Five semi-reasonable Chris Paul trades

New Orleans Hornets Chris Paul takes a breather during Game 5 of their NBA Western Conference first round playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, California April 26, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

With the news that David West plans to test free agency once a new CBA is finalized (whenever that is), the Hornets have two choices: 1) let him walk and further hurt their chances of re-signing Chris Paul, or 2) overpay to keep West. Let’s assume they do the pragmatic thing and let him walk. At that point, the franchise needs to take the long-term view and try to rebuild. Paul will most likely leave at the end of the season, so the Hornets should try to get as much as they can while they can, or else they’ll end up like the Cavs or the Raptors, watching their star walk away with very little to show for it.

With that in mind, here are five semi-reasonable trade offers for Chris Paul. I use the phrase ‘semi-reasonable’ because New Orleans fans need to keep their expectations in check — teams are never able to get equal value for their disgruntled/one-foot-out-the-door stars.

1. Thunder trade Russell Westbrook, Cole Aldrich, Thabo Sefolosha and Nate Robinson for CP3.
See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine. The key to this trade is obviously Westbrook — a young All-Star who has proven that he’s not ready to lead the Thunder, who could absolutely take over the Western Conference if they could get heady, consistent point guard play. Westbrook is only 22, and could eventually develop into a top tier point guard, but right now he doesn’t know how to run a team. He turns the ball over way too much and his shot selection in crunch time is suspect at best. The Thunder shouldn’t wait for him to develop; with the Lakers and Spurs on the decline and Dirk Nowitzki getting older, the time is now for OKC. On the flip side, the Hornets have the luxury of letting him develop. Who knows, maybe he turns into a top 10 player. Even if he has plateaued, a 22-year-old All-Star is not a bad haul for CP3, who is likely out the door next summer. Aldrich and Sefolosha sweeten the deal a little bit, balance the salaries out, and give the Hornets a couple of young rotation players. As for Paul’s contract situation, call me crazy, but I think he signs a long-term deal given the opportunity to play with Kevin Durant and James Harden.

2. Celtics trade Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic for CP3 and Aaron Gray.
See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine. This is a ‘one last run’ move for the Celtics, who aren’t going to get past the Heat and Bulls with their current lineup. Paul adds a new dimension to the Celtics offense and would be deadly in the pick-and-pop with Kevin Garnett. Plus, he’d give the Celtics a guy to build around once they decide to part ways with KG and Ray Allen, allowing Paul Pierce to fill a more complimentary role. (This assumes that Paul would be willing to re-up with the Celtics.) For the Hornets, they get an All-Star point guard who has had more ups than downs, along with a versatile forward (Green) who has proven he can score 16+ a game.

3. Clippers trade Eric Gordon, Mo Williams and the T-Wolves’ unprotected 2012 first round draft pick for CP3.
See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine. Gordon developed into a 22 ppg scorer in just his third season in the league. Williams is a capable point guard (and former All-Star), but the other key to this trade is the Wolves’ unprotected 2012 first round pick that the Clippers own as part of the Marko Jaric trade. (That’s right, the T-Wolves are still paying for Marko Jaric.) With the direction Minnesota is headed, the pick is likely to be in the top 5, so the Hornets would likely get another player with star potential in the Draft. The Clippers would be able to pair CP3 with Blake Griffin, but the question is would there be enough talent on the roster to convince both players to re-up? Plus, there’s the Donald Sterling Factor.

4. Grizzlies trade Rudy Gay and Mike Conley for CP3.
See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine. The Grizzlies proved that they could win without Gay, but struggled in crunch time because they didn’t have a playmaker on the perimeter. Paul would fit in well with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and maybe he’d be able to coax better production out of O.J. Mayo as well. The Hornets would get a very good small forward in Gay (20-6-3, 40% 3PT) along with an improving point guard (Conley) to replace Paul. The problem with this trade is Paul’s willingness to sign a long-term deal. It’s not likely that he’s going to want to stay in Memphis for the next five years.

5. Hawks trade Josh Smith and Jeff Teague for CP3.
See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine. Perhaps Atlanta would need to include a first round pick to sweeten the deal, but Smith is a borderline All-Star (and possibly Atlanta’s best player) and Teague played very well when given the keys in the Playoffs. The Hawks would have one of the best backcourts in the league in Paul and Joe Johnson, and Al Horford is more than capable of hitting jumpers off the pick-and-pop. The Hornets would get a supremely talented power forward to replace David West and Teague could emerge as a starting-caliber point guard in a year or two.

In the end, the Hornets probably won’t make a bold trade including Paul, but the longer they wait, the worse off they’ll be. The Nuggets did all right with the Carmelo trade, but it nearly destroyed their season.

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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.

Where do the Magic, Hornets and Blazers go from here?

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (R) and Orlando Magic shooting guard J.J. Redick (L) react after an Atlanta Hawks basket late in the second half of their NBA Eastern Conference Game 6 basketball playoffs at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia April 28, 2011. The Atlanta Hawks won the game. REUTERS/David Tulis (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

It was a Graduation Night of sorts as three teams closed out their respective series instead of letting things go to a Game 7.

Hawks 84, Magic 81
Joe Johnson (23 points) and Jamal Crawford (19) led the way for the Hawks, who shot just just 39% from the field (to the Magic’s 43%), but still managed to win due to three extra three-pointers and seven more offensive rebounds. Dwight Howard had 25 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and six turnovers. He averaged 5.5 turnovers against the Hawks, which is way too many for any player, especially a big man.

Where do the Magic go from here? Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Wasn’t it just two years ago that Orlando was an up-and-coming team giving the Lakers a good run in the NBA Finals? Pay attention, kids. This is what trading for Vince Carter (and then Gilbert Arenas) will do to you. Whatever mojo the Magic had is clearly gone and they could very well have their own Carmelo Anthony situation brewing with Dwight Howard scheduled to become a free agent after next season.

Lakers 98, Hornets 80
The Lakers enjoyed nice games from each of their top four players. Kobe (24 points), Pau Gasol (16 points, eight rebounds), Andrew Bynum (18 points, 12 rebounds) and Lamar Odom (14 points, eight rebounds) all played well, and when that happens, the Lakers are nearly impossible to beat. The difference in this game was on the glass, where the Lakers’ length outrebounded the Hornets by 13, including seven additional offensive rebounds. Offensive rebounds equal extra possessions, and extra possessions usually equal points.

Where do the Hornets go from here? I’ve been impressed with Chris Paul and the Hornets this season, and taking two games off the defending champs without your second best player (David West) is not an easy feat. That said, Paul is probably going to become a free agent after next season, so the Hornets will have to re-sign West at an injury discount and find a bona fide shooting guard soon, because Marco Bellineli isn’t going to cut it. (He was serviceable during the season, but had a dreadful series shooting the ball.) There is the makings of a contender here, but to convince CP3 to re-up, the Hornets need West to return to form and they need to land a really good perimeter scorer, and those aren’t easy to find.

Mavericks 103, Blazers 96
Many pundits, including myself, picked the Blazers in this series and it just didn’t happen. The Mavs shrugged off the Game 4 debacle and showed some grit by winning both Game 5 and Game 6 to close out the series. Dirk Nowitzki led the way with 33 points (on 11-of-17 shooting, highly efficient) to go along with 11 rebounds. Shawn Marion (16 points, six rebounds) has been playing well lately, averaging 14 points over the last three games. He’s the X-factor for the Mavs.

Where do the Blazers go from here? Portland has a nice team, but they’re never going to get over the hump with this lineup, largely because Brandon Roy’s knees aren’t healthy enough to get them there. He has four more $15 M+ years on his contract and if he doesn’t somehow get back to form soon, that deal is destined to hamstring the franchise. Portland should be building around LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and maybe Gerald Wallace, so they really need to strike gold by finding a Ty Lawson-type point guard in the late first round of the draft. Kemba Walker is that kind of player, but he’ll probably be long gone by the time the Blazers pick. Portland is in no man’s land (too good for the lottery, but not good enough to contend) and it looks like a long, hard road ahead. Roy’s contract is a great example of why guaranteed deals should be a max of 3-4 years.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blake Griffin and Chris Paul need each other

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin dunks over Miami Heat in fourth quarter action in Los Angeles on January 12, 2011. The Clippers defeated the Heat 111-105. UPI/Jon SooHoo

Hornets fans are going to cringe when they read the title of this post. I get it — the Hornets are a solid 31-18 and the Chris Paul trade talk has died down considerably since last summer.

But these facts remain: 1) New Orleans is not a legit contender, 2) the team’s second-best player (David West) is getting older (30) and approaching free agency, and 3) Paul can become a free agent in the summer of 2012.

After some trade rumors were floating around last summer, Paul met with the New Orleans newly-hired braintrust and has since kept his mouth shut, playing the role of good soldier. He’s having a good season (16.7 points, 9.7 assists, 2.6 steals) and the Hornets are having a nice year. But virtually no one believes that they’ll be representing the West in the Finals this summer. One online casino’s long-term market shows the Hornets as a 19-1 longshot to make the Finals. That’s pretty telling considering how inconsistent the Lakers have been this season.

So what does this have to do with Blake Griffin? Well, I went to see my beloved Bucks take on the Clippers last night at the Staples Center and got to see Griffin in person. He went for 32-11-6, and generally killed Milwaukee with a plethora of post moves, drives and long jumpers. The Bucks are a good defensive team, but they had no answer for Griffin who flat-out dominated the game offensively for the Clippers.

Griffin is a special talent. He can jump out of the gym, but he has the ability to channel his athleticism into effective basketball talent which is not always easy for someone so athletic. The 31-year-old Baron Davis is serviceable at point guard, but if the Clippers could somehow acquire Paul (25), and surround the dynamic duo with a couple of shooters and a defensive center, Griffin and Paul could lead the Clippers to the Promised Land.

How do the Clippers acquire Paul? I doubt the Hornets are going to listen to trade offers right now, but if I’m Clipper GM Neil Olshey, I’d call up Dell Demps and make a standing offer of Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and the Minnesota Timberwolves unprotected 2012 first rounder. The deal would net the Hornets a future All-Star in Gordon, as well as cap relief and solid post play in the form of Kaman. With the direction the T-Wolves are headed, that 2012 draft pick will probably be in the Top 5. Gordon would be a steep price to pay, but if you want a Top 2 point guard in a point guard-dominated league, you’re going to have to give something up.

Paul and Griffin would be devastating in the pick-and-roll and Griffin’s ability to post up would take the pressure off of Paul and allow him to take over in the clutch if the situation warranted it. Paul would also love playing with D’Andre Jordan, who has already shown a Tyson Chandler-like ability to finish alley-oops with outstanding power.

Worried about L.A. being a Laker town? Kobe is starting to show his age and if Paul and Griffin are headlining the Clippers, it won’t take long for a good portion of the Laker “faithful” to switch sides and start rooting for the city’s other team.

I’m not suggesting this is likely to happen, or even remotely possible. I’m just saying that it should happen. Even if Donald Sterling is the worst owner in the league.

Oh, and if CP3 isn’t available, Deron Williams would work too.

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