While I was working on a piece lobbying for Emeka's inclusion in the All-Star game, as the replacement for Jameer Nelson, it was announced that Ray Allen had gotten the nod. Good for Ray Allen – congratulations. Was it the best use of the roster spot, considering the East's dearth of bigs on the roster? Considering that the West holds a 7 to 4 advantage in players 6-9 or taller, I would argue no (and when you consider one of those “bigs” is Rashard Lewis – I would argue it even more vociferously).
I had initially intended to compare Emeka to David Lee, looking at their respective impacts on offense and defense, and making the case that Emeka's superior defense should earn him the spot over David Lee, with their offense being largely comparable, once accounting for the pace of the system they play in. Now, I will just give you the numbers for Emeka and point out that the Bobcats have a got a pretty good player in him – even though he may never make an All-Star team.
When looking at the next chart, remember the Bobcats are at a net efficiency of -2.4 for the year, so despite the negative overall, the Cats are significantly better with him on the court (especially once you start considering the quality of competition).
What does Emeka do that makes him so good for the Bobcats? Well, his offensive numbers are solid, if not spectacular. The chart below illustrates his efficient scoring (high TS%) and dominant offensive rebound rate.
What could he do to improve? Well, the big thing would be to improve on his free throw shooting. His TS% is barely higher than his FG%, despite the fact that he draws a free throw for every other field goal attempt he takes. When you free throw percentage is about the same as your field goal percentage, that is the result. Please get back in Capel's free throw school, Mek.
Okafor's greater value lies at the other end of the court, on defense. Despite playing for one of the slowest teams in the league, Emeka averages 1.8 blocks per game, good for 12th in the league. He holds his man to nearly 3% worse than expected from the field, and drops their TS% by about 2.5%. Emeka's man becomes less of an offensive focus for their team, scoring almost a point less per 100 team possessions than average. Basically, Emeka makes it difficult to score.
The one possible knock you could make against Emeka is that his man rebounds better than average against him: I would make the case that it is due to Emeka playing on a team that has generally been weak rebounding outside of him. Early in the year, Jared Dudley was trying to rebound as a 4 – and now it is Boris Diaw. Neither are exactly noted glass workers (Jared was a good rebounder last year, yes – but only when he was playing at the 3, where he had a strength advantage).
For anyone who has not seen enough numbers for Emeka yet, here is everything put together, with a bit more of a breakdown by position, as well as the difference between what Emeka does on offense and what he allows on defense. He beats his man by 2.4 points and 0.5 rebounds per 40 minutes, while having a TS% advantage of 6.5%. Keep it up, Emeka – you may get recognized for it someday.