Whom Should The Hornets Trade: Tyson Chandler Or David West?

William GuilloryContributor IJuly 6, 2009

In 2007, David West and Tyson Chandler emerged as one of the best young power forward-center combos in the NBA.

Chandler's rim-rattling dunks combined with West's feathery touch from mid-range gave teams in the NBA fits. 

Once Chris Paul came off one of those classic pick-and-rolls with Chandler, teams had quite a decision to make.

Do you stop West from shooting his patented 15 to 18 foot jumper, or do you stop Paul from tossing Chandler a pass that more times than not resulted in an alley-oop that got crowds in New Orleans hyped, and crowds on the road in awe?

Not to mention, whenever Paul, the best point guard in the NBA, decided to get a few of his shots up to make defenses, life got even more difficult.

But after the 2008 season in which Chandler missed 38 games due to an ankle injury, West had to work harder to get his jumper off, Chandler didn't get as many opportunism for those momentum-swinging alley-oops, and Chris Paul had to carry the entire Hornets offense on his back.

Obviously this wasn't a recipe for success, so Paul and West were overworked during the regular season and eventually ran out of gas once playoff time came around.

Because of this, the Hornets are in the position they're in now.

They don't know whether this is a team on the way up or on the way down, and they currently have $77 million in payroll heading into next season (reportedly, the highest in the NBA) and are in desperation-mode to reduce that number before next season starts so the organization won't have to give up the $7 million in luxury tax that results from having such a bloated payroll.

The team tried avoiding this scenario mid-way through last season by trading Chandler to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the expiring contracts of Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox.  Smith and Wilcox would have been rented help on the front line for the Hornets in their playoff push and their salaries would have come off the Hornets books after the season.

But the Thunder's team doctors had concern with one of Chandler's toes that was surgically repaired a few years back and decided to rescind the trade, shipping Chandler and his 2009 salary of $11.85 million back to the Hornets.

Without a doubt, Hornets owner George Shinn will do whatever he can to avoid having to pay the luxury tax bill that he will have to pay if the roster stays as it is, so there is only one option: trade someone.

But who do you trade?

Obviously, Paul will never be traded from the Hornets anytime soon and Peja Stojakovic's contract, which is worth about $42 million over the next three years, will be impossible to move with his diminished skills.  So the only two players whom the Hornets can realistically trade and get some value back for them are Chandler and West.

Chandler is set for his $11.85 million next season and has a player-option, which he will certainly pick up, that will pay him $12.75 million in 2010-11.  West is scheduled to make about $17 million over the next two seasons and has a player-option for the 2011-12 season for about $7.5 million. 

Of course, the Hornets would rather trade Chandler over West.

West is a better player at this point, does not have the injury history that Chandler has, and is scheduled to make less money than Chandler over the next two seasons.

But would trading Chandler be a better move for the Hornets?

There have been rumors that the Phoenix Suns have been trying to send Ben Wallace's $14 million contract, that is expected to come off the books of whatever team is employing Wallace due to the fact that he will probably be retiring, and Detroit has been rumored to have some interest in acquiring Chandler, as well.

Either of these trades would result in the Hornets basically giving up their starting center in exchange for cap relief.  Is that really an equation for improving your team?

I don't think so.

Especially not after Marcin Gortat has already agreed to sign with the Dallas Mavericks and Rasheed Wallace has agreed to sign with the Boston Celtics, which means there is no player available who can possibly come in and be as productive as Chandler was when he was at his best.

Trading Chandler make the Hornets payroll situation a lot easier to deal with, but the team's success would suffer without a player of Chandler’s caliber and no one to take his place.

So this brings us to West.

A David West trade can have the same kind of effect on the Hornets payroll as a Chandler trade would, but to the contrary of trading Chandler, the Hornets can get some real value for West.

Two-time all-stars always have value for a team in trades and West would make any contender a much better team with his presence on their front line.

He is in the prime of his career and is an outstanding character guy, which is something else that affects a player's value in trade discussions.

Trading West might make Paul unhappy due to their close relationship, but he would be able to understand the deal if the team were able to get some value for West that would make the Hornets a better team.

From what I have seen of West over the past two seasons, the Hornets should be able to get two players and a draft picks in exchange for him, and if the Hornets are offered a deal like that, can they really turn it down?

They may have been offered a deal like this and turned it down, citing West's potential and the key role he has played for this team over the past two seasons.  But sometimes sacrifices have to be made to turn a good team into a great team.

At this point, the Hornets are at a crossroads and whatever decision they make can have a profound affect on what happens to this team over the next few seasons.

But they must review all the possibilities and make the best decision for this team, because if they make the wrong one, it will be a long time before they can revisit the glory of that 2007 season.