Three trade scenarios involving Chris Paul

January 20, 2010: Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets in action against the Memphis Grizzlies during an NBA game in the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA. Tyler Kaufman/CSM.

Ken Berger of CBS Sports has a source that says Paul has been far more aggressive in angling for a trade than we’ve been led to believe.

When Paul was quoted a few weeks ago as saying he’d be open to a trade if the Hornets aren’t committed to building a championship team, it was only a small hint as to the size of the chasm that exists between the franchise and its cornerstone player. Paul, in fact, has put into motion an aggressive exit strategy that will accelerate in the coming weeks, and his clear intention is to be traded before the start of the 2010-11 season, a person with direct knowledge of his plans told CBSSports.com Wednesday.

“He wants out,” said the person, who has been briefed on Paul’s strategy but spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly. “He wants to play with another superstar. He wants to follow LeBron’s model of teaming up with other great players.”

Paul’s list of preferred destinations consists of the Knicks, Magic and Lakers, and members of his inner circle already have sent word to the Hornets of his desire to be traded to one of those teams, sources say. If Paul has his way, he’s played his last game in a Hornets jersey.

Couple this with the changes at head coach and general manager and it’s clear that the Hornets are a franchise in flux. (This is also why it was so surprising that the Nets were considering Jeff Bower as their GM. He drafted well in New Orleans, but his trades for Peja Stojakovic and Emeka Okafor have put the team in its current predicament.)

So it sounds as if Paul has made his mind up, and is using the ‘committed to winning’ reasoning to get everyone ready for a possible trade. The three teams he reportedly wants to go to all have another star. The Lakers and Magic are established champions/contenders, while the Knicks are attractive due to the market and the presence of Amare Stoudemire.

The writing has been on the wall for some time now, and if the Hornets can’t convince Paul to stick around, their choice is clear. They need to package him with Okafor’s contract and rebuild around their promising young backcourt of Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton.

Here are a few possible trades that make some sense for both sides:

LAKERS

Of the three teams mentioned, the Lakers are able to offer the most attractive package. Perhaps L.A. would be willing to send Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom to the Hornets for Paul and Okafor. (See this deal in ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine.) At first glance this seems to be a lot to give up for a disgruntled star, but we’re talking about the best or the second-best point guard in the league. L.A. has just won two titles — why fix something that isn’t broken? Well, an aging Celtics team just took them to seven games, so the new-look Miami Heat must have the Lakers’ brass a little worried. There’s a saying: If you’re not getting better, you’re falling behind.

For their part, this deal would allow the Hornets to save $5 million this season, and would give the team enough cap space next summer for a max free agent. In total, they would save around $20 million over the next few years, depending on how much of Lamar Odom’s final year is guaranteed. If Bynum can put his knee problems behind him, he’d be a nice addition to the Collison/Thornton core. If not, then the Hornets can get out of the deal in the summer of 2012.

The big downside for the Hornets would be trading Paul to an already strong team in the conference. They’d essentially be enabling the Lakers to control the West for the next several years.

MAGIC

MACAU, CHINA - JULY 31:  Chris Paul #13 of the USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team brings the ball up the court against the Turkey National Team during the USA Basketball International Challenge exhibition game at the Coati Strip Cotai Arena July 31, 2008 in Macau, China.  (Photo by MN Chan/Getty Images)

Orlando would be a good landing spot for Paul as he’d form a scary one-two punch with Dwight Howard. Plus, the rivalry between the Heat and Magic would be a lot of fun. I just don’t know if the Magic have the pieces to pull off a trade.

There’s a big drop off in talent after Howard, especially when salaries are taken into consideration. Rashard Lewis is a nice player, but he’s overpaid, and the Hornets wouldn’t want to take the three years and $60+ million remaining on his deal. Jameer Nelson is a quality point guard at a good price, but the Hornets already have Collison, so that position isn’t an area of need. One player who should definitely be involved is Marcin Gortat, who has shown the ability to be a starting center in the NBA (and is also at a reasonable price).

How about this deal, which would send Paul/Okafor to Orlando for Nelson, Gortat, Mickael Pietrus and Brandon Bass? The Magic could include a first round pick or two to sweeten the deal. Perhaps the Hornets could get a third team involved to take Nelson off their hands and bring in some talent on the wing.

KNICKS

The Knicks could offer a big package of players that would give the Hornets some good young prospects as well as salary cap relief. How about a deal that would send Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Anthony Randolph (along with the expiring contracts of Eddy Curry and Kelenna Azubuike) to New Orleans for Paul and Okafor?

The Knicks would get the superstar tandem they were searching for this summer and a decent center to keep Amare Stoudemire fresh. The Hornets could add Randolph, Gallinari and Chandler to their young core. A starting lineup of Collison, Thornton, Chandler/Gallinari, West and Randolph would be inexperienced but promising and fun to watch.

The point is — the Hornets have options. They will have no shortage of suitors and if the new GM (Dell Demps) doesn’t pull a Chris Wallace and trade away his best player without shopping him around, then the franchise will get a pretty good deal. The fan base isn’t going to be happy, but holding Paul hostage isn’t going to do anyone any good either.

With Chris Broussard’s report that the Mavs and Blazers are on Paul’s short list, here are a few more trades with those teams.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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