Please Don't Trade Emeka Okafor

I just relocated Rufus on Fire headquarters to Uptown Charlotte. Look out, Alley Cat! Get ready, Cans! Straighten up, Chick Fil-A in the Wachovia building! David's within walking distance!

More exciting, though, is that now I'm within walking distance of the Cable Box. Good times. I was already gonna drop ten bucks for every home game, and now I don't have to worry about parking, mingling with the riff raff on the light rail... um...



In any event, here's hoping Emeka Okafor will play for the Bobcats this season, because we're utterly screwed this year if we don't get a comparable player back in trade. I went through the exercise of showing that Raymond Felton won't fit in anywhere else, but Okafor is a horse of a different color.

Rick Bonnell has reported that "negotiations are at an impasse" and has offered a bunch of trade scenarios. Of course, there's no mention that Okafor is likely the best player on the Bobcats, and the team's most valuable player.

From the invaluable basketball-reference.com, we see that Okafor's the player he's always been, only with slightly fewer minutes than in previous seasons. Look at Charlotte's team stats: From True Shooting Percentage to PER to Win Shares Above Average and more--in other words, all the relevant offensive stats--Okafor was top three on the team among guys who played significant minutes. When Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson are the only offensive players who were definitely better, and neither of those guys should ever be mistaken for a defensive stalwart, then I hope you see why Okafor is probably underappreciated.

Part of it is that he's not Dwight Howard. But the other part of it is that no one has publicly quantified defense well enough to create even a satisfactory stopgap measure until we get it right.

I'm open to being convinced otherwise, but it seems that basketball is inherently 50% offense and 50% defense. Perhaps the number of possessions don't add up evenly, depending on how you count them, but it still seems intuitive that the game works that way. And few give credit for defense unless it's extraordinary, as we see with Marcus Camby these days.

Indulge me as I make up numbers to illustrate a point. Assume the offense-defense values are split 50-50. On a team level, it totally makes sense to say that the Golden State Warriors were 15 wins above average on offense, and 8 wins below average on defense, and so they finished 7 wins above average. It also makes sense to say that the Celtics were 10 games above average on offense and 15 games above average on defense, and so they finished 25 wins above average. Well, why can't we eventually have stats good enough to confidently say the same about individual players?

Emeka Okafor will benefit from advancements in measuring basketball defense on an individual level. What we have thus far is not enough. However, this much is true: Okafor looks terrible on offense, but the available statistics paint a picture of a thoroughly adequate offensive big man. Okafor has a sterling defensive reputation. Therefore, if Okafor is one of the three or four best big defenders in the league, among the elite, how bad does his offense have to be in order to bad mouth what he brings to the table? Production is production.

Preventing a basket is just as good as scoring a basket, and the Bobcats will be hard-pressed to identify and acquire equal talent for Emeka Okafor.

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