Ariza and Okafor Deals Limit New Orleans Hornets' Flexibility

Mark EvansCorrespondent IIIAugust 25, 2011

In the 2011-12 season, superstar point guard Chris Paul will earn over $16 million.

And right behind him, at $12.5 million, is center Emeka Okafor. Yes, Emeka Okafor.

On top of that, they have almost $13 million committed to swingman Trevor Ariza and backup combo guard Jarrett Jack.

The worst part? Okafor is on the books until 2014, when he will be making $14.5 million. Trevor Ariza also has a player option that season for $7.7 million.

That being said, I understand that the NBA is full of terrible contracts. Heck, Eddy Curry sat on the bench all year and made $11.5 million. And the Pistons spent $100 million on Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.

Nonetheless, the Hornets are going to wish they could get rid of these deals with average players so that they can keep much bigger pieces like Paul and David West, and add a few more good players.

After all, I don't see CP3 sitting down in 2012 saying to himself, "Wow, we have Emeka Okafor on the books for only $13 million! And he gets a raise the next year too?! Well now I have to stay in New Orleans!"

Anyway, I'll cut the sarcasm now and try to be professional.

So, assuming their goal is to keep Paul and possibly West, what can the Hornets do about this financial issue?

Maybe they can get Ariza to opt out of his player option in 2013. But he would certainly be leaving some money on the table, and I wouldn't expect him to not take the money.

They can always try to trade Okafor. Centers are certainly at a premium and Okafor is one of the better ones around, but he is not worth the price. I would have to believe that the Hornets would have already dealt Okafor by now if they had a suitor for his contract.

This all spells trouble for the Hornets. If CP3 and West leave town and they are still stuck with these poor contracts, it could be a dark couple of seasons before they can clear the financial books and try to get competitive again.

Of course, Paul could keep them competitive just be resigning.

But we'll see about that.

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