Why 2013 Will Prove the New Orleans Hornets Won the Chris Paul Trade
The year was 2011. A year spent arguing the merits of health care, immigration reform and Friday Night Lights.
Little went right for them, and that is putting it mildly.
On the other hand, Paul turned the Clippers into a sexy pick to make the playoffs which they eventually did with somewhat promising results.
The season ended with Paul and his Clips being eliminated in four games by the San Antonio Spurs, and the Hornets sitting squarely in the Draft Lottery.
But within a month, all has changed.
The Hornets were awarded the No. 1 overall pick and paired with their second lottery pick at number 10 that they secured in the Paul deal; they had the ammunition to start to rebuild.
Exploring the deal
I don't need to get into the issues surrounding that trade but will rather point out that it was squashed by the league.
Regardless, the Clippers decided to find a way to keep Paul moving to Los Angeles and put together a package of Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon and a first-round pick for Paul and a couple of future second-round picks.
Originally, this seemed like an incredibly one-sided deal.
Paul is perhaps the best point guard in the league and is ranked no less than third on even the most ardent anti-Paul lists.
Aminu is a physically talented swingman that projects as somewhat of a 'tweener and is struggling to find his place in this league.
Kaman has battled injuries for years and is showing signs of slowing down considerably.
The centerpiece of the deal for New Orleans was Gordon, a high-scoring albeit undersized shooting guard.
That being said, Gordon battled injuries this year and is a restricted free agent.
About a month ago, it appeared that this one saving grace would probably walk, leaving the Clippers holding very little to show for Paul.
What a difference a month makes
Then, of course, the Hornets won the Draft Lottery and the right to draft Anthony Davis, which they did.
Davis gives the team an identity right off the bat and has a lot of room to grow, both physically and game-wise.
He projects as a potential Alonzo Mourning type of player.
Aminu, though not a stellar player by any stretch, still is intriguing because of his length and freakish wingspan, not to mention the fact that he is incredibly young and cheap. His rookie contract is only worth under three million dollars this year, and he has a team option for the next year.
This means that at the very worst, he can come off the books after this season if the team wants, or he can be packaged in a deal at any time.
Kaman is a free agent and will probably not return—meaning the Hornets now have an additional $14 million coming off of their books, giving them close to $20 million in cap space.
Add to this the draft pick that turned out to be the very talented Austin Rivers, and suddenly this team looks like an up-and-comer.
These moves might even be enough to keep Gordon around, giving the Hornets the option of grooming Rivers as a point guard or having one of the two become a super-sub.
Compare this with the Clippers.
Paul loves playing for them, but he also will be a free agent after this year.
They have a nice young forward in Blake Griffin and a talented, albeit overpaid, center in DeAndre Jordan.
Besides that, they really don't have a lot of talent on their roster.
In fact, as of right now they only have nine players under contract, and this includes team and player options.
In a month, that number could be seven.
Sure, the prospect of playing with Paul could lure a free agent or two, but what if he doesn't sign an extension? Can you really reassure a free agent that they want to play with your squad if the team's leader isn't guaranteed to be around for more than a year?
By the end of 2013, we will be saying definitively that the Hornets won this deal.
Paul likely will be moving on, while Gordon, Rivers and Davis will be forming one of the league's better trios—and two of those three players came from the Clippers.
This is yet another reason that fans need to take the long view when viewing trades.
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