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Clippers Nearing Deal for Chris Paul
Posted By Eric Pincus On December 12, 2011 @ 3:52 am In All,NBA | No Comments
The Los Angeles Clippers are working on a blockbuster deal to land All-Star point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets.
(UPDATE: The confusion surrounding NBA ownership of the Hornets continues as the deal has reportedly hit a snag. Read on with that in mind . . . )
The outgoing package would be built around Chris Kaman, Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu and, most importantly to the Hornets (and thus the NBA), the Minnesota 2012 first round pick . . . unprotected.
As part of the deal, Paul would agree to opt in to the final year of his contract for the 2012/13 season. Beyond that, the Clippers would hope that Bird Rights and a powerhouse roster would entice Chris to sign a new, long-term deal.
LA would add one of the league’s top players to a team that already has reigning Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin, emerging guard Eric Gordon, solid veteran pickup Caron Butler and (possibly) athletic center DeAndre Jordan.
Jordan signed an offer sheet with the Golden State Warriors for about $43 million over four years on Sunday. The Clippers have three days to match.
While that’s almost $3 million more per season than the team initially wanted to spend on the still-developing big man, matching the offer would give Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey the center needed to balance the roster.
DeAndre is one of Griffin’s closest friends on their roster. Jordan is also a better fit than Kaman, not because he’s a more polished, experienced player (he’s not) but because DJ doesn’t take touches away from Blake.
Jordan has begun to develop into a capable defensive role player. His contract will pay him like he’s nearly Tyson Chandler, so he needs to continue to grow to live up to that number.
If the deal is consummated as hoped on Monday, Mo Williams would join the bench with fellow guard Randy Foye. Last year’s starting small forward Ryan Gomes would also become a reserve along with rookies Trey Thompkins and the uber-athletic Travis Leslie (both of whom the Clippers are high on).
LA would need to pick up a reserve center as well.
The Hornets were purchased by the NBA itself last year. The league hopes to eventually turn the franchise around for a profit. To do so, they’re looking for long-term assets to attract a buyer.
Paul had quickly made it clear he had no intention of staying in New Orleans. The team pursued a trade, initially with the Los Angeles Lakers, but when it went for submission to the league, it was blocked by Commissioner David Stern for “basketball reasons.”
Stern had set up a governing body to make decisions for the Hornets, independent of the league, to avoid collusion (Chris Paul Veto: Commissioner Power or Collusion?).
Somewhere along the way, Stern’s instructions were misinterpreted and General Manager Dell Demps and Governor Jac Sperling accepted a three-way deal from the Lakers and Houston Rockets that landed a very solid package of players including Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic and the New York Knicks’ 2012 pick (via Houston).
In present value that’s a solid deal. The coaching staff would field a competitive team, albeit in the 35-45 win-range (if healthy).
Stern vetoed the deal, not because of small market owners upset that the Lakers were landing Paul, but because the commissioner was looking for future value.
This should have been clear to Demps and Sperling from the start. It wasn’t and in response, Stern over-stepped his boundaries, breaking the veil set up separating the NBA and the Hornets, directing Demps to redirect his efforts.
The Lakers spent a number of days trying to rework the deal before backing out and trading Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks.
The Hornets, who have limited suitors, likely lacked the leverage (if the trade executes in its proposed form) to get Gordon from the Clippers along with the Minnesota pick. As reported previously by HOOPSWORLD, the Clippers were not going to deal Gordon for Paul.
The team views Eric as, perhaps, the next Brandon Roy (sadly before retirement and the knee injury).
The Minnesota pick, originally acquired in the Sam Cassell/Marko Jaric deal has been hanging around for years. The protections finally dropped off, just in time for players like Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and a host of strong prospects.
Fans of the Hornets would be actively rooting against Minnesota every single game. If there’s a year for the Hornets to not win games, to have two cracks at the draft class, 2012 is the year to do it.
Whether the NBA approves the deal on Monday is yet to be seen, but the Clippers package is far more in line with Stern’s preferences when it comes to selling the team over the next few years.
The Clippers had approximately $3 million in cap space left on their books but with the Jordan offer sheet, they are considered over the cap.
(UPDATE: Clippers are NOT over the cap. Confirmation from Clipper sources (and after a lengthy debate/analysis with cap expert Larry Coon) indicate DJ’s cap hold is not impacted by the Golden State Warriors offer sheet. Clippers used some or all of that space to claim Chauncey Billups off Amnesty waivers on Monday).
The trick will be finding a center when available spending power is just $2.5 million, via the new Room Exception.
That wouldn’t seem to be enough for many of the available players like forward Kris Humphries (who isn’t a five but is a double-figure rebounder), Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith, Joel Przybilla, Kwame Brown, Reggie Evans, Kyrylo Fesenko, Ike Diogu, Hasheem Thabeet, DJ Mbenga or Josh McRoberts.
If inexpensive, perhaps the team looks to retain fan-favorite Craig Smith although he may be on the outside looking in.
Another item of concern is budget down the line given the team’s hope to sign Gordon to an extension. While it’s not clear how high LA is willing to go, the max appears to be nearly $13 million in the first year and about $57.5 million over four. That’s high for a guard and certainly the Clippers would give Eric a lucrative offer but to what extent is not yet clear.
The concern is avoiding luxury taxes next year given that Paul, Gordon (at say $9 million), Jordan, Griffin, Gomes and Williams would hit about $65 million. The Clippers would have the means to add more pieces but they clearly need to be careful how they flesh out the roster. A third big is vital but teams in general will do what they can to stay below the tax line.
If necessarily the Amnesty can be saved for a later date, perhaps for Williams if the team deems $8.5 million final year too high a cap number for a reserve. Of course they’d still have to pay him but such a move would relieve some of the pressure to remain under the threshold.
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