Did the Grizzlies pick Randolph over Boozer?

If this story is true, it’s mind-boggling…

The hottest Carlos Boozer tale to blip onto the radar this week: Sources say Memphis had the option of trading for Boozer instead of Zach Randolph earlier this month.

Yet the Grizz decided, apparently with considerable input from coach Lionel Hollins, that Boozer would have been less than thrilled to play out the final season of his contract in Graceland, thus convincing them that Randolph — starting over for the third time — would be more productive.

As difficult as it remains for many league observers to digest the idea that Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley felt he could no longer afford Pau Gasol but now is willing to give the combustible Randolph some $33 million over the next two seasons, there’s little doubt that Randolph will feature hugely for the Grizz next season.

It’s not like Randolph is a guy who has been mired in a bad situation his entire career. He has been with three different teams and they all wanted to get rid of him. It’s unbelievable that the Grizzlies had a shot at Boozer and instead decided to go with Randolph, who isn’t half the player and has a far worse contract. The piece is correct — the Randolph trade makes the decision to get rid of Pau Gasol all the more insane.

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Warriors trade Belinelli

In a small but somewhat strange move, the Golden State Warriors have traded Marco Belinelli for Devean George.

Belinelli, 23, played sparingly as a rookie and at the start of last season, but other injuries forced the Warriors to play him consistently and he had a 13-game stretch where he averaged 16 points and shot better than 50 percent in eight of those games. He also made 46 of his last 113 3-point attempts (40.7 percent.).

Other than maybe being in Don Nelson’s doghouse, I can’t think of a reason why the Warriors would make this trade. Devean George is 31 and has a career average of 5.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. His PER hasn’t been above 10 in the last three years and it has never been above 12 in his entire career. Why give up a prospect like Belinelli, who showed some promise in his rookie season? In 15 games in December, he averaged 14.1 points, 3.2 assists and 2.6 rebounds, and shot 38% from long range. His overall shooting percentage (44%) wasn’t bad for a rookie off guard.

George’s contract is expiring this year, but the Warriors had a team option on Belinelli next summer that they didn’t have to exercise. Golden State is projected to be over the cap, so Belinelli’s 2010 salary ($2.4 million) would have cost the team almost $4.8 million with the luxury tax. I guess they just decided to cut bait.

This is a head-scratcher.

In a surprise, the Hornets swap Chandler for Okafor

They tried to dump him last season, but by willing to take on some salary, the Hornets are going to turn Tyson Chandler into Emeka Okafor.

That represents a striking departure from the Hornets’ recent cost-conscious efforts to move Chander.

The Hornets initially dealt Chandler to Oklahoma City days before the league’s annual trading deadline in February for the then-expiring contracts of Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith, only for the Thunder to rescind the trade 24 hours later because of concerns about Chandler’s long-standing toe problems.

The widespread belief around the league at the time and then during New Orleans’ subsequent discussions with Phoenix about swapping Chandler for the expiring contract of Ben Wallace — which Phoenix has since bought out — held that New Orleans was only interested in shedding Chandler’s contract in exchange for an expiring deal to create payroll relief.

Swapping Chandler (due to earn $11.7 next season) for Okafor ($10.6 million) will save the Hornets just over $1 million next season and cost them an extra $40-plus million over the final three years of Okafor’s deal if the 26-year-old exercises his $14.5 million option for the 2013-14 season. Chandler has just one year left on his contract after this season at $12.6 million.

This deal hasn’t been formally announced, but if it goes through, the Hornets look to be getting the better end of the trade. Okafor is no Pau Gasol, but he provides a little more offensive punch than Chandler. He has averaged a double-double for five straight seasons, and has improved his field goal accuracy from 45% in his rookie season to 56% last year.

Chandler’s play was lacking last season, mostly because a foot injury limited his explosiveness. After he failing the Thunder’s physical, one wonders if he’ll ever be the same again. The Bobcats are probably doing this to get out from underneath Okafor’s contract, which runs another five years at the tune of $62 million. While that’s a somewhat reasonable price for a good center, Okafor doesn’t have the offensive skills to justify that contract. He’ll bring some defense and toughness, however, which should help the Hornets stay competitive.

With a declining Chandler and Peja Stojakovic’s out-of-control contract, New Orleans looked to be in a tough spot, but this just goes to show that if you’re willing to spend in this economy, you can acquire some talent. If Okafor works out and the Hornets gel, they’ll be back in the thick of things in the West.

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