« 90 or bust for the Bobcats this season | Main | Nelson plans to sit Crawford Friday »

February 25, 2009

Okafor no longer untouchable

 It's no longer inconceivable Emeka Okafor could end up in trade talks once his base-year compensation status expires over the summer.

The last three games illustrated how difficult it is for him to guard true giants at center. Dwight Howard, Yao Ming and an aging Shaquille O'Neal all dominated him one way or another. Okafor shot 2-of-9 in Phoenix and had nearly as many fouls (five) as rebounds (six).

Plus, it was hard to miss coach Larry Brown's sarcasm Friday, when he started praising Howard's tough screens. Brown finished that thought with this aside: "Just imagine if our center set screens.''

Both for better and worse, you know precisely what Okafor offers. He's one of a handful of NBA players who've finished each of the past four seasons averaging a double-double. Despite some early injury problems, he's durable, having played 148 consecutive games. He's smart and mature.

Then there's the downside. He's 6-10 and not a great leaper, but he has to play center based on his limitations away from the basket. He gets his shot blocked often because he plays mostly below the rim. And he's a liability as a foul-shooter.

I'm not saying Okafor will be traded or even that it's likely. I'm saying with conviction he's no longer untouchable, despite a contract that averages about $12 million per season.

Base-year compensation is a salary-cap restriction that makes it difficult to trade a player the first season after he signs a new contract with a huge raise. That's over for Okafor this summer.

Trading Okafor would be tough both because of his sizeable contract and the difficulty replacing what he does as a rebounder and post defender. But the past 10 months have illustrated what a spirit of change has enveloped the Bobcats.

They're down to five players from last season. One of those, Sean May, doesn't figure to be back without a huge pay cut and another, Nazr Mohammed, would already be gone if the Bobcats could find a taker for his contract.

If Okafor ever was an untouchable, he's not anymore.

Posted by Observer Sports on February 25, 2009 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

Comments

It's tough not to get dominated when you're getting called for fouls when your man lowers his shoulder and goes right into you while you hold your ground. Hell, Diop could dominate if he was officiated like that.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Feb 25, 2009 11:39:34 AM

Ill agree with you Procton, for real, even Ajinca would dominate as a center if the officials treated him the way they treat those 3. Shaq last night pushed Mek like 4 feet with a bump of his shoulder, then Mek got a foul called for it.

I say we put Mek + Felton for a "star" and draft a "good" working center and the best possible PG we can get in the 2nd round or D-league to back up DJ.

Posted by: Tattoo | Feb 25, 2009 11:59:47 AM

No way we trade Felton. He is a star. Okafor is and has been overated his entire career. He is solid on a running team with no heighth, but he can not hold any real center.

Posted by: David Merritt | Feb 25, 2009 12:40:43 PM

The Bobcats have never done anything in a draft than find players that do few things well at the expense of most important fundamentals. I can't think of one player they've drafted who has more upside than down, and the same can be said for most of this season's signees. The team will never be successful without a complete overhall of the front office, starting with Johnson and Jordan.

Posted by: Jeremiah | Feb 25, 2009 1:04:35 PM

The last time I checked, Yao Ming, Shaq, and Dwight Howard were all MVP candidates at one time or another in recent years--if not THIS year. It's not merely the fact that they are "true giants". It's the fact that they are the best Centers in the Universe. Give me the name of a solid Center like Okafor who WOULDN'T have trouble playing these guys consecutively games. Heck, he had Howard twice!

Okafor put up fantastic numbers earlier in the year against a stretch of teams including Miami(small bigs), Minnesota(small bigs), OKC(small bigs), and Dallas(Eric Dampier). Most nights he is not going to face Shaq, Howard, or Yao. As long as Emeka takes care of business against all of the Centers who DIDN'T make the All-Star team--which is most of them--I'm happy with him. That's even though I wanted big Brook Lopez to be here as a possible supplement/replacement.

Posted by: DeLaQuest | Feb 25, 2009 1:14:11 PM

I have no idea what Larry Brown is talking about, Dwight Howard setting hard screens??? Almost everytime Howard sets a screen it is an illegal screen or a moving screen. Understand some players just get the star treatment. There is a reason why Larry Brown said it is crazy how some nights the Bobcats have such a hard time with foul trouble. When they play Consistent Play-Off Teams guys Like Okafor and Wallace always seem to foul out. Just another way the NBA protects its stars.

Posted by: K-Man | Feb 25, 2009 1:40:50 PM

I have no idea what Larry Brown is talking about, Dwight Howard setting hard screens??? Almost everytime Howard sets a screen it is an illegal screen or a moving screen. Understand some players just get the star treatment. There is a reason why Larry Brown said it is crazy how some nights the Bobcats have such a hard time with foul trouble. When they play Consistent Play-Off Teams guys Like Okafor and Wallace always seem to foul out. Just another way the NBA protects its stars.

Posted by: K-Man | Feb 25, 2009 1:42:23 PM

I guess it's Just a matter of time before jthe "we should have drafted Lopez and Mario" talk fires up again!!

Thanks for adding fuel to the fire tricky Ricky.

Posted by: Here we go again.... | Feb 25, 2009 1:58:33 PM

I agree with DeLaQuest, I don't think coach Brown or the management should get all flustered after Emeka was indeed dominated by D.Howard, Yao and Shaq. These are some of the top centers of the NBA. Emeka's limitations are known, there should be no surprised reaction here. On the other hand, he is still a very solid player who can average around 14 ppg and 11 rpg and can provide good defense against most opposing centers. Only a few NBA centers are clearly superior to him.
It will be very difficult to replace him without weakening the team's defense. I'm not saying it's impossible, but the management should be very careful before pulling the trigger on such a decision. And anyway, it's not trading season now, so it would be better to put this issue to rest until it becomes relevant.

Posted by: Sandy | Feb 25, 2009 2:51:05 PM

He gives money to support AIDS! I think the game when he did the speech before the game was his best game of the season. Whatever happened to the Diop addition letting Oke be more offensive?

Posted by: I sit near Buzz | Feb 25, 2009 4:00:04 PM

I like milk

Posted by: Willy Korn | Feb 25, 2009 4:05:48 PM

Not that power rankings mean much but:
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/bryan_armen_graham/02/24/rookie.rankings/index.html

nary a sight of either pick. But did see lopez and chalmers. I thought for sure we'd package them and get Russell, OJ Mayo, even Love. In fact, if they'd gotten any of the picks ahead of them or most behind them they'd come away better. It's a crap shoot, I get it, but seriously, who besides the bcats thought Adam Morrison and DJ would be the best picks at the time?

Posted by: A Fan | Feb 25, 2009 4:15:07 PM

I honestly don't know enough about Ajinca or his potential to comment on how good of a pick he was (if most of you are honest neither do you). I will say that D.J. was right up in there in those power rankings until he went out for an extended period with injuries. He hasn't gotten back on track since being out of the lineup, but he's shown that he plays on the same level as Lopez is playing right now.

We'll just have to wait and see about Ajinca.

Posted by: Bobby | Feb 25, 2009 6:01:09 PM

AF, many thought Augustin the best option to solve our long-running PG problems, particularly given we didn't even have a second option to the perpetually inconsistent and underachieving Felton on the ROSTER.

Further, many felt Morrison was a surefire All-Star as a dynamic scorer who could stroke it from long range while also possessing a good midrange and slashing game. Hindsight is 20/20, but the Bobcats didn't have that available to them at the time.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Feb 25, 2009 6:28:35 PM

Larry Brown knows what he is doing. I hope he is here for the three to five years to get the right players.

Posted by: Kelso | Feb 25, 2009 8:48:04 PM

Bobby,

Brook Lopez is third in the NBA in total shot blocks this season--averaging only 30 minutes a contest. So he's already a shot-blocking specialist who additionally contributes as a scorer and rebounder. And defense wasn't even considered his strength in college.

Give me one statistical category that DJ is high in--per minute or otherwise. FT%?

Posted by: DeLaQuest | Feb 25, 2009 9:33:21 PM

Okafor has had some tough times since the all star break, but he's still averaged 11 pts, 10 reb, 1 blk, and 1 stl in the last three games (Dwight, Yao, Shaq).

Biggest problem I have is with the officiating. Shaq and Yao were definitely given favorable calls against Mek.

Posted by: RP | Feb 25, 2009 9:41:57 PM

Dwight, Yao, and Shaq combined averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds in those three games.

And they have a combined 15 turnovers in that stretch compared to Okafor's 7.

Posted by: RP | Feb 25, 2009 9:47:25 PM

There you go again Procton... Our long running problems had nothing to do with Felton. In fact, if you look back, every time he was left at PG for a decent period of time he and the team were successful. The biggest problem was always our post, especially on the offensive end, as well as our jumpshooting. Heading into the previous draft we only had one usable big and that was Okafor. The no brainer was to pick Lopez and and get a backup PG at 20(Chalmers). Well, it turns out Lopez is a rock solid starting center and Chalmers is every bit as good as DJ. He may not be the shooter or scorer DJ is, but when you factor in that DJ is a downright awful defender and not a great distributor, it's obvious what the picks should have been. Now we've got Gana Diops bloated contract and the Felton contract delimma. I'm not sure DJ can run a Larry Brown team. You have to play defense, and DJ is a huge liability on that side of the floor. Offensively, DJ and Lopez are very comparable at their respective positions. The difference is that Lopez is a very good defender and solid rebounder and DJ is a below average defender. The PG is the most important defensive position. If the opposing PG is getting in the lane every time then the bigs have to help out and the whole defense gets out of position. If this were NYK, GSW or DEN where defense isn't key then I think DJ could have a great impact, but this is a defense oriented team and what he does on that end just doesn't cut it. If we had Lopez, moving Okafor wouldn't be an issue, but as we stand now I think it's pretty risky. He's a tweener. His skill set is pure center and his body is PF. That said, he's still a very good player and does far more good than bad. We don't have a replacement for him, so I don't see how we can move him.

Posted by: Eddie | Feb 26, 2009 1:03:17 AM

I guarantee you that Emeka is not crazy about Larry Brown. Brown can be a pain in the rear as a coach. Alot of players don't like him Why do you think he's coached in 57 different places? The comment he made about Howard setting great screens is BS. Howard despite his great ability is not a particularly intelligent player {that is why he turns the ball over so much.} Emeka is great at screening if he has teammates who know how to use screens. Okafor is a class act. He graduated from Connecticut in three years {and he didn't take crocheting either.} He probably doesn't like Larry's constant whining and Michael Jordan's narcissism. Over the years I've grown to not like Larry Brown. He thinks his way of basketball is the only way and there are alot of different ways to be successful in basketball. It alls starts at the defensive end though.

Posted by: bobby orr | Feb 26, 2009 1:15:06 AM

So we see Felton take the fewest shots of the starting five, focus on distributing, and we win. Coincidence? I think not.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Feb 26, 2009 1:20:34 AM

On another interesting note, Jamal Crawford, who destroyed Raja Bell and the Bobcats the last time we played GS, may not play on Friday as Nellie gets his younger kids some PT.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Feb 26, 2009 1:22:48 AM

My point Dela is that D.J. has been out with injuries, but before he was playing like a top 10 rookie. Can't blame him for an abdominal strain can we?

His FT% is great and is no less an important stat than blocked shots. His impressive 3 pt shooting and overall % is more good news.

Finally, Lopez and Okafor don't work together any better than Nazr and Okafor did last year.

I still can't believe Procton defends bust of the century Adam Morrison while refusing to acknowledge any positives in Felton's game. What else can you tell us Proc? The world is flat?

Thanks for the laugh

Posted by: Bobby | Feb 26, 2009 7:17:28 AM

Ummm, Procton, we played the Kings, Felton could shoot 30 shots and we should sitll win. You could also say, Okafor wasn't absolutely dominated for the first time in weeks and we won. Things aren't always so cut and dry buddy...

Posted by: Mason | Feb 26, 2009 8:38:46 AM

I don't think DJ can be a starter. Ever.

I think until that is proven, Lopez wins that battle. And as far as hindsight, I think everyone in the world was screaming for them to pick a post player, and everyone thought Roy would be a great pickup. So it wasn't so much hindsight there...

Posted by: A Fan | Feb 26, 2009 9:35:22 AM

DeSagana Diop is putting up Hollins type numbers. I am not clamoring for the return of Carroll and Hollins. I just want Diop to actually have a positive impact on the game. I understand that scoring isn't his thing, but dude isn't even rebounding or altering shots on a consistent basis. I hope he improves sooner than later.

Posted by: Token | Feb 26, 2009 9:40:55 AM

D.J. will never be a starter? What are you stupid. Check his game logs as a starter and then post again. I sat right behind the bench when they were here in Houston and everybody seemed frustrated with Larry Brown I heard him tell both D.J. and Raymond defer the ball and in the next breath don't defer the ball. Hell coach what do you want me to do was the response? Also D.J. was playing top ten rookie ball before the injury his defense could be better but point guard is the hardest positon on the floor just like quaterback is in football. This team should be running not playing damn slow down ball. Wallace, Bell, Diaw, Felton, all made for running.

Posted by: freak21 | Feb 26, 2009 10:10:02 AM

Against the Kings, Felton took the fewest shots (6) among starters, and we won. Against the Wizards (Feb.11), Felton took the highest number of shots (16) among starters, and we won! There's a lot more in common between these two games than there seems to be. (1) In each one of them, Raymond did his job as a point guard very well (9 assists in each), (2) Basically, since Raymond is a quite inconsistent shooter, he needs to go by a simple "rule of thumb": when he sees that his shooting works well, then go on, contribute your scoring to the team! But on nights when his shots are not falling (and this is in most games), he needs to be very conservative in his shot selection and simply shoot less. Both games match this rule: against the Kings Raymond took 6 shots only (at 33%), against the Wizards he was just one miss short of 50% (7/16 at 43.7% from the field, above his average). An even better example: in the BEST Bobcats' performance this season, the victory over the Lakers, Raymond had 21 points (8/17 from the field) and 9 assists. Conclusion: there is nothing wrong with Felton taking a lot of shots, as long as he does it at a good percentage. There is a problem when he does it, but he shouldn't, as in the loss against Orlando: 18 field goal attempts at 33% and 5 assists;
evidently, this was a below-average game for Felton in every regard. As was said many times before (by others and by me), when Felton will be allowed to play point guard consistently, without being moved around between the two guard positions, then he could be expected to go by that simple rule: don't shoot much WHEN you see it's not working! It would also make sense to have DJ at SG when they are playing together, since he is the better shooter.

Posted by: Sandy | Feb 26, 2009 11:41:26 AM

Against the KIngs, Felton took the fewest shots (6) among starters and we won. Against the Wizards (Feb.11) Felton took the highest number of shots (16) among starters, and we won! There's more in common between these two games than it seems. (1) In both games Felton did his point guard job very well (9 assists in each), (2) Basically, since Felton is a quite inconsistent shooter, he needs to go by this simple "rule of thumb": when he sees that his shooting works well, then go ahead, contribute your scoring to the team! But on nights when he sees that his shots are not falling (and such are most games), then he should be very conservative in his shot selection and simply shoot less. Both games match this rule: Against the Kings Raymond took only 6 shots (at 33%), against the Wizards he was just one miss short of 50% (43.7% from the field, above his average). An even better example: in the Bobcats' BEST performance this season, the victory over the Lakers, Raymond had 21 points, went 8/17 from the field and had 9 assists. Conclusion: there is nothing wrong with Raymond taking a lot of shots, as long as he does it at a good percentage. There is a problem when he does it, but he shouldn't, as in the loss against Orlando,
when he was 6 of 18 from the field and had 5 assists; evidently, this was a below-average game for Felton in every regard.
As was said many times (by others and by me), when Felton will be allowed to play point guard consistently, without being moved around between the two guard positions, then he could be expected to go consistently by this simple rule: don't shoot much WHEN you see it's not working! It also makes sense to play Augustin at shooting guard when they play together, since he is the better shooter.

Posted by: Sandy | Feb 26, 2009 12:26:36 PM

this exact same thing was posted for espn insider today

Posted by: Brett Johnson | Feb 26, 2009 1:01:14 PM

I'm not sure why Larry Brown is taking a cheap shot in the press at a class act like Emeka Okafor. In fact, Brown could learn a lot about character from Mr. Okafor. You don't embarrass players in public, particularly good guys like 'Mek.

As far as Okafor the player goes, he is what he is - a good player, excellent rebounder, hard worker who is undersized against the elite big men.

If the Bobcats traded him, what exactly would they get in return? It's not like Dwight Howard or Yao Ming is on the market.

Yeah, they probably should've drafted Lopez over Augustin - I thought so at the time. But that ship has sailed. And D.J. has hardly been a bust. He was playing really well before he got hurt (much better than I expected, I have to say), and you can't blame management for that.

Posted by: G'boro Cats Fan | Feb 26, 2009 3:06:48 PM

A_Fan,

Right on.

Bobby,

Well....Thanks at least for being polite in your disagreement. You're right that Lopez and 'Mek wouldn't fit together. However, with Lopez, I feel like we missed out on a legit NBA Center who is already good and could be a fine player for 12-15 years. I'm skeptical of the longterm value of little point guards.

Posted by: DeLaQuest | Feb 26, 2009 3:38:23 PM

Not everyone in the world. Many wanted a PG. I was expecting Bayless because of his sheer athleticism, but have warmed to DJ since he's shown that he can be productive in the NBA.

Lopez is playing well but he just doesn't work next to Okafor. Taking Lopez pretty much means giving up on Meka. That may be a good idea in the long run but it makes the Lopez choice far riskier than picking DJ.

If you take Lopez and keep Okafor then Lopez doesn't get the playing time that he is now. Besides, NJ has Carter playing well, Harris playing like an all star, and they're still on the bubble for the 8th seed in the playoffs. It's not like he's having a huge impact in Jersey.

Posted by: Jared | Feb 26, 2009 8:31:30 PM

No. People thought Roy was going to be a decent pro who would have a hard time scoring at the NBA level like he did in college and didn't have enough versatility in his game to succeed without it. But hey, love your draft analysis 3 years down the road.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Feb 26, 2009 11:56:48 PM

Post a comment






Advertisements