Yesterday I wrote about the likely outcome of a long term Chris Paul injury . In this article (after hearing the same "severely sprained ankle" line from GM/Coach Jeff Bower) we will be examining what the Hornets' future holds when and if Paul returns in two weeks.
As of today, the Hornets' record stands at three wins and eight losses. I'm going to slot in Paul for returning on Dec. 4 to play the Timberwolves at home. He might be back for the Laker game in LA on Dec. 1, but I doubt that Bower will rush him back and I doubt that it would affect the result.
Here are the games and my predictions:
LAC- win (hopefully)
Bucks- loss (they have looked really good so far)
@ Sacramento- loss (we barely beat them at home with CP3)
So if they can win the games they are expected to, the Hornets' record will stand at 4-14 when Paul returns. That means to finish the season with the same record as last year (which was barely good enough to make the playoffs) the Hornets will have to finish 44-21.
That sounds pretty unlikely given the early struggles, coaching change, and overall quality of the team.
What's more likely is that the Hornets play somewhere around .500 for the rest of the season once Paul returns, leaving them about 36-46, not good enough to make the playoffs, and not bad enough to get an impact draft pick. Chris Paul makes them at least that good.
Not only that, but they are still expected to be over the luxury tax line this year and next, leaving them incapable of improving enough via trade or free agency to contend. It's an unfortunate situation.
Most times in this scenario a team would blow itself up and rebuild via the draft and free agency, but there's a big problem with that in New Orleans.
Chris Paul wants to win NOW. He won't be happy playing and losing 60 games this year, which is oddly enough best for the team. Paul will have a problem if Okafor is traded for spare parts, just like he did last year when the New Orleans brass tried to trade Tyson for nothing.
The last thing this franchise needs is for Chris Paul to question its desire to win or, heaven forbid, demand a trade.
It may seem weird to those of us in New Orleans, but fans around the league are already anticipating CP3 opting out of his deal in 2012 and heading to a superpower team. The Hornets need to make sure that the team they put out there next year and the year after is one of the elite teams in the league or they could find themselves losing Paul.
The position that our GM has put himself in is unfortunate, but he's really only left himself one option. He needs to blow the team up and explain to Chris that it's for the best.
If he can include Paul in the decision making process, then we should see Paul use his contacts to our advantage in the offseason. You know Paul wants to win and one way to do that is to trade Okafor and trade/buy out Peja's deal at the end of the season, leaving us with enough cap room to sign a few big names.
If they stand pat will have an average team with no cap room heading into 2010, a summer in which superpowers (any combo of LeBron, Bosh, Wade, Amare) will be formed. You know that Paul wants to be on one of those teams, be it in New Orleans or somewhere else.
Otherwise the only real way the Hornets can drastically improve is by tradings expiring contracts for better players in before the deadline in february 2011. That's a long time to be mediocre when you have the leagues best point guard.