martin. And, who cares given what they do produce? No one in the Orlando Magic organization will ever ask of Dwight Howard to be a PF just so they can play Marcin Gortat 30 min’s a game. That’s stupid. (Bad example I realize. Move on.)

The point here is that Okafor doesn’t necessarily make the team more versatile, but by not being able to play Hawes at one spot, that makes the front line more versatile. And, so on and so forth.

Finally, what are the chances that the Kings will do this deal?

My gut tells me that they won’t do this deal without thinking about this and deliberating about it first. The Hornets don’t play again until Tuesday against the Clippers and the Kings will be hosting the Bulls the same night.

Given that the Hornets are not likely to change their mind within the next 3 days, I think the Kings will be okay in taking some amount of time to deliberate this about first. I’m sure the Kings will make a decision on Monday though, either way.

I think this deal hinges on any number of things that I have very little way of checking or even knowing whether it rings true or not.

I think the first aspect to the Kings doing this deal is that they think Okafor makes them a playoff team this season. Period. Otherwise, what’s the point of taking long term money this early in a season when you’re contending for a playoff berth?

The second aspect is that you think Okafor is what you need to combat the size out West for the next 3 seasons (including this season) to help Hawes & Thompson develop as players.

The third aspect is purely financial: There is no way the Kings can keep the current crop of players together, bring in Emeka Okafor and not expect to be paying luxury tax within 3 years. It’s just not possible with the likelihood of the following:

  • Okafor’s contract as part of the team salary
  • Extensions for Hawes and Thompson kicking in
  • The salary cap for the entire NBA going down for the next 4 seasons

Whatever the reality of the 3 bullet points actually means to the Kings management and ownership, it does mean that time will be needed before making a final decision. Saying “yay” or “nay” in a very short amount of time does not help a team. Looking at any and all options should be discussed. And, knowing Geoff Petrie, they will.

That being said, I think the 4th problem to this deal is how the Kings deal with any basketball lingering issue’s of how Okafor fits into the team, and that how impacts any other SF/SG in this deal. I don’t think the Kings will do this for certain unless they know they can dump Nocioni or Garcia’s contract by next summer. Given the financial difficulties of the team, not to mention playing time, it seems prudent that finding an expiring contract in exchange for either Cisco or Noc at this point.

If the Kings feel that any of the 4 points I just mentioned (Evans/Thompson become All-Star’s/Franchise players), Okafor makes the team better by adding more versatility everywhere else, that after thinking about it hard you believe you have a playoff team, and that you’re confident you can move Garcia/Nocioni for relief at some point, than I think the Kings will do this deal.

What is your opinion of all this?

I have no fucking clue whatsoever. None.

Ideally you would like a player with more talent for the money than Okafor. If that was the case, though, you would not be getting Okafor for Kenny Thomas’ contract.

Ideally you would like to get a top 5 pick and pick a young big man like Cole Aldrich, Derrick Favors, Donatas Motiejunas, Ed Davis among others. The issue here is that if the Kings are attempting to win every game possible this season and  make the playoffs (a worthwhile goal), than perhaps Okafor is a major piece in accomplishing such a feat. Additionally, if all those players declare for the draft (pretty likely), than if the Kings don’t have a top 5-10 pick, they’ll likely miss out on all of the aforementioned names.

I do not envy the Maloof’s and Geoff Petrie/basketball staff in making this decision. This is a very difficult proposition that could have immense repercussions down the line. Either way. By not taking Okafor, it could mean that the Kings have punted away an opportunity to make the team better, add a very good player at a slightly inflated price, and underestimated how good Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes really were as players. Plus, with Tyreke Evans around, it may not be the worst thing in the world to try and add someone who can be counted on for consistent production night in and night out.

I don’t know. That’s my final answer. The final grade to a trade of this magnitude will not be answered at the end of this season, or even next season. When the Kings move Okafor, or move on several years down the road past next season, we will know how effective, in hindsight, this trade really was.

Ever want to be a GM? Here’s a good chance to prove how intelligent of an armchair GM you are.

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Responses

  1. Really well laid out. Overall I find myself being in favor of the trade but with some major concerns. I wish this was happening closer to the trade deadline (if it’s happening at all) so that we would know more about the team.

    Despite the very encouraging start I don’t feel like I have a handle on what we have with the team. They are much better than I thought they would be but on the other hand I don’t really know if they are as good and relatively deep as they have looked.

    I have always felt that JT could be an All – Star level 4 and am just about convinced that ‘Reke is going to be a franchise player or very close to that level. JT has improved dramatically this season but the FO/Maloofs don’t have a lot of information to go on. We are only 9 games into the season.

    I don’t follow college ball until closer to the NCAA tournament but from what I’ve read this draft class is going to offer some quality bigs. If say we win 32-35 games which is a lot more than I was anticipating then possibly we draft in the 7-11 position which is dangerous drafting territory,

    If the air leaks out and the team reverts to a form more in line with projections (mine was 23 wins) then depending on how the ping pong balls fall we may have a chance to draft an impact player at a far better financial position.

    My guesstimate is that if ownership/FO thinks this team is for real they do the deal. Whether it’s now or two years from now at some point you need to make the leap of faith and bring in the high priced talent you think is going to bring you into contention.

    I would far rather pay Okafor $14 million per year than pay Maggette and Crawford $20 million as GSW did last season. One issue that hasn’t been addressed is how trade-able Okafor’s contract would be if he continued to play at his current level but for whatever reason isn’t a good fit on the Kings.

    When you did a financial analysis of the King’s earlier in the year I thought you showed that: a) the team wasn’t losing as much money as many thought and b) they were not nearly as far under the cap as many thought.

    Bottom line, if they feel the team is legit and they can afford it considering how much they will need to extend Hawes ($7-8 million per year?) and JT (LMA type money?) they make the deal.

    Kevin and Cisco aren’t getting any younger and as TZ and you have shown the chance of the Kings scoring a better FA in the 2010 FA gold rush is unlikely. At the very least acquiring a B level vet like Okafor knocks off at least a year off the rebuilding process and if it gets the team into the first round of the playoffs this year it probably makes sense.

    • Thanks BJ. As usual an All-Star comment.

      As far as how much money the Maloof’s have lost, I would only know that if I could peek into the books. My guess is that the Maloof’s didn’t lose as much as money thought if only because they’ve made a ton of cash deals lately that helped keep the team cash friendly.

      I’ll admit I didn’t really see JT being an All-Star if only because I didn’t think he had translatable skills to take his game to the next level. Whoops. And, I’m very glad I’m wrong there.

      I agree about Maggette/Crawford vs a player like Maggette.

      I didn’t address this, but I wonder how much of playing on one of the worst offensive teams all decade hurt how well Okafor could score. It’s such a difficult thing to prove though, and I don’t know that Okafor wouldn’t be the 4th or 5th option consistently in the starting lineup. That’s not necessarily a bad thing even at what Okafor is getting paid.

      Thanks for stopping by BJ.

    • Nice response BJ and good take Pookey.

      I’m for rolling the dice now. Even if we got lucky and grabbed a Favors or whomever, we’re looking at 3-4 years for them to start getting really good. As BJ mentioned Kevin’s time is now.

      If GP thinks EO puts us in the playoffs THIS season, then you do the deal, get Arco rocking again and ride it out.

      We may not have the guns to contend for a title, if Tyreke and JT don’t develop as well as we hope, but we’ll likely keep the team in Sac, and have a decent stretch of solid playoff teams(Ala what the Jazz have been experiencing).

      And once we’re in the dance, you never know what kind of package can be put together to upgrade. We’ve suddenly got quite a bit of young talent.

      • I also think that’s another point for taking on Okafor’s salary, although I didn’t address that in this post.

        Tyson Chandler essentially became valuable because he was seen wrecking havoc in the Playoffs with Chris Paul. What happened was that Chandler wasn’t healthy, and that was all she wrote.

        If Okafor is on a playoff team battling a top tier C, and doing it well, his value could change in relation to the rest of the league.

        There are plenty of quality players, and teams, that could make the playoffs if woulda, coulda, shoulda happened. I think Geoff Petrie and the Maloof’s are smart enough that woulda, coulda, shoulda is for sucka’z.

        I’m warming up to Emeka Okafor the more & more I think about it.

        • It’s a serious gut check, no doubt. But, that’s why GP gets paid the big bucks.

          Hey Pookie, Just want to say thanks for the effort you put in on this blog. Amazing content, and it’s oh, so fucking nice to have a place to put down an opinion without the foolishness that goes on at STR.

          Don’t get me wrong, I love STR, but the noise to serious content ratio has taken a serious hit recently. Again, thanks for your work.

          I’m glad to see a BJ post again, been a while. I wish Aykis, Edito and a few others would post over here once in a while.

          • Don’t worry Kfan, I fixed your comment for you and deleted the last comment. (In case you were wondering. I have that power, and I try to abuse it wisely.)

            Thanks Kfan. Ed & Aykis can comment here whenever they wish. It’s up to them to do so. I’m not going to browbeat people to read this place. I think most people know ECI exists, and don’t want to read my writing and it provides a convenient excuse for them to not read what I put down here. I feel lucky that the people who do want to read and do so voluntarily. 20 people voluntarily reading is a lot better than 100 people grudgingly doing so. Especially with the way I write. 🙂

            Again, thanks.

  2. […] not like the Hornets have no talent without Paul. As it was, the oft discussed Emeka Okafor had 20 & 9 (and was 9-10 from the field–Yikes!), and David West had 24 points (but only 2 […]

  3. […] have said they would do deals that make sense, but does this deal make sense? It’s a bit like the Emeka Okafor quandry made just over a year ago: It makes you better but does the cost make […]


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