Tyson Chandler, the star center for the New Orleans Hornets, was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the recently-relocated Seattle SuperSonics. The Hornets received, in exchange for Chandler, Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox, both power forwards by trade but occasional centers upon request. The reasons for the trade can largely be seen as a matter of finances in a failing economy, but who made out better than the other between the teams?
New Orleans has been struggling for the majority of the 2008-2009 NBA season, in the sense that they have not jumped another level to being an elite team in the Association–part of the reason for this is Chandler. Struggling with nagging injuries to his lower body and seeing a great slip in his stats, particularly in his shooting percentage and rebounding, the former No. 2 pick of the 2001 NBA Draft was helping the Hornets a great deal, though he was still valuable for his size and athleticism.
In the case of the Thunder, Joe Smith, the top pick of the 1995 Draft, in 33 and has been a major contributor to winning teams in the latter part of his career, namely with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Cleveland Cavs. Wilcox was also in competition for minutes at the power forward spot with Smith and former teammates Nick Collison and Jeff Green, often play out of position as a center to get on the court. Both weren’t seen as mainstays for the young nucleus in Oklahoma City and thus, weren’t a great loss considering the depth of big bodies at the power positions on the Thunder’s team.
For Oklahoma City, the Thunder gain largely by subtraction in the frontcourt. Smith, Wilcox, Collision, Green, Nenad Krstic, Robert Swift, Johan Petro and Mohamed Saer Sene were all fighting for time, with the departed Wilcox, Collision, Krstic and Green getting much of the past consideration. Acquiring Chandler injects more youth and positivity into the starting lineup and may establish a new order. With young stars in point guard Russell Westbrook, star swingman Kevin Durant and Green, Chandler and Krstic could very well start together rotating at power forward and center, with both having had good success at the 5 and even greater success in the past as forwards.
The Hornets, on the other hand, gain more bodies at the stronger positions and some much-needed playoff experience. Though neither player is ideal to play at center, Smith and Wilcox do the job in rebounding and defending. Both players also give All-Star power forward David West very good backups, especially considering Wilcox’s explosiveness near the basket for blocks and dunks.
In the end, if Chandler can stay healthy, the Thunder may very well come out as the winner of the trade, but if he fails to be durable and New Orleans succeeds in using its assets as Chandler’s replacements, then the Hornets will not only win the trade, but could advance to the NBA Finals as a result.