It's the dawning of a new era in New Orleans basketball, and with so much attention paid to matters off the court this season, I believe it's time to evaluate how our franchise performed during its time on the court. As a result, I want to begin an evaluation of the front office, the roster and the coaching staff and see how they performed, what could happen going forward, and whether or not you approve of their job this season. Without further adieu, the first player we're going to look at is Emeka Okafor.
Eighth season in the league (third with the Hornets) out of the University of Connecticut (2 Years, $28.1 Million Dollars left on Contract)
27 Games, 27 Starts, 9.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 51.4 FT Pctg., 53.3 FG Pctg., 15.1 PER, 106 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating
Best Game this Season: January 21st vs. Dallas Mavericks (16 Points, 17 Rebounds, 1 Block, 1 Assist in 37 minutes during an 83-81 loss).
All things considered, Emeka Okafor probably had the worst season of his career since his second year in the league with the Charlotte Bobcats. Okafor, who was acquired in the 2009 off season for the wildly popular Tyson Chandler, hasn't been the player that Chandler was for New Orleans in his three years as the team's starting center. After playing almost four consecutive seasons injury free, Okafor missed 39 of the team's 66 games this year and did not play at all after a February 10th home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
As mentioned earlier, Okafor's numbers were down all the way across the board. He posted the second worst PER of his career while averaging career lows in Offensive, Defensive and True Rebounding%, Block% (by a wide margin) and Defensive Win Shares. Coming into the season, it was expeccted that Okafor would be one of the few bright spots for the Hornets in what proved to be a difficult season for all involved.
Okafor has a huge salary number for the next two years and has been rumored as a likely amnesty candidate for the Hornets going into this off season. While taking that salary relief sounds nice, Okafor is a more than competent center when healthy. It's still not clear the extent of the knee injury that caused him to miss the 39 games, but Okafor can still man down the defense for New Orleans and is coming off of a couple of really productive seasons at the center position for the team. If he were in the starting lineup next season, I would be more than pleased. Then again, it's not a guarantee that he will be. He'll be 30 years old by the start of next season and the team fared decently enough without him to justify his departure.
But you have to look at the options out there and wonder if you can find a player to come in and be better than Emeka Okafor right away. It's questionable if that player can come into New Orleans right away. A lot of mystery surrounds Okafor, and it'll be interesting to see how the team handles him this season.