For one reason or another, superstars are switching uniforms today faster than lightning can strike the ground. Whether it’s from a trade or free agency, there are multiple free agents that have changed locations in the past few years. When this change happens, it’s an interesting situation. A player that has been with one team for most of their career suddenly gets moved to an entitely new situation. Their lives are changed, but how much does this really affect them? Do these superstars look as sharp in their new uniform as they did in their old one the year after, or is there an obvious decline? Could these superstars even perform better after a move?
Every situation is different, which is why it’s so interesting to look at each case in a different perspective. I looked at some of the biggest superstars who changed jerseys recently and how they were affected from the last year with their previous team and their first year with their current team.
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First up is the point guard messiah, Chris Paul. After spending six years in New Orleans with the Hornets, Chris Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, and a first-round pick in 2012. This was a trade that shook the infrastructure of the NBA, especially since David Stern denied a trade with Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers a week earlier. Let’s look at how Paul performed in his last season with the New Orleans Hornets.
In the 2010-2011 season with the Hornets, Paul played in 80 games and totalled 2,885 minutes over the season. He averaged 15.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 9.8 APG while shooting 46.3 percent from the field, 38.8 percent from deep and 87.8 percent from the free throw line. One of the most important things to note about Paul’s final season in New Orleans is the fact that he was recovering from knee surgery performed in February, 2010. Dr. James Andrews removed the lateral meniscus from Paul’s right knee because Andrews could not repair the meniscus. During that final season in New Orleans, CP3 produced 18.4 wins for the team, which was 41.7 percent of the team’s victories that year. In case you were curious, the Hornets finished 46-36 (third in Southwest Divison, seventh in Western Conference) with a first-round exit in the playoffs to the Los Angeles Lakers. After this season in New Orleans, it was clear that Chris Paul had done all he could for the team. This prompted the blockbuster trade to the Clippers, taking them from the laughingstock of the NBA to a perennial playoff team.
Chris Paul went from the mardi gras flavor of the Hornets to the blue and red of the Clippers. From a relatively small basketball market in New Orleans, CP3 was now at the front of the basketball world in Los Angeles. But it was more than just about location. Chris Paul was finally supported by a powerhouse surrounding class. He was the face of the franchise in New Orleans, he was responsible for every win, as much as every loss. With the Clippers, he was finally given the help that his supreme talent deserved. Besides David West, Chris Paul had been surrounded by players like David Andersen, Marco Belinelli, Willie Green, Trevor Ariza and an aging Peja Stojakovic. Solid players, no doubt, but no players that would raise any banners.
In Los Angeles, Chris Paul would form “Lob City” with athletic superfreaks Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan during the 2011-2012 season. Along with those two, CP3 would dish dimes to Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams and Nick Young, who was acquired late in the season. The change of scenery, along with improved sidekicks, proved to help Chris Paul throughout his first year with the Clippers. CP3 appeared in 60 games for the Clippers that season, leading them to a 40-26 (second in Pacific division, fifth in Western Conference) record in the lockout-shortened season.
While its obvious that the Clippers won more games in Paul’s first year with them, compared to his last year with New Orleans, there’s more behind it. Paul accounted for 36.8 percent of the Clippers wins in 2011-2012, down about five percent from his last season with the Hornets in 2010-2011. Along with this is the fact that the Clippers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs in 2011-2012, before being swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round. Chris Paul also played a total of 2,180 minutes for the Clippers in 2011-2012, down 705 minutes from his 2,885 total with the Hornets in 2010-2011. Paul’s scoring increased from 15.9 PPG to 19.8 PPG, but the rest of his statistics remained relatively the same. So here we see that Paul was able to take the Clippers farther in the playoffs during his first year with the team, even though he played substantially less minutes and accounted for less wins during the whole season. The uniform change affected Chris Paul in a positive way, with him being able to take his team farther in the playoffs without putting the pounding on his oft-injured knees that he did in his last season with New Orleans in 2010-2011.