In just a matter of a few days, the prospect of Chris Paul being traded by the New Orleans Hornets turned from an “if” into a “when.”
For a couple of years rumors have been thrown around concerning a CP trade, mostly because the Hornets were struggling financially and CP was their most expensive player. But lately it’s been Paul driving the increased trade talk. Yesterday he reportedly told the team he wants to be dealt before the beginning of the season, and earlier today the team scheduled a Monday face-to-face meeting with its franchise superstar.
Even though they are saying they aren’t looking to trade their best player, New Orleans may eventually have to. If they do, look for them to try to also unload Emeka Okafor and the $52 million remaining on his contract. Here are the five teams destined to be in the discussion for Paul:
NEW YORK KNICKS
Ever since Carmelo Anthony‘s wedding in New York City, where it was reported that Paul talked to ‘Melo and Amar’e Stoudemire about forming their own trio in Manhattan, Knicks fans began thinking again about what could be.
ESPN is reporting the Knicks are the No. 1 team on CP’s wish list:
“Those guys want to beat the three guys in Miami,” a source close to the situation said. A report Wednesday on CBSSports.com said Paul saw what James did in signing to play alongside Wade and Bosh and has designs on doing something similar.
Anthony has one year left on his deal with the Nuggets before he can become a free agent. The Nuggets, meanwhile, have offered Anthony a three-year, $65 million contract extension.
The Knicks do have some interesting assets like Eddy Curry’s $11 million expiring salary, Danilo Gallinari and Anthony Randolph. But they seemingly don’t have a first round pick until 2029 because of past trades (actually, Houston has the right to swap picks with them in the next two NBA Drafts).
As long as there is a possibility of forming their own Big Three, I don’t think anyone on the Knicks roster is safe. At this point outside of Stoudemire, it’s impossible to speculate who will be there by this time next year.
Imagine the numbers Paul would put up in Mike D’Antoni’s system? And if CP ends up here, does that make Melo think twice about signing his extension with Denver?
Apparently, Orlando is number two on Paul’s wish list, probably because of the presence of Dwight Howard and their well-established winning foundation. Howard catching lobs from Paul off the screen and roll would be insane. And with Rashard Lewis spotting up on the wing, the point guard would have multiple scoring options.
Ironically, for all of the talent the Magic already have, Paul would probably flourish even more individually at Disney. The team is itching for a perimeter playmaker. Howard is obviously not comfortable leading the team offensively and would hurt his wrists from how hard he would be dunking Paul’s lobs.
But there are some issues with exactly how they could convince New Orleans to take their offer. Orlando has Jameer Nelson and some young assets starting with Ryan Anderson (not exactly a great asset). The problem is that the Magic may lack the salary cap relief and high draft picks that the Hornets will want.
The Magic does have Vince Carter in the final year of his contract (next year is a team option for $18 million). That would leave a hole at the wing spot, but if you are a Magic fan, I’m pretty sure you take that problem.
Always a player in any available big name, no one has the amount of assets that the Mavericks can offer. Rookie Dominique Jones has been destroying the competition in summer league and Roddy Beaubois is a talent. They also have some huge expiring deals in Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson.
A pick and roll of Dirk and CP would rival any combo in the League. Paul could be the leader the franchise has been searching for since Mark Cuban got there and his game should fit seamlessly into whomever the Mavs keep on their roster. More importantly, Nowitzki looks like a perfect running mate and the two could function as the new age Dirk/Nash. Also, Shawn Marion would probably be ecstatic playing with Paul. But, what about Jason Kidd?
Will the Hornets be willing to trade off the franchise to another team within the Southwest Division? I’m not sure. It goes against business etiquette.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
The Blazers already offered the Hornets a few different proposals, but nothing seemed to pique New Orleans’ interest. They have to be considered the dark horse; Joel Przybilla has a $7.4 million expiring deal and Andre Miller, Jerryd Bayless, Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum all have team options for next summer.
A backcourt of Paul and Brandon Roy would be killer. But who would take a backseat considering they both are fantastic playmakers? A trade for Paul could put them over the top, but I feel like we’ve been talking about the Blazers’ rise for the last four or five years. They seem to be stuck in the middle, consistently in someone else’s shadow, more Casey Affleck than Ben. You can blame luck, injuries or Greg Oden. That could all change with CP.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
While the two-time defending champs may be off of Paul’s wish list, lets throw them in the conversation anyways. They have some pieces that could be very attractive to New Orleans, starting with 22-year old center Andrew Bynum. Sasha Vujacic has a $5 million expiring deal and Lamar Odom has $8 and $9 million coming his way before a team option in 2012.
Although many Lakers’ fans have speculated, Paul would be dynamite in L.A. once Head Coach Phil Jackson retires and/if they move away from the triangle. But for right now, even with the presence of the Miami Heat, I can’t see a deal being worked out between the two sides.