Amare Porn Week has ended, and (since Sacramento has been mentioned in zero Suns rumors outside of, um, Sacramento) I'm moving on. Amare is an offensive specimen, a mean scorer who can see his name in lights any night he chooses. Tyson Chandler is ... a different guy.
Chandler's the Grapenuts to Amare's Rice Krispies. One snaps and crackles and pops all over the arena, while the other beats the hell out of your jaw and makes you want to stop. Stoudemire keeps the scorecard wet; Chandler prevents said scorecard from taking ink. At his best, a defensive Master, an eternal top rebounder and ultra-quick interior defender. He's anchored one of the league's best defenses since 2004-05, despite cleaning up Eddy Curry's messes and covering for a less than (defensively) stout David West. I wrote this last September when I placed Chandler No. 40 on my NBA Top 50:
If you were building a team next year, with the entire player base as your oyster, and you wanted an elite defensive-minded center, there's only one guy you'd take over Chandler. (That guy happens to be a four-time NBA champion, and a former MVP.) Nice company, especially considering interior defense is at such a premium in the slashing NBA.
I'm referring to Tim Duncan there, and rest assured that there are no more Tim Duncans. The amazing thing about Big Fun(damental) is that he's one of the best post defenders the game's ever seen ... and he can drop 20 a night, 35 when he feels pretty. Chandler can't drop 20 a night -- heck, Chandler can't even drop 20 when he feels pretty. But he can defend his ass off.
And post defense is pretty damn necessary these days. Look close to home (but not at Brad Miller). How many guards or small forwards have legitimately been able to stop Kevin Martin the past season-and-a-half? ("Reggie Theus" is not an acceptable answer.) Few, if any. What hurts Martin? A backstop. Every once in a while, the Kings will come up against a team with a good defensive center ... and Martin will get his lunch returned a few times. And it discourages the drive, and that hurts his game, and that hurts the offense. (Erick Dampier and Shaq are the first to come to mind over the past month.)
Needless to say, we do not have anything close to this sort of defender.
Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson have development ahead, but both appear (at this point) to be more offensive beings (ballbusters that they may be) than All-Defense nominees. Chandler is an All-Defense type defender. On the right team, with the right season, he could win a DPOY and not a soul would blink.
Chandler is the same age as Amare (and Martin, for what it's worth), and his contract extends through 2010-11. Yes, that ... it does eat into 2011 salary, and that prospective 2010 (or 2009) cap space. Chandler will be paid $12.3 million 2009-10, and owns a player option for $13.2 million in 2010-11.
But that's just price. What's Chandler's price? This is where the advantages over the nebulous Amare plans show themselves. Read that last sentence as: keep your Thompson, your Hawes, your draft pick. John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Chandler will make $11.8 million next season, and when that's combined with the $14.2 million that Peja Stojakovic will earn along with the first year of Chris Paul's three-year extension kicking in ($13.7 million) and David West's $9 million, the Hornets' payroll for next season is already projected to be at $76 million.
That would put them over the luxury tax threshold, which is estimated to be set between $72 million to $73 million for the 2009-10 season. The tax kicks in at $71.1 million this season -- the Hornets' combined current payroll is $67.8 million. Regardless if they have a successful playoff run, the Hornets are likely to trim their payroll to avoid having to pay the luxury tax, which is $1 for every dollar above the tax.
Later in Reid's story:
This summer is more likely when the Hornets would try to move one of the core players in a major trade.
With the Western standings in current form, it would seem more likely that the Hornets would wait until the summer to mess with the core. However, there's a giant risk in that: if no one has cap space, no one will be able to pull a Camby with N.O. and take back one of those salaries for nothing. A few teams should have cap space, but you'd be depending on one of the them to want one of your pieces. And no rebuilding team (those are the only ones with cap space these days) is going to want Peja Stojakovic, Morris Peterson or James Posey.
Right now, before the deadline, you can trade for something that turns into nothing: expiring contracts. And oh, what do we have over here ...
N.O. loved Brown in the summer league; Sacramento offered B.B. a guaranteed contract, and Chris Paul seemed heartbroken. Not only is Salmons a great scorer, he can create -- he can be, for all intents and purpose, Paul's back-up (even if he starts). Mikki Moore is better than Hilton Armstrong; also, the last time Moore played with an ultra-creative point guard, he ended up with an $18 million contract. Given Moore's buy-out, the Hornets would save $5 million in 2009-10, sliding them under the luxury tax.
Would New Orleans agree to such a deal? On the one hand, Chandler's the best player in the swap by a healthy margin. He was an integral part of N.O.'s success last season, as the negative impact of his injuries have shown this season. Moore is a big downgrade, assuming Chandler would get healthy at some point this season.
But money is a powerful actor. Again: Camby. Shaq. Marion. Amare. Some teams can't justify the luxury tax, and the Hornets seem to be one of them. George Shinn hasn't exactly developed a reputation as a basketball pragmatist; he isn't afraid to spend (see: Chandler, Peja), but he's also bolted one city because of a bad lease and tried to bolt another because of a devastating hurricane. If he doesn't want to pay the tax, I imagine Jeff Bower will understand he really doesn't want to pay the tax. And maybe this is the only deal that gets it done while keeping N.O. competitive (or better) this season. The other rumors -- Shawn Marion, Rasheed Wallace -- don't address the serious need for more supplementary offensive help. (Wallace might actually be a good fit, but the same problems with supplementary offense would rear up next year.)
(I also came up with another bizarre deal for Chandler -- Chandler, Morris Peterson, Julian Wright, Ryan Bowen for Moore, Salmons, Shelden Williams, Quincy Douby and Bobby Brown -- but I'm not sure how I feel about taking on Pete's unruly contract just to get Wright and Chandler. Tyson + Morris = the equivalent of a max contract in 2011. Hrm...)