Chris Paul is reportedly unhappy and wants out of New Orleans. The face of the Hornets apparently does not think the franchise has made the necessary moves to surround him with the talent needed to make a run at an NBA title and will sit down with management Monday to discuss his future. The end result could involve Paul demanding a trade out of the Bayou in hopes of pulling a LeBron James and aligning himself with another top-tier player.
Rumored wish lists have begun to surface about where Paul would like to end up if the trigger is in fact pulled on a trade. New York and Orlando seem to his preferred destinations with Dallas and Portland also being discussed. Allow me to put my trade machine expertise to work and throw out some potential deals.
(Note: In no way I am supporting any of these trades or saying the Hornets would or should make these deals. They are clearly possible offers that would benefit all parties involved. So don't leave a comment claiming I am an idiot for proposing these deals. Thank you.)
If New Orleans is indeed forced to deal Paul, their ideal trade partner would be a team willing to give up an alpha dog-caliber player in return. Since the chances of that happening are slim, the Hornets would most likely be searching for talented young players, expiring contracts and draft picks, and would also require the team landing Paul to take on the remaining four years, $52 million of Emeka Okafor and/or James Posey's 2-year, $13.4 million deal.
One of the unique parts of any Paul trade is that the Hornets do not need to acquire a starting point guard to replace Paul. Second-year player Darren Collison filled in admirably last season when Paul was sidelined and is capable of stepping into the full-time starter role. If they could land a veteran backup in return, that would be a better fit so the Hornets can try to upgrade other areas like the wing. Here are the rumored/potential suitors:
New York Knicks
I don't think the Knicks have the assets to land Paul. Since New York would not trade Amare and cannot deal Raymond Felton until Dec. 15, a best possible scenario would send Paul and Okafor to the Knicks in exchange for Anthony Randolph, Danilo Gallinari, Toney Douglas, Eddy Curry, Ronny Turiaf and a first-round pick. Curry and Turiaf would be 1-year rentals at center and help clear cap space for next summer while Douglas provides a backup point guard for Collison. Gallinari and Randolph are the best pieces in this deal, but neither has franchise player potential and figure to be complementary players - that is if Randolph ever taps in to his true ability.
While this deal would tremendously benefit the Knicks, the addition of Okafor to the deal would hurt their chances of landing Carmelo Anthony in the summer of 2011 which has been a serious speculation this offseason. Still, the allure of guaranteeing Paul coming to the Big Apple would have to be taken advantage of rather than hoping Carmelo ends up in New York next summer.
Like the Knicks, Orlando does not have the assets to make a deal possible. The Magic will not trade Dwight Howard, and I would imagine the Hornets would in no way be interested in acquiring Rashard Lewis and his mammoth deal, or Vince Carter. Their next-best player is Jameer Nelson, whom New Orleans would not want back as the major trade piece of a deal. Other than Nelson, the Magic do not have the expiring contracts or young talent to pull off a trade, and since their first-round draft picks over the next couple years would likely be in the 25-30 range, that too is not an appealing addition to any deal.
The only chance Orlando would have of landing Paul is if a third team were included that was in need of a starting point guard like Nelson and was willing to give some young talent, expiring contracts and/or draft picks to New Orleans. Maybe something like Paul to Orlando, Nelson and Marcin Gortat to Indiana, T.J. Ford, Roy Hibbert, Paul George, two Magic first-round picks to New Orleans? Still, the Hornets are getting ripped off in this situation. In other words, don't expect Paul to be playing alongside Superman in Orlando.
This is the team that has the most assets to offer up for Paul. They have intriguing young talent like Greg Oden, Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum and Jerryd Bayless. The Blazers also have a nice expiring contract in Joel Przybilla, and Andre Miller who has a team option on the final year of his deal next summer meaning he could be let go and save more cap space. Some sort of combination of that group plus a first-round pick would at least be something for the Hornets to think about especially if Portland was willing to take on Okafor or Posey in the deal. I don't think LaMarcus Aldridge would be of any interest to New Orleans since they already have a similar player in David West who has a cheaper contract.
And then there is the possibility that they would be willing to swap to Brandon Roy for Paul. Portland just signed Wesley Matthews to a 5-year deal, still has Fernandez, and drafted Elliot Williams, so losing Roy would not be the end of the world since they have depth at the two. Maybe a trade like Roy, Bayless and Przybilla for Paul and Darius Songaila would work?
While the Mavericks have some nice pieces to include in a trade, I imagine the Hornets would prefer dealing Paul out of their division. Any trade with Dallas would center around Caron Butler who would become the Hornets' alpha dog. He is in the final year of his deal though making his future past the 2010-2011 season in New Orleans in question. Dallas could also include young point guard Roddy Beaubois, DeShawn Stevenson's expiring contract and a first-rounder in a deal.
The two teams could then swing a separate deal that would land Okafor in Dallas and send Tyson Chandler and his expiring deal back to New Orleans to sweeten the deal (Chandler cannot be included in a trade with another player until mid-September which is why this would have to be its own deal.) I think this would be hilarious because it would pretty much entail new Hornets GM Dell Demps undoing former GM Jeff Bower's terrible trade from last summer when he took on Okafor's deal in exchange for Chandler.
If these two deals happen, New Orleans starts Collison, Marcus Thornton, Butler, West, and Chandler which is not terrible. Meanwhile, Paul teams up in the Mavs' backcourt with Jason Kidd and helps take some of the pressure off Dirk Nowitzki.
Oklahoma City Thunder
This is my favorite scenario for Chris Paul and actually makes the most sense if his true goal is to win. Oklahoma City could send over James Harden, Eric Maynor, Nick Collison and a first-round pick for Paul. The Hornets would have a young, talented backcourt with Collison, Maynor, Harden, and Thornton. Collison gives them some needed depth up front, and is in the final year of his deal. The real question with a possible Paul to Thunder deal is whether or not Oklahoma City might be willing to include Russell Westbrook?
In the aforementioned offer, Paul pairs with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook for the next couple of years. That would easily be a possible 60-win team next season, right? If Okafor or Posey have to be linked to Paul though, you can probably cross the Thunder off the list.
This is sort of a dark horse team in the Paul sweepstakes. They have young pieces like Aaron Brooks, Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, and expiring contract players in Shane Battier and Jared Jefferies. New Orleans might even be able to get the Rockets to give up one their younger, athletic wing players like Trevor Ariza or Kevin Martin.
Try this deal on for size: Paul and Posey for Brooks, Battier, Hill, Jefferies and a first-round pick. Who says no quicker? Probably New Orleans. But if you replace Jefferies with Ariza? It would be something for the Hornets to at least think about.