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.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts