Emeka Okafor on the trading block

Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee reports that the Kings are considering a trade involving Hornets big man Emeka Okafor.

A source with knowledge of the situation says the Kings are discussing a trade with New Orleans that would send Kenny Thomas to the Hornets and bring center Emeka Okafor to Sacramento.

The deal would be ideal for the Hornets, as Thomas’ expiring contract worth $8.7 million is just the kind of contract that would trim their enormous payroll. The question, of course, is whether the Kings see Okafor as a big man solution worth the five years and approximately $64 million left on his deal.

I don’t get the Hornets plan of attack for the last year or so. They have the best point guard in the NBA, yet instead of making a clear commitment to spend to build around him, they’re slashing salary again. The confusing thing is that they tried to slash salary last year when they negotiated a trade that sent Tyson Chandler to Oklahoma City, only the Thunder sent Chandler back after their doctors had a chance to look him over. Then they turned around this offseason and traded Chandler (who has a short, expensive contract) for Okafor (who has a long, expensive contract). So it looked like the Hornets were willing to make a long-term commitment to build a winner.

Now, after a 3-7 start that has Chris Paul sidelined for a few weeks with a sprained ankle, they’re ready to give Okafor away. What kind of signal does this send to Paul? He’s signed through 2011-12, but at what point does he become disgruntled? They’ve already traded away Chandler and fired Byron Scott, and now they’re looking to move a sure double-double guy in Okafor. He’s not worth his contract, but he’s still valuable, and if the Hornets want to get back to competitive, they could really use him manning the middle.

It’s not like jettisoning Okafor’s salary is going to give the Hornets any immediate salary cap space. They’re sitting at almost $72 M for next season and won’t have any flexibility until the summer of 2011. Paul is 24, so he has plenty of basketball left to play, but David West is 29, and by the time the Hornets have a chance to be competitive again, he might be 31 or 32 and on the decline.

This is a sad situation. The Hornets looked to be on the cusp of competing for a title a couple of seasons ago and now they’re starting a rebuilding process that looks like it’s going to take a while.

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