NBA AM: Warriors Must Get Paul At All Costs
Let’s be totally clear from the start. In a completely perfect NBA landscape the New Orleans would never entertain a trade offer for their franchise cornerstone Chris Paul while he’s still enjoying his prime years.
But as we all know the landscape is far from perfect.
So as it stands now it’s not a question of if the Hornets will trade Paul, who can opt out of his contract at the end of the season, it’s only a matter of when the deal will transpire.
Paul will be traded.
From New Orleans’ perspective the Golden State Warriors are the frontrunners in the Paul sweepstakes, followed by the Los Angeles Clippers with the Houston Rockets currently sitting at a distant third. The New York Knicks, long rumored to be Paul’s preferred destination, doesn’t have the pieces need to be a player at this time.
The Hornets want a package that includes emerging guard Stephen Curry, power forward Ekpe Udoh and rookie guard Klay Thompson from the Warriors. This is their ideal scenario.
The Clippers are reportedly offering a package which includes Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe, Chris Kaman and two first round draft picks (includes the coveted Minnesota pick).
High scoring shooting guard Eric Gordon has not been included in the Clippers’ package for Paul and according to our sources isn’t expected to be. There have been some reports of potentially including restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan in the swap for Paul, but the center would have to agree to be dealt to New Orleans.
The Hornets want the Warriors package as its first preference. The reason is simple; the deal would provide plenty of future flexibility.
The Hornets, currently owned by the league, are expected to be sold to a new investor at some point in the season.
Shipping Paul to Golden State for Curry, Udoh and Thompson sends out $16 million in salary and returns back only $9 million. More importantly it would give the Hornets more than $20 million in cap room this season, three promising young players and zero long term salary exposures with all three of those guys still playing on rookie deals. The Hornets would essentially be free to reconstruct the roster as they saw fit with little to no restrictions.
But the question is will the Golden State Warriors dare to be great and pull off a franchise changing move?
The Warriors are hesitating to pull the trigger on the deal for two reasons. First, the organization loves Curry and doesn’t want to part ways with the guard who is undoubtedly oozing potential and secondly there is no guarantee Paul would re-sign with the Warriors after the season.
Two valid points to be sure, but all throughout NBA history great teams have taken the necessary risks to change their fortunes.
The Los Angeles Lakers traded a well respected big man in Vlade Divac for an unknown straight from high school prospect now certified Hall of Famer named Kobe Bryant in 1996. Bryant has helped the franchise to five championships during his career.
The Boston Celtics took the risk and sent plenty of prospects to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett in 2007. Garnett has since led the Celtics to two finals appearances since arriving in Boston and one title (2008).
Last season, the New York Knicks dealt a plethora of talent to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. Not surprisingly the arrival of Anthony helped secure the Knicks their first playoff appearance since 2004 last season.
As currently constructed the Warriors are likely a 7-8 seed in the Western Conference at best, so now the stage is set for Golden State to take the risk in trading for Paul which would position the franchise to enter the ranks of the league’s elite.
The Warriors were purchased for a record $450 million in 2010 by former Boston Celtics minority partner Joe Lacob and Mandalay Entertainment CEO Peter Guber.
From the beginning, the new ownership group has promised the Warriors faithful that they would be ‘aggressive and assertive’ in their efforts to turn the team into a perennial contender.
New head coach Mark Jackson has reiterated the same message, arriving on the scene promising a playoff berth in 2012 from the first day he was hired.
In Paul the Warriors would obtain the league’s best point guard without peer, excluding no one – a true franchise fortune changer.
Even if Paul decided to bolt in free agency the team would still have the ability to flip his rights in a sign and trade deal to bring in more talent and/or draft picks. It would also send a message throughout the league that Golden State wasn’t just playing lip service with their talks of creating a winning environment.
The Warriors are also pursuing center Tyson Chandler in free agency and you must remember that Chandler had two of his best seasons as a professional in New Orleans with Paul running the show.
If the Warriors decide to include Curry and make the Paul trade there are rumors the team would then be interested in sending shooting guard Monta Ellis to Orlando in exchange for Jason Richardson in a sign and trade deal.
Golden State’s front office loves Richardson and would welcome his return to the franchise. On the other side, Orlando is desperately trying to keep Dwight Howard happy by acquiring additional talent.
If the Warriors pulled off these moves their starting five would look like this:
C: Tyson Chandler
PF: David Lee
SF: Dorrell Wright
SG: Jason Richardson
PG: Chris Paul
This squad would be contenders in the Western Conference as some of the usual top teams enter the season with plenty of question marks.
The Los Angeles Lakers have a new coach and will be implementing a new offensive system; the defending champion Dallas Mavericks haven’t shown much interest in paying the dollars needed to reassemble their 2011 squad, Denver’s roster is in disarray and San Antonio is another year removed from their prime.
Quiet as kept the bay area boasts the fifth largest media market in the United States and a very passionate fan base. With an ownership group willing and able to spend for talent would it be enough to convince Paul to stay long term?
Not sure, but if you’re the Golden State Warriors you must pull the trigger for the guy that can take your organization to the next level.
Hornets Reach 10,000 Season Ticket Mark: For only the second time since the franchise relocated to New Orleans in 2002 the Hornets have sold 10,000 season tickets before the start of the season.
Despite the rampant Paul trade rumors, ownership question marks and unsteady economic climate the interest in the Hornets is continuing to grow.
Hornets team president Hugh Weber believes home games this season will become one of the hottest tickets in town and scarcity will be an issue.
“What we’re trying to do is change the dialogue,” Weber told Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune. “The last time we were in this position, when we were at 10,800 (in 2008-09) — and we will keep selling — when we get to that point, scarcity becomes a legitimate issue. We have people who are calling us who are going to be upset because they can’t go to premier games that they might want to attend because our inventory is all gone. We want to get people thinking about that. We’re getting people who are renewing now because they know (the schedule). They know that Boston will be Dec. 28, the Lakers are coming.”
With Paul’s departure expected Weber believes fans of the franchise made the choice to support the team regardless of who was on the roster, because the team means so much to the city itself.
“Even if they didn’t know who was on the team, the fact that the team made a statement that we were committed, we were ‘in’ for New Orleans, that’s what people attach themselves to”, Weber continued. “Not a face of the organization. Not an owner. It was all about, ‘There’s a higher purpose here.’ That’s really the moral of the story in terms of if you were to look back and say, what really happened. The people of New Orleans said, ‘This is really important to us.’ ”
NBA Chats: There are two chats on the schedule today. Joel Brigham is set to run the point at 1:30PM EST. Joel covers the Chicago Bulls and Eastern Conference. Be sure to get your questions in early. Next, HOOPSWORLD’s publisher Steve Kyler will host his chat at 3:30PM EST. Steve has the latest news regarding free agency, trade rumors and offseason buzz. Submit your question here. You can always find the upcoming chats here.