Would Losing Chandler Hurt Chris Paul?
The conventional wisdom is that while Chandler is bombastic in the air, a true finisher, incoming Hornet Emeka Okafor is seen more as a deliberate, below-the-rim pivot player. That would seem to bode poorly for our visions of soft lobs and vicious hammers, and also for Paul's assist numbers.
But actually, Okafor will probably help Paul on offense.
The reasoning is that while Okafor isn't known as a prolific finisher like Chandler, Okafor is actually quite a good finisher. Last season, he had 135 dunks in 82 games, or 1.6 dunks per game. Chandler had 89 dunks in 45 games, or 1.9 dunks per game. Last season, the pair had nearly identical field goal percentages of 56% (though admittedly Chandler has been stronger over the past four seasons).
Looking at just "inside shots," thanks to 82games.com, we see that Okafor's in-the-paint FG% was actually higher than Chandler's last season (64%-60%). Is this a matter of Okafor setting up on the block and using his footwork to break down the opponent? Not really. Only two rotation players in the entire league -- Anderson Varejao and Linas Kleiza -- had a greater percentage of their inside shots assisted than Okafor. Chandler had 71% of his inside shots (including those memorable alley oops) assisted last season, while Okafor had help on 74% of his paint work.
Luckily, we have plenty of data from the Hornets without Chandler, considering Chandler missed 37 games last season. And Paul's assist numbers really were never affected. Chandler missed nearly all of February, and that was one of Paul's most prolific passing months.
The adjusted plus-minus numbers from Basketball Value suggest Chandler was a key part of the New Orleans offense at its best, with a net offensive on-court boost of nearly seven points per 48 minutes. By the same measure, Okafor only helped the Charlotte offense by 1.5 points per 48 minutes. But while adjusted plus-minus accounts for the moving parts in terms of quality, it doesn't really help out in assessing situations. As in, receiving passes from Paul instead of Raymond Felton. Or having the floor stretched by Peja Stojakovic and David West instead of Raja Bell and Boris Diaw.
Only time will tell if Okafor can replace Chandler as Chris Paul's hired gun. We know it will look different, but the result may not be so depressing after all.