As if the summer of 2010 couldn’t have gotten any more interesting for big name NBA players, last week marked what could be the end of another superstars tenure with the team that drafted him. What had been whispers all summer long of Chris Paul wanting to be traded became full-fledged yelling as multiple reports stated Paul had asked to be traded and had given a list of teams that he wanted to go to.
While the Hornets have been generally dismissive of the claims and no word has officially come from Paul, the fact that both sides are meeting today is telling. New Orleans will be trying to pitch to CP3 that they have a plan to build a contender, while Paul is expected to officially request a trade.
The Hornets undoubtedly know that they have the upper-hand here, with Paul under contract for two more seasons before he can opt out, so they are not obligated to trade him now, or even to trade him to one of his preferred destinations should they decide to move him.
However, the general consensus is that whether it is this summer or next trade deadline, Paul is most likely going to be traded. So what teams have the best shot at landing him? Let’s take a look at the three squads most likely to make a move for CP3.
Portland Trailblazers –
After trading away a chance at drafting Paul in 2005, the Blazers are one of the primary contenders to make a move for him this time around. Portland has an advantage over a lot of teams that will be chasing CP3 because they have a lot of young talent to entice the Hornets with. A package centered around Jerryd Bayless and Nicolas Batum with a couple of draft picks and maybe a disgruntled Rudy Fernandez thrown in there, could be enough for New Orleans to consider shipping Paul to the Northwest.
There is one major drawback to this trade however, and that is the Blazers happen to reside in the same conference as the Hornets. If we’ve learned anything in the past with superstars being traded, it’s that teams tend to want to trade them out of conference. A couple of years ago the Lakers didn’t want to ship Shaq to Dallas because he would still be in the West, and the Lakers would have to deal with him four times a year (although I bet they’d love that now). Same goes for the Hornets, they don’t want to see Paul four times a season, and would prefer to ship him to the East and only have to deal with him twice a year.
Lastly, something that could stop the Hornets in a potential deal with the Blazers is that they will be turning Portland into a contender while only receiving back what is likely to be young, unproven talent. If New Orleans is going to trade away their franchise player to a conference rival, they most likely will want back some kind of proven veteran who can sell tickets, and the only player Portland has that could do that (Brandon Roy), is not only untouchable, but the main reason the Blazers want to get Paul, so that they can form one of the best back-courts in the NBA.
New York Knicks –
Depending on what report you want to believe, the Knicks are the team that Paul prefers to be traded to the most. However the likelihood of a trade to New York happening depends on how you view certain players on the Knicks roster. New York believes they have some great young talent and that they can build a package of potential stars to send to New Orleans in return for Paul. However as noted above, that may not be enough to convince the Hornets to ship out CP3.
Any package the Knicks send to the Hornets would most likely have to be built around newly-acquired Anthony Randolph. Randolph has as much star potential as any young player in the league, and with ample minutes should prove that. The Hornets will almost certainly want Randolph in any CP3 deal, and that would only be the beginning. A package of Randolph, Wilson Chandler, Eddy Curry’s expiring contract (finally!) and a first-rounder or two would probably be enough for the Hornets to pull the trigger on a deal.
For the Knicks, such a trade would be the first move in trying to build their own Big Three to match Miami’s. If anything, a pick and roll duo of Amar’e Stoudemire and CP3 would be one hell of a show to watch on a nightly basis. With cap space to get a max player next season, the Knicks are under a lot of pressure to make a move before then to convince a max player (Carmelo Anthony anyone?) to come to New York, and getting Paul to Madison Square Garden would be a great step in that direction.
Orlando Magic –
Orlando is the one team in this whole situation who could make a play for Paul and not significantly deplete the talent they already have. They are also a team that could potentially become an instant title-favorite by making the move for CP3. Orlando is probably the most likely team to make a serious play for Paul, because they have the most impact-ready talent to send to New Orleans, meaning while the Hornets would lose their best player, they could upgrade other positions on their depleted roster.
The biggest advantage the Magic has however is the ability to not only take CP3, but to allow the Hornets to unload Emeka Okafor and his high-priced, cap-crippling contract. If Orlando offered the Hornets a deal of Jameer Nelson, Marcin Gortat and Vince Carter for CP3 and Emeka Okafor, could New Orleans turn that down? New Orleans would get a solid center, a scoring point guard who could do most of what CP3 does, and a wild-card in the enigma that is Vince Carter. While the Hornets would most likely end up cutting or trading Carter instead of dealing with his sulking, they’d be able to get rid of Okafor’s contract and get solid talent back.
The flipside of this trade is that Orlando instantly becomes a top three team in the NBA (if they aren’t already) and becomes the biggest challenge to the South Beach N.W.O in Miami. A starting line-up that features the best center in the league and arguably the best point guard in the league, which also happen to be Miami’s two weakest positions, is a line-up that has to be feared. And if a Dwight Howard – Emeka Okafor- Rashard Lewis – Mikael Pietrus – Chris Paul starting line-up isn’t enough to beat Miami, at least we’ll get to see CP3 throwing lobs to Howard every night for 82 games and the playoffs.
At the end of the day, the Hornets are in complete control in this situation. They could tell CP3 they aren’t going to trade him and he’s going to have to suck it up since he’s under contract, or they can thank him for what he’s done for the franchise and trade him. One thing that is for sure is that this isn’t the last we’ve heard of the Chris Paul trade demands, and should the Hornets decide not to trade him this summer, it is definitely a story we will be hearing about all season long.
Belal Abdelfattah comes from a long background in sports writing at the Sports Authority Blog and The Block Radio. You can check out his weekly radio show OSD Radio at http://tinyurl.com/OSDRadio or follow Belal on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/belal_a