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Should the Toronto Raptors Pursue Emeka Okafor?

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 18:  Emeka Okafor #50 of the New Orleans Hornets shoots the ball against the San Antoino Spurs at New Orleans Arena on January 18, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Stephen BrotherstonAnalyst IJune 12, 2010

ESPN has dredged up the obvious and long-standing rumor that the New Orleans Hornets would like to get out from under the contracts of Emeka Okafor, James Posey, and/or Peja Stojalovic.

And as New Orleans is a small market team that will be in the luxury tax again next season, it probably wasn’t all that hard to find an NBA executive that would agree that this would (still) be high on Hornets priority list.

These same stories were being discussed at the trade deadline.

The hook ESPN is alluding to: that New Orleans may be hanging out Darren Collison as an inducement to get one of these big contracts off their books. This would indicate the attempts are now becoming very serious.

Check out box 4 Coaching Carousel: Hornets by Mark Stein for an interesting read.

Almost as soon as New Orleans managed to exchange Tyson Chandler’s bloated contract for Emeka Okafor’s slightly cheaper long-term deal, it has been rumored that the Hornets would like to trade down in dollars again.

And the off-season is the time to do it.  As a small market team, dumping players to save money is not a mid-season activity that goes down well with the fans.

But why should another team be willing to take on the four years and $52 million left on Okafor’s deal?

The 27-year-old, 6′ 10″, 255 lbs center is a true post player who has averaged 13.3 points, 10.3 boards, and 1.8 blocks over his six NBA seasons with little variation beyond minutes played.  Plus over the past three seasons, Okafor hasn’t missed a game.

Emeka Okafor is not an All-Star, but he is effective at both ends of the floor.  Even if he is considered a little robotic and hasn’t shown any improvement since his rookie year.  A team knows what they are getting when they put Okafor on the floor: a perfectly serviceable center who can play a defined role. Even if, like most NBA big men, he seems over paid in relation to his abilities.

The only real reason anyone can come up with as to why Okafor might be available is team finances.

But this is precisely the situation Bryan Colangelo should be looking for if he intends to bring the Toronto Raptors back to the post season in short order: picking up assets from other NBA teams looking to cut payroll for next season.

Unless Colangelo has identified a better opportunity to cash in on his $9.8 million in expiring contracts (Reggie Evans and Marcus Banks), obtaining a healthy big man who can provide a nightly double-double in 30 minutes and play a decent level of defense against opposing bigs would seem like a good idea.

And if New Orleans has become desperate enough to include a viable young point guard like Darren Collison as an inducement, this would be no time to wait.

Is this another draft night deal in what should be one of the most active player movement post seasons in NBA history?

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