2/17/09

Tyson Chandler and Joe Smith/Chris Wilcox Trade Analysis

The second big trade in the last week happened earlier today. The news came out that the Hornets' Tyson Chandler, and the draft rights to former Cal star, Devon Hardin, had been swapped for the Thunder's Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox.

This was a very interesting move. It had been rumored for a long time that the Hornets were looking to deal Tyson Chandler because of his monster deal. He is due to make about $23 million the next two seasons with an option of $12 million in the 2011/2012 season. This move made a lot of financial sense for the Hornets. The Hornets had a payroll of $67 million this season which is $4.15 million under the salary cap right now. They would have been due to pay $77 million next season, but with this trade, they are able to get the expiring contracts of Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox, which will give them more flexibility. Smith and Wilcox make a combined $11.4 million this season, and that will all come off the books for the Hornets next year. In the short term, the Hornets are pretty much out of the discussion to win the West. Wilcox and Joe Smith just can't handle the Pau Gasols, the Tim Duncans, the Yao Mings, the Nenes and the rest of the tall Western Conference forwards and centers. Although Chandler is still recovering from an injury that has kept him out since January 20th, he should be expected to maintain his current level of production. The Hornets have given up their best shot blocker, and since dominant bigmen are so hard to come by in the NBA, losing the 7'1 Chandler is a big blow to them inside. Chandler was not the most productive offensive player, but he understood how to play as a big man. He averages 8.8 ppg, but he knows his value doesn't come from the offensive end. It won't have to with the rapid development of Durant, Green, and Westbrook. Chandler doesn't have an incredibly threatening post game, but he was an incredible rebounder and one of the best shot blockers in the league averaging 8.4 rebs and 1.4 blks a game. Those numbers are a little low considering his size, but rest assured, players think twice before trying to put a shot up over Chandler. He is a definite asset in the middle. He will help the Thunder develop their team. He will be an excellent complement to Durant, Green, and Westbrook. The Thunder are obviously not a very good defensive team, and Chandler has made a living off of his defense and rebounding. A good fit for them overall. The one x-factor I see here is Chandler meshing with the front court of Nenad Kristic and Nick Collison. The upside is that Chandler is 26, which is great for the Thunder because they wanted to allow their core of young talent grow together, and Chandler will undoubtedly facilitate that growth, and be very much a part of it. Another part of Chandler's game that is often overlooked because he doesn't get that many points is his FG%. He shoots 56.3% from the field. It is further proof that this guy can play around the basket, and is a finisher. Remember, Chandler was playing with the US team for the summers prior to the Beijing games so he has been around the best in the league, and has practiced with the best in the world. His veteran leadership as well as his skill set will be a valuable tool for the Thunder's growth.

As for New Orleans, they get Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith. The Hornets have stated that they think Wilcox is athletic and will fit into their system. I have yet to see it. He is listed at 6'10 and 235. Every time I have seen him play, he has been a lackluster defender, and at times gets lost in the game. He is not a big threat on the offensive or defensive end. He averages 8.4 ppg, and 5.3 rebs. Wilcox is going to have a tough time guarding anyone in the West. Granted, those numbers are from this year, and it is hard to get motivated when you are playing for one of the worst teams in the NBA, but Wilcox is in a contract year. We all know what that does to players. It motivates them. If Wilcox can find that "trade inspiration" as I like to call it (when a player moves from a bad team to a good team), he might be an asset to the Hornets for the latter half of this year. Do I really think he is going to have an amazing end of the season? No, but I'm trying to be as optimistic for the Hornets as possible. Joe Smith is pretty much an older version of Chris Wilcox (Both of them are Maryland products. I had to get that ACC jab in there.). Smith is also 6'10, but is 10lbs lighter than Wilcox at 235lbs. He is basically split minutes with Wilcox down the middle in OKC with both players playing about 19 minutes a game. Smith averages about 6.6 ppg and 4.5 rebs. As you can see, both Wilcox and Smith are not big threats either way. Neither player averages more than a block a game. In fact, the average blocks per game for both Smith and Wilcox is .55 blocks a game. They will be a non-factor inside. It is a crucial loss for the Hornets who thrived on Chandler being able to body-up inside. I do believe that this is Hornets GM Jeff Bower's way of saying, "We will see you next season." He can't be criticized too heavily for that considering how clear cut the race in the West is getting. Bower has learned from the Phoenix Suns case study that having the best point guard in the league, an all-star PF, and some shooters is not going to win you a championship. In fact, it will bring you to the brink of a championship only to realize that the team is not good enough, and completely melt down. Bower is avoiding that. He will updoubtedly sign a Center this summer, and look to next season. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Antonio McDyess, and Rasho Nesterovic are among the big name unrestricted free agents this summer. I don't doubt that the Hornets will go hardcore after one of those players. The Hornets will test their limit in the playoffs. They will play as hard as they can, and see where their deficiency lies. After they figure that out, they will be very active in the offseason. The future looks good for New Orleans.

2 comments:

Kivell said...

Good stuff!

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