According to Rick Bonnell (who happens to be pretty much the only voice connected to sources with the Cats), it appears that Emeka's days as a Charlotte Bobcat are just about over. On Charlotte.com today, Bonnell recounts from his source that with the Bobcats offering a smaller contract than last summer's deal to Emeka, Charlotte has all but guaranteed that Okafor will not be remaining with the team past the end of next season. The full article can be found here, Bobcats, Okafor at an impasse. Bonnell does some further work on the subject on his blog, with this piece: What next for Okafor?.
Resigned to the fact that Emeka is likely to be leaving Charlotte, I want to take a second to look at some of the proposed targets Bonnell lists in his blog.
Shawn Marion of the Miami Heat.
As mentioned, Marion's deal has only one year left on it, at a very steep $17.8 million. The best part? The Matrix is looking for even bigger money in his next deal, a large part of the reason Phoenix moved him to Miami in the first place. Personally, I am not a Matrix fan – in large part due to seeing him on MTV's Cribs one time, where he came off as one of the most egotistical humans I have ever seen. Probably relatively standard behavior for an NBA player, but it stuck with me. Oh, and it is aided by the fact that he would rather chase a big paycheck (and top dog status) on a lesser team than stay in Phoenix, with a very competitive squad. Last thing about Marion: Like Wallace, he is a small forward who has played a good bit of power forward – and does not really want to anymore. Considering the Bobcats would still have Gerald at the 3, not an indeal match.
At least one more player would have to be included in a deal involving Marion, as I do not see Okafor signing an extension that puts him quite into that Marion money range. Would Pat Riley like to take a chance with Adam Morrison or Sean May?
Anderson Varejao of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In Sideshow Bob, the Bobcats would be acquiring another player in the last year of their current deal (Varejao has a player option for 09-10 – considering how much more money Varejao thought he was worth before signing his current deal, I imagine he will be ready to try again after this season). Could the teams do a sign and trade on both ends? Varejao is similar to Okafor in that he is a limited offensive player who is a good rebounder and plays solid defense. But Okafor is better at all those things, and is more of a deterrent at the rim, so Charlotte would need to receiving another solid piece back in this deal. The only problem is that the Cavs do not have very many pieces to give up, unless they would be willing to include their rookie Hickson in a deal.
Andris Biedrins and Al Harrington of the Golden State Warriors.
I would certainly be more interested in Biedrins than Harrington, though I imagine that might also be the case for the Warriors, since he is their only true post player. Another similar player to Emeka – great rebounder, solid shot-blocker, limited offensive talent. However, Biedrins is younger (3 and a half years) and slightly taller (an inch or so) than Emeka, so it would seem to be tough for Golden State to give up on the youngster, though we are again dealing with a player who is approaching free agency, so another signs and trades, with Biedrins and Emeka signing extensions with their current teams before being dealt would be necessary. I am less intrigued by Harrington, who is flourishing in Don Nelson's system as a big who can shoot from outside, while rebounding little and playing poor defense. Those traits would not seem to mesh with Larry Brown in Charlotte.
Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls.
Do not let his averages from this past year fool you – Luol's season was nearly identical to the year ago, when he was thought of a rising star. The reason for the dip is that he played fewer minutes per game, but his per 36 minutes numbers were almost a mirror of the 06-07 season. The main question with Luol is if the team thinks he has the size to play heavy minutes at the 4 – because he or Crash would be there, and he has an inch or two on Gerald. This trade would make less sense for the Bulls, as they have been looking for a scoring post presence and Emeka is not that – at least not in the Al Jefferson, Carlos Boozer 20 point per night mold. Maybe the Bobcats could work out a deal that also helped the Bulls ease their backcourt logjam by taking Kirk Hinrich off their hands?
Bonnell tossed in Dallas purely because of Mark Cuban. But what about Brandon Bass and Stackhouse for Emeka? If Dallas has offered that to Sacramento for Ron Artest, would they not consider something similar in return for Emeka? At least Emeka is not crazy. I know the Bobcats would be thrilled to add another former Tarheel to the roster.
Lastly, a couple of possibilities that Bonnell excluded, like -
Considering all the rumors early in the off-season about the Bobcats trading with Detroit for Sheed, this seems fairly obvious – though I am still not crazy about it, it just seems like something that is probably being considered.
Lamar Odom of the Los Angeles Lakers.
It was an apparent Lakers fan in the comments of Bonnell's blog who suggested this, though I am not sure why the Lakers need another big with Bynum, Mihm, and Gasol next year. Again, Odom is in the last year of his deal, but at $14 million and change, it would not be hard to work a deal around him and a resigned Emeka. Toss in Adam Morrison to make the salaries work?