When the Tyson Chandler-for-Emeka Okafor trade was completed last year, most basketball analysts proclaimed that the trade was a wash.
Not so for the fans.
There were fans of both teams who did not like the trade.
I read numerous comments from Bobcat fans that essentially said that their owner was dumping their best players to make the team more attractive for an anticipated future sale.
In blogs all over the Internet, Hornets' fans criticized the move as being strictly done for salary cap purposes.
Most thought that the Hornets' interior defense would be significantly weaker.
In an article that I wrote in July, Good Move Mr. Bower: The Bees Are Better With Okafor, I concluded that clearly from a player, franchise, and financial perspective the Hornets came out ahead.
Now that nearly a third of the season has passed, this is the first appropriate opportunity to see who is right so far: the fans, the professional analysts, or your humble BleacherReport.com Featured Columnist.
I am going to compare Okafor and Chandler in four categories: durability, offense, defense, and everything else.
I will also provide and overall assessment of the trade so far.
As the subject of finance and contract has been beaten out over and over, I am omitting that from this analysis.
Games and minutes played are a good measure of durability in an NBA center.
Historically, centers are the most often injured players in the league. They are also the most difficult to replace.
At the time of this writing, Chandler had played in all 22 games for Charlotte.
This is an accomplishment for the oft-injured Chandler, who has either missed or was limited in numerous games over his career.
In these 22 games, Chandler has averaged 25.1 minutes per game.
Except for the 2005-2006 season, Okafor has not had the same durability issues as Chandler. Like Chandler, he has played and started in all of his team’s games this season.
At 29.7 minutes per contest, Okafor is averaging about 15 percent more minutes per game than Chandler.
Slight advantage to Okafor and the Hornets
Okafor has averaged 10.9 points on 54.1 percent shooting from the floor.
Chandler has proven his ability to create his own shot, displaying a variety of shots including a mid- and short-range jumper, short hooks, as well as the obligatory put-back dunks.
Chandler is averaging 6.7 points on 50 percent shooting.
Although I have not seen Chandler play much this season, in the times that I have watched him play, I have not seen Chandler display much in the way of an offensive arsenal.
In his tenure with the Hornets, Chandler excited New Orleans fans with alley-oop dunks and spectacular put backs.
Okafor does not seem to have developed that same chemistry with point guards Chris Paul and Darren Collison.
Some blame this on Okafor’s lack of overall athleticism.
Others say that since Okafor does indeed have some options in his offensive toolbox, that he does not need to rely on the slam dunk as his sole weapon.
Still others believe that since Okafor missed the entire preseason and much of the offseason with an injury, he has not had the opportunity to develop that special rhythm with his point guards.
I tend to think that the truth is somewhere in the middle of all of the opinions.
Okafor has shown that he is athletic enough to catch a ball and slam it through the rim. He is just not as spectacular looking as Chandler when he does it.
Okafor also holds a 73-to-50 advantage in offensive rebounds.
I am certain that there is unanimous agreement neither player will challenge Bill Russell as the greatest post passer of all time. Okafor leads in the assist category so far, 15 to eight.
One area that Chandler leads in is turnovers. So far this season, Chandler has tossed 49 balls to his opponents, while Okafor has lost 36.
Based on scoring, shooting percentage, passing and offensive arsenal the advantage on offense is clearly to the Hornets and Okafor.
There are a few statistics that are indicator of defensive performance.
One of these is defensive rebounds. Okafor has 150 defensive rebounds and is ranked 14th in the league, while Chandler has pulled down 101 defensive boards and is ranked 42nd. This is a huge plus for the Hornets.
Anther statistical indicator of defensive production for a post player is blocked shots.
Even though Chandler is remembered by Hornets' fans for coming out of nowhere to swat one into the stands, statistics show that Okafor is a more effective shot blocker.
Okafor has nearly a 100 percent advantage in this defensive category, leading 45 to 27. Defensively, there is a clear advantage for Okafor.
According to the Charlotte Bobcat’s Web site, Tyson Chandler stands 7’1’’ and weighs in at 235 pounds. Okafor is three inches shorter and 20 pounds heavier.
With his long, wiry physique, Chandler is better at running the floor in transition.
With his muscular body, Okafor has a much better post presence than Chandler.
Most reputable analysts agree that while Tyson Chandler has peaked in his basketball potential, Emeka Okafor still has substantial upside potential.
Before joining the Hornets, Chandler was considered a journeyman center.
Few would argue that without Chris Paul feeding him, Chandler would have looked quite ordinary.
Although they are almost exactly the same age, Chandler has three extra NBA seasons under his belt—three extra years of NBA wear and tear.
While Okafor was polishing his game and earning a degree in finance at UConn, Chandler was banging his slender teenage body against NBA muscle, such as Shaquille O’Neal, in his prime.
Okafor is among three players—the others are the San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan and the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard—to average double figures in points and rebounds the past five seasons. Not bad company.
Since leaving the Hornets, Chandler has gone down in every statistical category with the exception of free-throw percentage.
Without the help of all-star Chris Paul, it is a fair assumption that this trend will continue.
This season, Okafor has clearly been the better player.
Advantage Okafor. Advantage Hornets.
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