Emeka Okafor: the largest chip at the deadline?

Emeka Okafor has not played all season, sidelined with a neck injury. He probably will not see the floor at all this season, yet could be the most prized possession of the trade deadline. We have discussed an Okafor deal here before, but yesterday Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports told us why things will get even more interesting. 

Now that the Suns have reached the halfway point of their season, an insurance policy kicks in that will cover 80% of Okafor's remaining contract - which Woj goes on to mention is $5.7 million in pocket to what ever team lands him. The Suns are on the record that they are indeed trying to win now and will use Okafor to bolster up for a playoff run.

Here is the most important aspect of Woj's column:
The Suns have expressed a willingness to absorb a veteran player on a short-term deal who wouldn't compromise the organization's ample salary-cap space for the future, league sources said. As rival teams explore ways to shed payroll and avoid luxury-tax payments, the Suns could have a multitude of deal possibilities to consider over the next few weeks.

The Suns could be willing to take a contract... and what's the one thing Danny Ainge is looking to get out from under? That's right, contracts.

More from Woj:

The Suns could control six potential first-round draft picks over the next two years – including four in the 2014 draft. Those picks, coupled with maximum-contract level cap space, could make the Suns a significant factor in free agency and trade discussions.

The Suns have TONS of assets in the form of draft picks... and what's the one thing Ainge is looking to stock pile? Another easy answer - assets!

The Suns and Celtics could be perfect trade partners for those two reasons. Phoenix has draft picks that Ainge wants and they have a huge expiring deal ($14.4 mil - but with 80% covered by insurance)  which Ainge would love. The obvious question - does Boston have the talent that Phoenix is seeking?

Trade 1

Boston gets: Okafor and Indiana's 2014 first round pick

Phoenix gets: Kris Humphries

This trade probably makes the most sense out of anything Boston can offer. Humphries is playing well enough that fans in Boston are talking about re-signing him, which is saying something. Hump would bring a new aspect to the Suns, they do not have anyone that can rebound at a rate like him outside of Miles Plumlee. Both Plumlee and Humphries rip down around 11 rebounds per 36 minutes. Getting an additional rebounder like that would be key for them in the tough Western Conference.

Phoenix also likes their bigs to be able to shoot from outside. Humphries has clearly proven he can do that, while shooting 51.7% overall from the field on the season. Hump seems to fit everything the Suns are looking for, and he is a free agent at the end of the season like Okafor. The Suns would be adding him to their roster without giving up any active players.

The Celtics would get back Okafor's contract which comes off the books. Since an Okafor for Hump swap doesn't do much for Boston a pick must be added from Phoenix. The Pacers 2014 first rounder sounds like an ideal one. The Pacers' figures to be the lowest of Phoenix's collection of picks, but also gives Ainge yet another asset. This trade is a win-win.

Trade 2

Boston gets: Okafor

Phoenix gets: Jeff Green and Brandon Bass

This trade is difficult because it only works under a few assumptions. Ainge must not see Green or Bass as part of the future in Boston. The Suns must not only want to win now, but be willing to pay Bass $6.9 million next season and Green $9.2 million for each of the next two seasons. That clouds up some of the cap room that they may be uncomfortable committing to those two players.

On the other hand, if Phoenix does like the players, this could work. Many will wonder why Ainge does not get any assets in return for Bass and/or Green. But look at the Jordan Crawford trade. Crawford was arguably playing better than both of them and the return was a bundle of second round picks AND Ainge must take on Joel Anthony for $3.8 million next season. Why keep asking for something you may never get? If the opportunity presents itself to get out of both contracts and have both Okafor and Humphries coming off Boston's books it has to be done! Hump and Okafor would be a combine $26.4 million in cap space - that clears the way for anything Ainge can swing in trades, free agency, re-signings as well as signing draft picks. The key to a rebuild is a clean slate and flexibility.

Trade 3

Boston gets: Okafor and a future second round pick

Phoenix gets: Jeff Green and Keith Bogans

Similar to the trade above, but there are differences. In this scenario, the Suns do not want to take on both Green and Bass' contracts. So they solve the problem by swapping in Bogans for Bass. Bogans can become a free agent so Phoenix only has to commit to Green long-term. In exchange for that, Boston adds another second rounder. I know it sounds crazy that technically Bogans is more valuable than Bass, but that is one of the flaws in the current NBA.

If the right team comes calling for Bass then it is a different story. He could bring a nice return, but probably not from the Suns. What if the Suns like Bass and not Green, there is really no way for a Bass-Okafor swap to happen because of the contracts. Even if you add Bogans to the deal and try Bogans and Bass for Okafor the trade still does not go through. Bottom line: a trade with the Suns for Okafor is possible, but not at all probable.

What do you guys think? Worth getting Okafor to clear up some cap space and pocket $5.7 million? Or easier to just swap him for Hump and try and acquire a pick? Or maybe none of these are for you and you want to keep trying to shop Green and Bass for assets and hang onto Hump - which is probably how it shakes down anyway.

So many options, so little time till the February 20th deadline.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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