New Orleans Hornets management and coaches are going to try to keep Chris Paul happy all year long, and hope he stays with the team.
While both sides are doing and saying all the right things to bury the rumors now, I don't think this is a dead issue.
The Hornets looked solid last night against a tough Milwaukee Bucks team, and Chris Paul was sensational as usual with 17 points and 16 assists.
However, they can't just be solid if they want Paul to stick around for the long haul. He's made it clear he wants to be on a team that can contend for an NBA title. Right now, New Orleans doesn't have the pieces in place to do that.
If Chris Paul plays the entire season in The Big Easy, I would see them finishing anywhere from sixth to 10th in the Western Conference. If they're struggling to just be a part of the playoff picture, Paul may begin to put pressure on the organization and be out before the trade deadline.
They've already made a precautionary move in anticipation of Paul's possible exodus. Bringing Jerryd Bayless from the Portland Trail Blazers gives them a solid safety net, if CP3 decides to buzz off.
Here are some teams I think he could end up on...
Can you imagine these two playing together on a regular basis?
New Orleans Gets: Andrew Bynum and draft picks
Los Angeles Get: Chris Paul
Chris Paul doesn't necessarily fit into Phil Jackson's system, but this will be the final year that Phil coaches and something tells me he could make it work.
Los Angeles would have, without a doubt, the best backcourt in the NBA. Chris Paul would take a lot of pressure off Kobe Bryant and would get guys like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom lots of wide open looks at the rim.
The Lakers would hate to lose Andrew Bynum. He has a great combination of size, talent and youth. His lack of durability is what may make him movable.
The Hornets would be taking a bit of a risk for that same reason. However, if Bynum could stay healthy, he and Jerryd Bayless and Trevor Ariza would be a solid, young core to build around.
If New Orleans insisted on Los Angeles taking on Emeka Okafor and his big contract, the deal could be dead. However, if both sides wanted it bad enough, LA could throw in Lamar Odom or the combination of Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic.
Davis began his career with the Hornets and would keep the fans happy.
New Orleans Gets: Baron Davis, Eric Gordon and draft picks
Los Angeles Gets: Chris Paul
This is probably the most exciting possibility in my mind. Think about how tough it would be to cover a pick-and-roll involving Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Griffin alone gives Clipper fans reason to be excited. Pair him with CP3 and you may already have a playoff team.
Los Angeles would almost certainly have to give up its exciting, young shooting guard Eric Gordon, in addition to veteran point guard Baron Davis.
You may think taking on Davis's contract at this stage in his career is a bad investment. However, I think he could be re-energized in New Orleans and he wouldn't be its point guard of the future anyway. Bayless will have that distinction if Paul leaves.
Eric Gordon would be a great addition for New Orleans, but the Hornets may hesitate to pull the trigger since they already have a similar player in Marcus Thornton.
As is the case with all these trades, their likelihood of becoming a reality is contingent upon how bad Paul wants out.
Another thing to think about with this scenario is the possibility of acquiring Carmelo Anthony in a sign-and-trade for Chris Kaman and draft picks next offseason.
A trio of Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Blake Griffin would challenge the Lakers for LA supremacy.
Amare would love to play alongside another great playmaker
New Orleans Gets: Toney Douglas, Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry's expiring contract and a draft pick
New York Gets: Chris Paul
Mike D'Antoni wants an elite playmaking point guard like Steve Nash to run his offense. With Raymond Felton, they have a solid one.
Chris Paul would elevate this offense to great heights. They could be more explosive than the Suns ever were. Paul doesn't shoot as well as Nash, but he's quicker and possibly even a better passer.
Amar'e Stoudemire would get countless open dunks and Danilo Gallinari and other wings would have plenty of open three-pointers.
What could hold this deal up is New Orleans insisting on getting Gallinari as a part of the deal. New York doesn't want to lose its young, Italian forward. If it means getting Chris Paul, they might have to.
Rodrigue Beaubois is one of the most exciting young guards in the NBA
New Orleans Gets: Rodrigue Beaubois, Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler
Dallas Gets: Chris Paul and Emeka Okafor
The Dallas Mavericks have one of the most exciting, young point guards in the league. The 6'0" Frenchman Rodrigue Beaubois is part of a talented class of guards from last year's draft, and is the current face of Dallas's future.
Last season, he average 20.4 points, 3.8 assists and 4 rebounds per 36 minutes of playing time. He can score inside and out as he shot 52 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point range.
Of all the possibilities I've detailed in this article, this is the best for New Orleans. Butler and Chandler are both solid, but Beaubois has the potential to be a superstar.
Would Dallas trade away their future in order to turn the clock on their title hopes back a year or two? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on where these teams are as the season progresses.
Can this team contend for a title?
All of these teams seem like reasonable destinations for Chris Paul. However, right now the odds may be in favor of New Orleans keeping Chris Paul.
Hornets management may decide that no team can offer enough assets for one of the league's top point guards.
If Chris Paul wants to compete for a title within the next couple years though, he'll need to be on a different team.