Being a highly valued commodity as defensive-minded big men in the NBA are, veteran Emeka Okafor is drawing interest from a good chunk of the league. His age, worrying health situation, and unwavering desire to return before midseason have done little to curb interested parties.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, about half the league—so let’s say 15 teams—are in pursuit of Okafor with LeBron’s Cavaliers one of those in contention. Also in the running are the LeBron-less Miami Heat.
Interest in the former Wizard points to the value big men still garner in a league that increasingly turns to small and positionless ball. It’s not a Decision 2.0, by any stretch, but it’s more attention one would expect for a big man past his prime, who missed all of last season with a herniated disc, and because of an opaque recovery timeline probably won’t be back on a court until close to the All-Star break. A point guard with Okafor’s same strong points and drawbacks would be seeing interest from just a slice of Okafor’s battalion.
Health concerns, however, won’t guarantee that Okafor is back in playing shape before the 2014-15 campaign comes to an end or that interested teams decide to pull the trigger on an acquisition. The one-time Husky suffered his neck ailment during last season’s preseason and failed to play in any games for the Washington Wizards, or for the Phoenix Suns, who he was ultimately dealt to in a trade involving Marcin Gortat.
Yet, as a backup big man who would be great for a contender like the Clippers or Cavaliers, Okafor will be in an opportune position to choose from an assortment of options. Before going down with injury, Okafor was projected to be an important part of a resuscitated Wizards team. Gortat eventually ended up serving on those expectations on Okafor’s behalf, but the same could be expected of Okafor for a team’s second unit.
In his career, Okafor has averaged 12.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks. Of course, teams will likely get something closer to his 2012-13 contributions of 9.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, and a shot at a serviceable veteran big man.