Hornets acquire Emeka Okafor from Bobcats for Tyson Chandler
In a move that seemingly came from nowhere, the Hornets and Bobcats have agreed to swap big men. Tyson Chandler will now call Charlotte home, while Emeka Okafor will team up with Chris Paul in New Orleans.
Why this makes sense for New Orleans:
Swapping Chandler for Okafor is a slight upgrade in terms of talent. Okafor is a little more well-rounded on the offensive end and provides the same amount of rebounding, shot-blocking, and physicality that Chandler brought down low for the Hornets. New Orleans does lose Chandler's ability to run the floor, which complemented Paul's game quite well.
What surprises me about this move is the financial commitment New Orleans is making by acquiring Okafor's remaining 5-year deal that will pay him $62.5 million. Considering that all summer there have been reports that the Hornets are in a penny-pinching mode and the fact they nearly gave Chandler to the Thunder during this past season for two expiring contracts, (the trade was nullified because of Chandler's lingering toe injury) it is somewhat a bizarre turn of events.
This trade does show that New Orleans is still trying to compete in the Western Conference. However, don't expect to see them knocking off the Lakers or Spurs.
Why this makes sense for Charlotte:
This move only makes sense from a financial standpoint. Chandler only has one guaranteed year left on his deal with a player option for 2010-2011 that would pay him almost $12.8 million. Other than that, this is a bit of a head-scratcher.
The Bobcats now have three true centers under contract, all of whom are overpaid. Plus, Nazr Mohammed (2 years, $13.2 remaining) and DeSagana Diop (4 years, $26 million) are similar to Chandler in that they are more space-eaters who can rebound and bang inside, but possess a limited offensive arsenal. At least Okafor could play some at the four and bring a little more pop to the already offensively challenged Bobcats.
This deal could be directly related to Charlotte trying to clear some more long-term cap flexibility to re-sign restricted free agent point guard Raymond Felton. The latest rumors had Felton and the Bobcats still far apart in a possible contract extension that would prevent the former Tar Heel from becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer. Freeing up some room from Okafor's contract might allow the team to throw more money Felton's way.
Factor in this trade with the already quiet offseason Charlotte has had, and all signs are pointing toward another year of basketball that won't end in the postseason.