Looking Back at Chandler for Okafor

Published: March 7, 2010

Lately there has been more than a little Emeka Okafor bashing, with some even going to far as to say that an injured Tyson Chandler is better than a healthy Okafor. It’s time that we get into some real detail about Okafor’s play, and how much worse he has really been than Tyson.

First let’s take a look at Tyson’s first year in NOLA compared to Emeka’s. Seems fair since it obviously takes some time for centers to adjust to playing a pick and roll offense, especially in a point guard dominated offense. Granted Tyson was a bit younger than Okafor when he started with the Hornets, but they both had accumulated about the same amount of NBA experience prior to coming to the Hornets. Here are some basic stats.

*Throughout this, all applicable stats will be per 40 minutes to adjust for playing time disparities.

Player Points Points per shot Rebounds O/Reb D/Reb Blocks Steals
Okafor 09-10 14.6 1.31 13.0 4.4 8.6 3.0 1.0
Chandler 06-07 10.9 1.47 14.3 (best ever with NOLA) 5.0 9.3 2.1 0.6

And now let’s take a loot at some advanced stats. I find these to be much more important as they really can show you what kind of impact the player is having compared to his replacements, and against his opponents.

Player PER vs Opponent PER Opponent PER On/Off per 100 possessions
Okafor 09-10 -3.4 22.6 -1.9 points
Chandler 06-07 +2.1 16.3 +3.9 points

It’s in these advanced stats that it becomes clear how much better Tyson fared in his first year than Okafor, especially defending centers.

Now I’m sure some of you are sitting at your computers, considering whether or not you can make it to the bathroom, but don’t run just yet. These stats are just first year. Obviously Tyson isn’t that same guy anymore.

Last year he missed 37 games, and the injuries don’t appear to be getting better. When the doctor who performs your surgery suggests that a team not take you in trade for two bags of stale donuts and a used tissue, it’s clear that something is seriously wrong.

This year, Tyson has again missed 31 games, and even when playing has been a shell of his former self. People love to look at the Tyson- Okafor trade in terms of what Tyson produced versus what Okafor produces, especially when trying to shed negative light on the trade, but that really isn’t an objective way to look at anything.

Jeff Bower knew that Tyson was hurt, and that his team desperately needed a starting center. When looking at the production that Tyson has given Charlotte versus what Okafor has given the Hornets, it’s a slam dunk win for the Bees, this year at least.

Sure, some will argue that they should have just kept Tyson and paid him the 25 million owed over this year and next, but to those people, the grass is always greener on the other side. Had the team done nothing with Chandler, the media, and most of the critical fans around here, would have jumped all over him for not trying to win. If you have the opportunity to move an injured big man with two big years left on his deal for a healthy one who appeared about equal, you have to take it. Even Larry Brown admitted that Charlotte made the deal for financial reasons.

Instead of essentially giving up this year, Bower made a move that many, including myself, thought would pay off. Looking at the deal in hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best one ever made considering how Okafor has played next to David West, but there is no denying that Okafor has given the Hornets more value this year than Chandler would have, especially considering that the alternative at center is Aaron Gray.

Lastly, It’s only been a few months, and we have yet to really see the ideal lineup of Paul, Thornton, Peja, West, and Okafor, so for now, I will hold onto that small fact as reason to be optimistic about the future.

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