Chris Paul said on Twitter today that he wants to represent the Hornets and New Orleans for years. While Paul said that immediately after his meeting with the Hornets’ brass, his frustration with the team is clearly growing, and I think his comments recently have set the wheels in motion for him being traded. Paul is arguably a top-five player in the League, and although loved by teammates and fans alike, New Orleans would be smart to trade the face of their franchise.
As you could imagine, the move would be incredibly unpopular. “I think trading a star is always a terrible idea because you can never get equal value,” says Sarah Tolcser of HornetsHype.com. “I have yet to see a trade I would say yes to. They’re all junk. This is a top-five star we’re talking about, and if teams want to send their expiring scrubs, I doubt the Hornets will give them a callback.”
However, despite the backlash that would result from a trade, moving CP3 (for the right package of players) is something that needs to be done for the long-term prospects of the franchise. Here are the reasons why the Hornets need to pull the trigger on a deal:
1. Having Paul around will damage chemistry and undermine new coach Monty Williams
Paul is one of the fiercest competitors in the NBA, and it is his unrelenting will to win that is at the root of his desire to be traded to a contender. With Paul making headlines about his request, and clearly doing nothing substantive to show he wants to stick around any longer, it does not bode well for the collective psyche of the team. If your star player doesn’t want to be there, it has a trickledown effect into the locker room. As a Nets fan, I had to suffer through Jason Kidd‘s trade requests which sabotaged our 2007-08 season, and the Hornets will suffer the same fate. Also, with a new coach on hand – especially a first-time head coach – Paul’s lack of interest in playing for the Hornets will undermine Monty Williams and damage the credibility and authority he looks to build in the locker room. While I suspect that if Paul sticks around in N.O. he will play his hardest when on the floor, but for a young team with a young coach, having a disgruntled star around is not an ideal situation.
2. The Hornets can’t win with their current roster, even with Paul
This incarnation of the Hornets roster peaked in 2008 with their Western Conference Semifinals loss to the Spurs. That team was on a mission, playing their first full season in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and had young, healthy players who played with energy that could match Paul’s. While many of the players on today’s roster are the same from that season, their abilities on the court have significantly declined. David West appears overmatched as a number two option, Peja Stojakovic‘s body is falling apart more by the day and Julian Wright has yet to prove he can do anything other than leap. Add that to Emeka Okafor and an aging James Posey and you have a very meek supporting cast. While Marcus Thornton and Darren Collison have emerged as guys that can play, their presence can only get the Hornets so far (i.e. maybe sneak into the playoffs as the eight seed). This team has no chance at an NBA title and Paul knows it, and winning matters so much to him that this roster won’t cut it anymore.
3. The ownership limbo limits the Hornets’ potential for moves
George Shinn is notoriously one of the worst owners in professional sports. He single-handedly destroyed the Hornets’ tenure in Charlotte, and has a reputation for being cheap and hard to deal with. Shinn is trying to sell the team, but complications with his sale to oil magnate Gary Chouest limit the front-office’s ability to make moves. With the ownership situation in limbo, and Shinn trying to keep costs low to better his chances at getting the sale done the Hornets can’t bring in salary (meaning they can’t get the star players Paul wants). Evidence of the crippling effect that Shinn’s current status has on the team is his reneging on a deal the team had with Luther Head. The team says Head failed a physical, but multiple sources have reported that was a cop-out so the Hornets didn’t have to add his salary.
4. Paul’s value will never be higher
Paul is 25 years old, and entering the prime of his career. He also happens to be healthy at this time, which is something the star has struggled with during his career. Paul is very small, and always goes at full-speed, so there is a decent chance of injury if the Hornets decide to keep him. Many times you can never get equal value for a player of Paul’s skills, but in this case most NBA teams will be willing to develop a package of any type to get Paul. I can realistically see the Hornets getting two first-rounders, an up-and-coming young player (i.e. Jerryd Bayless or Jameer Nelson), and a solid starter for Paul. With the Hornets being unable to meet his demands for a championship team, they should hoard assets that help them for the future, which brings me to my next point…
5. The Hornets can’t realistically compete in the Western Conference for the next three years
Not only can’t the Hornets compete this season in the West, but they won’t be able to compete for the next few seasons either. Sure, the Hornets can get in to the playoffs as a low-seed and have an unceremonious first-round exit like they had against the Nuggets in 2009, but is that what you want as an NBA team? The Lakers are still top-dog in the West, the Thunder, and Blazers are young teams on the rise, and teams like Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, and Denver are way ahead of the Hornets in talent and resources. With their current roster, and inability to bring in high caliber stars, the Hornets will remain on the periphery of Western Conference playoff contention for the next couple of seasons.
6. They have Darren Collison
Obviously, Collison is not Chris Paul but he has the makings of a very good NBA point guard. He was very impressive when he had to fill in for Paul last year, and is an excellent defender with quickness like Paul. Collison needs to be an NBA starter to maximize his potential, last year he proved that. Having Collison play 10-15 minutes a game backing up Paul would be a waste of his talents, and I’m sure the Hornets know that. Maybe the Hornets can try playing both together but I don’t see that combination working too well. The Hornets could trade Collison but it likely would only net them another promising young player, which wouldn’t be nearly enough to satisfy CP3’s demands.
7. Trading Paul means getting rid of Emeka Okafor
I still don’t understand why the Hornets traded for Okafor last year. Tyson Chandler was a better fit for them, and for less money. Now the Hornets are stuck with Okafor’s massive contract (four years and $52 million), and a player who appears to have reached his maximum potential in this league. By trading Paul, the Hornets can force another team to take on Okafor’s contract (some teams may be willing to do so, as he is a player who can help winning teams), and gives the team more flexibility moving forward.
What do you think? Should the Hornets trade Chris Paul?
Follow Daniel on Twitter at @dgm591.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.