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Attitude Counts For So Much

A rumored swap of big men got me thinking about our very own man in the middle. Apparently, New Orleans and Charlotte are talking about a deal sending Emeka Okafor to the Big Easy, and Tyson Chandler back east to the Bobcats. After the jump, we'll throw Sammy into the discussion as well and see where he ranks among these bigs.

Let me start by saying I'm shocked that New Orleans is even considering this trade. They tried to give Chandler away for two expiring contracts a few months ago, now they're willing to take back $62M over five years in a deal for the same player? The only notable change between then and now is the lowering of the cap numbers and the impending doom of a further drop next season. I'm still scratching my head.

Let's forget about New Orleans' about face for a second, though, and compare the players. ESPN has retooled their trade machine to include on-the-fly calculations using John Hollinger's PER to predict the gained and lost wins from both sides in a trade, so let's take a look at how this one shakes out. Charlotte supposedly loses 6 wins, while New Orleans gains 5. Personally, I don't think the deal will have that great of an impact unless Chandler's injury woes continue. Since we have this tool at our disposal, though, let's take a look at what the machine would say about the same swap between Philly and Charlotte. Plus 5 wins for the Sixers, minus 7 for the Bobcats.

So clearly, Hollinger thinks Okafor is the best of the three, and I'm not going to say he's wrong, definitively, but I think this exercise does highlight the main shortcoming of PER as a be-all-end-all metric. Basically, the more you shoot, the more valuable you are, according to PER, so long as you don't shoot unbelievably inefficiently.

Let's look at the players side-by-side-by-side. Forget the cumulative numbers, we're better than that by now. Let's take a look at the advanced numbers and the per/36 minute numbers. A couple things become obvious very quickly.

  • Okafor is the most talented scorer of the trio, not by a wide margin, but he was more efficient. His team also gave him more shots to work with, which makes sense.
  • All three players are/were excellent rebounders. Sammy was the best last season, but they've jockeyed back and forth.
  • Sammy is the best shot blocker, by a wide margin
  • Okafor takes the best care of the ball (by TO%). Both Dalembert and Chandler cough the ball up way too much. Okafor isn't great with the ball, but he's clearly the best of the three.

All told, these are three very similar players. Dalembert is about 18 months older than the other guys, although Chandler has been in the league the longest. Sammy has been the most durable over the past three seasons, although Okafor has put together back-to-back injury-free seasons. If I had to rank them, I'd say Okafor is the best, followed by Sammy and then Chandler, but here's the thing. Ostensibly, they're the same player. You get small advantages with one over the other in different categories, but when you boil it down, they're all defensive centers with limited offensive games who rebound very well. I don't think one has a higher ceiling than any of the others, they've all been in the league long enough to be what they are, for the most part.

Here are the only two differences I could come up with. 1) Okafor has never been a problem off the court. He's regarded as a solid citizen. 2) Chandler and Dalembert are nearing the end of their big contracts, while Okafor is just beginning his.

My gut reaction earlier was that I'd definitely do the trade if Okafor was offered to the Sixers for Dalembert, and I probably still would, but here's the question. Sammy and Chandler are both considered by most to be bad signings. If you asked the average fan, or even most GMs, they'd tell you neither guy was worth the money. So what are people going to be saying about Okafor in 3 years when he has 2 seasons left on his deal for north of $28M? I say I'd still do the trade because I believe centers who can rebound and defend are worth big contracts, but to those who believe Dalembert and Chandler are overpaid, isn't a 31 year-old Okafor for $15M going to be an insane contract?

New Orleans, for all intents and purposes, is getting a minor upgrade at the position, at the same age, for so much more money. I guess they could say Chandler's injuries lower his value to them, just as the Sixers could say Sammy's histrionics make him unpalatable at $25M over the next two seasons, but still, is this trade really worth it?

Financially speaking, the Hornets were willing to take nothing back, ZERO, for Chandler back in February. Now they're taking on a similar player for an extra 3 years who essentially plays the same game and is only 4 days younger. I just don't get it.

Then again, the rumors could be false, but it's the summer and there's very little to write/rant about so have at it in the comments. What would you guys do, Sammy for 2 more years then let him expire or commit to Okafor through 2014 (the year after Brand's deal expires)?
by Brian on Jul 28 2009
Tags: Basketball | Offseason | Sixers | Trade Rumors |