New Orleans Center Emeka Okafor To Be Traded?

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst INovember 15, 2009

PHOENIX - NOVEMBER 11:  Emeka Okafor #50 of the New Orleans Hornets during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on November 11, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Hornets 124-104.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

To say the New Orleans Hornets are in turmoil would be an understatement.  But teams coming off 56 and 49 win seasons are not supposed to be in disarray! A team with a bona fide young superstar like Chris Paul isn't supposed to fail.

But the Hornets are failing. Firing their respected head coach Byron Scott a mere nine games into the season. Starting out with an unfathomable 3-8 record.  And a GM now pretending to coach.

Now that Chris Paul is expected to miss a couple of weeks with a sprained ankle, the Hornets could easily be 3-15 by the time he returns.  Playoff hopes vanishing in the process.

The New Orleans Hornets are a small market team that cannot afford to lose money indefinitely and are significantly into the luxury tax level with their current team salary.  Worse, they are expected to be a luxury tax playing team next year as well.

If the Hornets are not going to make the playoffs, they need to shed payroll and shed it quickly.  And they do not really have that many viable trade pieces.

Putting aside the rumours that Chris Paul is available in trade, Hoopsworld is reporting a rumour that the Hornets would like to move Emeka Okafor's $62 million contract.

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Considering the team moved Tyson Chandler for Okafor in the offseason to realize modest immediate payroll savings, moving Okafor to further reduce payroll is not all that far-fetched.

It's time for the vultures to circle.  Teams in difficulty provide other NBA clubs a rare opportunity to upgrade their rosters without giving up significant talent.  One only has to imagine how well the Lakers would have done over the past two seasons if Pau Gasol hadn't landed in their lap for virtually nothing.

In a true salary dump, teams want either trade exceptions or expiring contracts.  However, in the current cost conscience environment, the Hornets may find teams are not willing to add much to their payrolls.  And with the impending free agent class of 2010, few teams will be willing to trade cap space for one of the Hornets' players.  Chris Paul excepted.

But there are a handful of teams that might consider taking on Emeka Okafor's generous contract. Teams that haven't positioned themselves for 2010.

Okafor has proven he can get 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 30 minutes. He is a solid 6'10" 255 lb center who plays big and defends well, if a little robotic in his movements.  With five years in the league, Okafor doesn't play like a rookie and at 27 years old, he should be effective though the balance of his five year deal.

The obvious candidate to acquire Okafor is Dallas.  Dallas has been looking to move Erick Dampier for some time and if as reported his deal isn't fully guaranteed for next season, that is the type of contract New Orleans would be looking for.

A less obvious trade partner would be the Toronto Raptors

A player like Okafor would fill in nicely behind Bosh and Bargnani providing the defense and rebounding the team needs and contributing on offense.  Okafor would also provide a measure of Bosh "insurance" should the Raptors be unable to hold onto their big man past this season. (Unlikely to be needed as Bosh is not going anywhere! )

The Raptors could part with the popular Reggie Evans and the third string Marcus Banks who both have two years left on their deals.  The big incentive to the Hornets being the $1.28 million dollars they would take off their luxury tax payment this year.

The Raptors, like most NBA teams, have no incentive to help out the faltering Hornets unless the deal resolves one of their own perceived team issues at little cost. 

Just like the Golden State Warriors, the Hornets will find this year's NBA trade market very unfriendly to teams who have to make a deal.

The vultures will be circling!