Four years ago Tyson Chandler was 26 and the New Orleans Hornets starting center. Hornets owner George Shinn saw the Hornets were at $67 million, set to jump to $77 million the following season and mandated payroll slashing.
Chandler made $12.3 in 2009 and $13.2 in 2010. While Peja Stojakovic also had a horrible, no good, very bad contract, the Hornets couldn’t find any takers until 2010 when Peja was a $14.25 million expiring contract, so it was that Chandler found himself on the block.
Boy genius OKC General Manager Sam Presti pounced and added Chandler for the price of Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox and change before Oklahoma City team physician Dr. Carlan Yates said no, due to concerns over Chandler’s big left toe — the same toe he himself had performed surgery on in 2007.
You know the rest of the story. Because Jeff Green was no longer deemed part of the Thunder’s core, they moved him for what they figured to be their missing piece — Kendrick Perkins — and James Harden became the Thunder’s ridiculously productive and inexpensive third or fourth luxury.
Tangent: The sad fans of Oklahoma, having experienced their first real disappointment, will have plenty to complain about in the coming weeks. It’s tempting to complain about non-calls on Zach Randolph and behold the brilliant statistics of Durant. Wolves fans have been there. Kevin Garnett needed to average 30, 20 and 7 in order for Minnesota to have any chance of being competitive against San Antonio, Portland, Dallas or the Lakers. The tough truth is that Durant, like Garnett, can’t do it all alone and Harden’s offense would’ve helped a lot more than Serge Ibaka’s defense against Memphis.
I bring up the Thunder’s blundered Chandler trade not to compare the Wolves to OKC, or Chandler to Nikola Pekovic, but to point out that a team having one or more top players still on their rookie contract allows them to carry a high price tag player to fill in the cracks without carrying the otherwise prohibitive penalty of overspending. Andrei Kirilenko is a good example of such a player this season.
Having established roles, a core group of players, should make it easier to identify both inexpensive free agents and specific types of players in the draft.
In short, sign Pek and scout, scout, scout.