The Most Vital Hornet: Emeka Okafor

Yeah.  I said it.  It’s not Chris Paul.  It’s not D-West.  It’s Emeka Okafor.

Now, before any of you blow a gasket, I’m not saying Emeka Okafor is better than Chris Paul.  That’s not even a contest.  What this post is about is depth and skill sets, and in my opinion there is one player that the Hornets have to have on the floor – and playing well – for the Hornets to have any chance of winning.  That player is Emeka Okafor.

Yes, Chris Paul is amazing, but Darren Collison did alright with Paul out in running the team.  He can at least dribble, pass, defend and drive a little.  Behind David West is Darius Songaila, who really is David West Lite.  He shoots the same, assists the same, turns the ball over the same, but shoots less often and rebounds a little worse.  Then there is Peja Stojakovic and Devin Brown and the “talent” behind them.   The Wing positions are so fungible I’m convinced one of our Wings could sink into the bayou and be eaten by a catfish and we’d not even notice. (Except for Thornton.  I’d be out there noodlin’ for that damn catfish if he ever even thought about eating Lil’ Buckets.)

Behind Okafor, however, is a complete dearth of his primary talents: rebounding and shotblocking.   David West is the teams second best rebounder, with a weak 12.1% rebound rate.  Among power forwards, that ranks 48th out of 68 . . . and it gets worse: Other than Okafor and West, the Hornets have a grand total of one player with a rebound rate in double digits: Julian Wright, with 11.8(4th among SF) . . . and he only plays 7 minutes a game.

That means, of course, if Okafor is struggling, there is no one else on the team capable of picking up the slack, and the wins-loss numbers tell the tale.  The Hornets have two primary correlations between individual production and wins-loss:

  • Emeka Okafor’s rebounding numbers(11.2 per game in wins, 7.7 in losses)
  • Stojakovic’s and Brown’s scoring output(25 points from the pair in wins, 17 points from them in losses)

(note: for those interested, West and Paul play 9% worse in losses than they do in wins.)

To me, that first number is more of a concern.  At least at some point Brown’s struggles will be nullified by Thornton’s development.  Posey is starting to play better, so he can compensate some when Peja is struggling.  However, if Okafor is having trouble – or being neutralized by someone like Tim Duncan – where is the rebounding going to come from?  Nowhere, of course.  Which is why the Hornets routinely get beaten badly on the boards.

Now, Sean Marks may come back soon, and last year he posted a rebound rate equal to Emeka Okafor’s.  Unfortunately, I also think any playing time he gets will come at the expense of Julian Wright – who has at least contributed on the boards and defensively recently, and I’d like to see him keep getting minutes.

When Marks comes back – what rotations would you like to see?

Oh, and is anyone else sobered by the thought that I’m looking to Sean Marks to come back and save this team?

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