Hornets Season Review: Emeka Okafor


Emeka Okafor gets criticized often by New Orleans Hornets fans. I guess when they look around the league at some of the great big men that teams build for championships they get envious. But Okafor is no slouch, he’s actually a really great player, top at his position. He won’t produce big, traditional numbers, but he does his job by rebounding, blocking shots and playing solid defense.

Because he’s an undersized center he can sometimes get outplayed, but I think he holds his own.

Can he be a staple for a championship team? No, probably not. But he can be a starter on a championship, if that team has talent around him. The Hornets need to do as such giving offensive responsibility to a new two-guard, a resigned David West and Carl Landry as well as refreshed Chris Paul.

So let’s jump into Emeka Okafor’s season.

Best Game

Emeka Okafor’s most outstanding performance was early on in the year. I don’t know why, but something tells me that the injury he suffered against the Phoenix Suns slowed him down some. But his best game was clearly against the Miami Heat at the New Orleans Arena.

His statline was as follows:

26 points on 13 shots (!), had 13 rebounds (4 offensive) and a blocked shot.

He faced zero competition, but he exploited his matchup (with the help of Chris Paul). I wish sometimes he would do it more often because he’s better than quite a few centers in the league.

The highlight play was when Okafor set a screen, rolled, Chris Paul floated the ball towards the rim and Emeka crushed it CCC style. It brought tears to some because it reminded all of the Tyson Chandler smashes that he received from CP all those years ago.

Drastic Improvements

I think there’s one area of Okafor game that he needs to improve drastically in order for him to get more opportunites, and to make the offense function to a higher degree of efficiency. Well, there is several (free-throw shooting, jump-shooting to name a couple), but Emekatron needs to develop his pick and roll game with Chris Paul much better than it already is.

A problem he has is all too often he’ll try and set the perfect screen. Now, you say, “isn’t that what you want?” Well not all the time. When in the two man game, what will often happen is the opponents big man will try to trap, the opposing guard will fight through the screen, meaning the point guard will have two guys on him potentially leaving the screener open.

What Okafor does is he stays too long on the screen and doesn’t role to the basket. What this does, is that it means even if the hedge by the opposition isn’t perfect there is plenty of time to recover. What Emeka needs to learn to do is to fake the screen, or in other terms ‘slip’ it.

This will mean that when the big man hedges he’ll think that Emeka is still out setting the screen once the point guard uses the screen. If Emeka slips he’ll be relatively wide open, enough for Chris Paul to find him. If the opposition has a third helper this leaves shooters wide open on the ball rotation.

It’s just a little observation that I get annoyed at, because sometimes Okafor doesn’t role hard enough to the basket where he could receive plenty of lob passes, or lead passes.

Below is some examples of Emeka Okafor Pick and Roll that I was talking about. I decided not to do a voice-over because I didn’t receive the best feedback for that.

Looking Back On History

We looked back a while ago as to whether Emeka can be a playoff center (or someone you can use to win a championship in the starting lineup). That post had a tonne of statistical measures as to why Okafor can be expected to play much better than he did in his first ever NBA playoffs.

To me that table above outlines exactly why Emeka can be expected to play much better than he did in the playoffs. His number one strength, rebounding, was no where to be seen. He has to realize that getting extra possessions, getting one-and-done possessions on defense, is how you win playoff games. Yet the Lakers destroyed New Orleans on the boards, because Okafor was in foul-trouble, and because he didn’t seem to want to grab to many rebounds.

Moving Forward

The contract situation with Emeka Okafor isn’t one that pleases to many fans. He’s locked in for a few more years, on a contract that elevates. For some he’s overpaid, others think he’s right where he should be. No matter what happens, Okafor needs to develop a bit more offensively in order to contribute. Defensively he’s about as good as anything as he led the resurgence on defense.

I think cynical Hornets fans need to remember what he brings when discarding him as an impact player. He really did do a fantastic job last season, and you need to appreciate that even if he left a sour taste in your mouth from the playoffs.

Season Grade (Measured in Awesome to the Max’s):

3 3/4 out of 5.


Tags: Dell Demps Emeka Okafor New Orleans Hornets

  • lucas

    My take on Emeka Okafor is not new. To me, he is a player who has not worked in the Hornets. He is very weak on offense. In addition, his salary is absurd. I would trade for a pick or a SG. And I have longed for Tyson Chandler. And I believe that Chris Paul as well.

  • dathrone

    Please Demps trade Emeka. I don’t know how anybody can be impressed with anything he’s done since he’s been here. I have never seen a center get his shot block more than Okafor and he doesn’t deter anybody for driving to the basket.

    Package who ever besides CP3 and dump this contract. Would love to work a deal to bring in Iguodala. Philly is looking to trade him. Go aquire DeAndre Jordan out bidding Donald Sterling should be a Brees(pun intended). If we can bring back J.R. Smith maybe Nick Young at the 2 and we’re set for a big year(provided we can stay healthy).

    • http://swarmandsting.com James Grayson

      Hey dathrone, thanks for commenting, hope to hear from you in the future.

      You make some great points, but really, there is only a handful of players (centers) that I would trade Emeka for. If we get rid of him there is zero depth at the center position and I highly doubt we can outbid teams like the Knicks, Nuggets etc for a guy like Nene or DeAndre Jordan (seeing as we have no owner, and even if we did).

      I’d love to bring in JR or Young, I’d give Young a serious look for his ability to create his own shot.

      Monty Williams said that one thing they are really looking for this off-season is “length, offensive rebounding and shot-blocking.” Unfortunately in today’s NBA climate there are a whole lot of buyers for the aforementioned characteristics, and not a whole lot of sellers.

      If we guaranteed of getting a top-flight center to replace Okafor, then I’m all for moving him.

      Hopefully this enlightens you to my viewpoint.

      • lucas

        I would trade Emeka for Iggy eyes closed.

      • dathrone

        The problem with Oka is production versus contract. We can get the production he provides for rock bottom prices. Emeka is due 12.5 million next year and Gray’s out perform Okafor in the playoffs. I would rather go forward with Aaron as the starting center.

        We aren’t gurantee to have a hard cap(whenever the season starts), but the cap is coming down. We can’t afford to be investing 20&12 money into a guy who’s only producing 10&10. Especially when you consider The majority of those 10 points came off of assist, and we don’t have a dominant rebounder so any decent big man can average 8-10 boards. I can make a strong argument that Emeka is the 6th or 7th best player on the team, but is being paid like the 2nd best.

        Even if we can’t get a Jordan or take a chance on somebody like Greg Oden. Just getting Okafor’s contract off the books is fine with me.

        • lucas

          Yes, dathrone. I agree. Only Gray as the starting center worries me greatly. It scares me. We have to trade Okafor, but we can not stay with a center who commits 5 fouls in 10 minutes. Gray scares me too.

          • dathrone

            Starting Gray’s would be a last resort. That’s plan E or F not A. LOL.

            Even if all other deal’s fell through we would be in a position where we’re getting vaule for the contracts. Which like I mentioned earlier will be huge under the new CBA.

        • http://swarmandsting.com James Grayson

          For sure Emeka under performs in terms of his contract. The thing you need to remember is that starting centers get paid a huge premium in terms of their salary, so that’s what happened when the Bobcats signed him to it.

          You need to remember that Okafor severely sucked donkey crud in the playoffs. If we look at his statistics, career wise, he underperformed a great deal. I would expect him to work his way back to that if he gets another chance.

          Just take a look at the table in the post up top where it compares his rebounding numbers. You can see he was no where near his averages and a lot of that was because of foul trouble.

          It was his first playoffs, and he did disappoint, but Okafor is a decent starting center who can be the 4th option on your team. The Hornets need to find number three.

  • scott

    please, no iggy. i live in philly, so i watch a lot of sixers games. his defensive presence would obviously be appreciated, but to me his offense is atrocious. i’m just sick of the guy and him not showing up in big game situations (sixers are my second favorite team)

    • dathrone

      Iggy isn’t the guy I think most hoops fan thought he would be when he first started to play well. I think we can all agree. With that said if Philly was willing to trade Iggy for Okafor straight up I would pull a muscle faxing in that paperwork.

    • http://swarmandsting.com James Grayson

      I agree scott, the assumption is that Iggy is a terrific defender (which he is) and an above average offensive player. I don’t think he’s as good an offensive player as people make out to be, but that’s just my opinion.

      His shooting wouldn’t really mesh with the need to find them for CP3, even if he has better scoring ability than Trevor Ariza.

      The question for Hornets fans is, “Do we tear down our core?” OR, “Do we build on what we have?”

      My thinking is that Demps is going to try to solidify his roster and build on top of it. That is, he’ll try to resign West and Landry and then go from there. I personally think that’s the best option, because we have to be patient, but aggressive this offseason.

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