The Chris Paul fiasco gives NBA a black eye

The proposed Chris Paul trade to the Los Angeles Lakers has created a firestorm.

The Hornets, who are owned by the league which acquired it from George Shinn a year ago, realized it was unlikely they would be able to retain Paul with a contract extension or in free agency after he opted out of his contract after this season.

So New Orleans general manager Dell Demps, a respected player personnel man who came from the respected San Antonio Spurs, went to work, hoping to get something for Paul instead of nothing if he left in free agency. Or in Stern’s words, “Getting something more for that player in the event he will leave than if he stays.”

Demps, in his second year as GM of the Hornets, arranged a huge three-team trade with the Lakers and the Houston Rockets: Paul to the Lakers; Los Angeles forward Lamar Odom to the Hornets and Los Angeles forward Pau Gasol to the Rockets, who would have sent forward Luis Scola, guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic and a first-round draft pick to New Orleans.

Stern got serious pressure from a number of owners, including Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who fired off a letter to Stern and other owners calling the trade a travesty.

This trade should go to a vote of the 29 owners of the Hornets.

Over the next three seasons this deal would save the Lakers approximately $20 million in salaries and approximately $21 million in luxury taxes. That $21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing.

I cannot remember ever seeing a trade where a team got by far the best player in the trade and saved over $40 million in the process. And it doesn’t appear that they would give up any draft picks, which might allow to later make a trade for Dwight Howard.

The teams are still talking in an attempt to salvage the deal and they have appealed Stern’s decision.

Meanwhile, Stern and the NBA are being savaged by commentators everywhere. Here’s Bill Simmons and Micheal Wilbon.

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

Should Team A trade Player X?

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard reacts after the Magic defeated the Miami Heat in their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

ESPN recently ran a piece where it asked TrueHoop bloggers whether or not Orlando, New Jersey, New Orleans and Phoenix should trade their star players this offseason. I thought I’d chime in with my own thoughts:

Dwight Howard

This has to be a gut call from GM Otis Smith — he knows Howard better than any member of the media and if he believes his superstar wants to stay, then he should do everything in his power to make it happen. Only I don’t know how he gets the Magic back in the fold as a true contender given the available pieces he has to move. There has been one personnel mistake after another since Orlando’s appearance in the 2009 Finals. Just like Chris Bosh and LeBron James, the writing is on the wall, isn’t it? Dwight Howard is leaving, and if Smith can acquire someone with the upside of Andrew Bynum in the process, that might be the Magic’s best bet to jump start the rebuilding process.

Deron Williams

Of course the Nets should hold onto Williams. He’s a franchise point guard and with Brook Lopez in tow and a load of cap space, the soon-to-be Brooklyn Whatevers are poised to make a big jump in the standings. Mikhail Prokhorov’s management team has done a nice job thus far, though I have no idea why they gave Travis Outlaw $7 million a year. Without that albatross of a contract, the Nets would be even better position to make a splash in free agency and surround Williams with the wings that he needs to be successful.

Chris Paul

This is a unique situation, what with the NBA owning the Hornets and all. One of ESPN’s bloggers said the “fair” thing to do is let CP3 walk, but that’s not the best move for the franchise. I think they should offer Paul for Russell Westbrook straight up. That may not be the first step on the road to a championship, but it’s probably the best deal the Hornets will get. Plus, no one will look at Westbrook funny when he takes 30 shots and turns the ball over six times per game. (Or how about Paul for Eric Gordon? New Orleans needs a good young star to build around.) Bottom line? I don’t think there’s much of a chance of Paul re-upping after the season, so New Orleans should get as much in return as possible while they still can.

Steve Nash

Forget all this talk about Nash retiring a Sun. That can’t be what’s most important to him. He must want to taste the Conference Finals again, so Phoenix should trade him to a playoff team that can offer draft picks and/or a good young player in return. What’s the point in letting Nash’s career die a slow death on a team that’s going nowhere? Stop being selfish, Phoenix Suns. Free Steve Nash.

David West to enter free agency — impact on Chris Paul?

New Orleans Hornets forward David West (30) celebrates as his team defeated the Toronto Raptors 85-81 during their NBA basketball in New Orleans, Louisiana January 17, 2011. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Once David West went down with a season-ending ACL tear, I thought he would surely play out the final year of his contract (for $7.5 million) to prove to everyone that he was healthy and cash in next summer. But the 30-year-old forward must feel good about his rehab, because he has decided to opt-out of his deal and enter free agency a year early.

West told the Times-Picayune that he has not ruled out staying with the Hornets, who might benefit from new rules in the next collective bargaining agreement that are expected to make it even more beneficial than it has been for free agents to stay with their current teams.

“Definitely not, definitely not,” West said. “When I signed the original (contract), my intention was always to opt out. With my knee, I had to examine things a little more closely. But after going through the rehab and feeling good about where my knee will be, we decided to stay on course with what I originally intended to do.

The Hornets were something of a surprise this season, taking the defending champion Lakers to six games in the first round of the Playoffs. That would have been encouraging had Kobe and Co. gone on to win another title, but with the way they were swept by the Mavs has to leave the Hornets wondering if they are on the right track.

As always, the key is Chris Paul. Can the Hornets convince him to stay? After some grumbling last summer, CP3 put his big boy pants on and brilliantly filled the role of franchise point guard. But now he’s just one year away from free agency and his sidekick could be playing elsewhere next season.

Unfortunately for the Hornets, West’s possible departure doesn’t leave the team with a whole lot of wiggle room to sign anyone else, so their best bet is to overpay West to stay. That puts the franchise in the same position they were in this season — good enough to make the Playoffs, but not good enough to do anything once they get there.

The writing is on the wall: Provided Paul stays healthy, the Hornets will win 40+ games again this season, but he’ll enter free agency next summer and be playing elsewhere in 2012.

What to do with Russell Westbrook?

Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant (L) and Russell Westbrook react during Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference Final basketball playoff against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, Texas May 25, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been waiting to write this piece for the last couple of weeks. With the way that the Thunder had been closing games, I knew it was just a matter of time before they’d be eliminated from the Playoffs and I have been thinking about the different directions that the franchise can go from here.

After watching both the Memphis and Dallas series, I have come to this conclusion: Oklahoma City can not win a title with Russell Westbrook at the point.

It’s not that he’s not a good player. He is. He’s just not a point guard. People say that he has come a long way in his three seasons, but he sure didn’t show it in the last two series. Take a look at his numbers in the fourth quarter (and overtime) of all the games against Dallas and Memphis:

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How does Ty Lawson compare to Chris Paul?

Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson celebrates a three-point shot in their NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Denver April 9, 2011. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Whenever I see Ty Lawson play, I think of Chris Paul. The two players have different games, but physically, they’re similar. Paul stands 6’0″ and weighs 175 pounds. Lawson is 5’11” and weighs in at 195 pounds, so he’s a little stockier than CP3, but they’re both fairly undersized for the point guard position.

Here are the per 48-minute stats from each player’s rookie and second season. Since Paul played about 16 minutes more per game in his rookie season (and 10+ minutes more in his sophomore season), we need to adjust per minute for an apples-to-apples comparison.

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