Chris Paul's stay in New Orleans has been a memorable one, but it's safe to say that this is going to be his final season with the Hornets. After six seasons with the team, it is now time for the Hornets to rebuild and Chris Paul to become a part of a championship contender.
Plenty of teams could look to bring Paul into their sights as soon as the lockout ends, but it is unclear if New Orleans will make a play to keep the point guard. To avoid coming out empty-handed and left without a building block, the Hornets franchise must make a move and secure a future.
So just what does CP3 bring to the table?
Paul has the best point guard skill-set currently in the NBA. He is the total package with the ability to be an asset on both ends of the floor. While being arguably the best distributor in the game, Paul also surrounds his attack with a nice jumpshot and scoring tactics.
He is skilled offensively, but he matches that hand-in-hand on with his defensive efforts. Paul is always a threat to lead the NBA in steals and is a lock-down defender who can stay with any point guard around. He has the records for most consecutive games with a steal at 108 and also threatens to lead the league in takeaways every year.
At just 26 years old, Paul is just reaching his prime years and is already on his way to a Hall of Fame career. That being said, let's take a look at some players that would mesh well with CP3.
Throughout Kobe Bryant's five championship runs, the one thing he has never played with is a great point guard. Being so late in his career, Kobe could really use some backcourt help to take some pressure off his shoulders.
Undoubtedly, Bryant is one of the best scorers in NBA history, averaging 25.4 points a game for his career. Playing with Derek Fisher for the majority of his time, Kobe never had a point guard with an uncanny ability to create offense for the team.
Paul is a guy who can come in and average double-digit assists immediately with the Lakers' supporting cast. With Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum as secondary options, it would be hard not to find ways to involve everyone on the team.
While Kobe has always had a knack for creating his own shots, having Paul handle the distribution duties could help prolong his impressive career. Bryant has a pure shooter's touch and would benefit from having off-ball plays set up for him as a change of pace.
Kobe doesn't have many years left to be a complete star in the NBA, but acquiring Paul would help give the Lakers a piece to build on after No. 24 is done.
Whether it's playing for the best scorer in the last decade in Kobe Bryant or the best now in Kevin Durant, it's clear that Chris Paul would be a great asset to surround them with.
Durant is a crafty scorer with the ability to either blow by you or rise up for a jumpshot with his lengthy frame. He's still progressing as an overall player, but could use a true point guard surrounding him to bring out his true potential.
Russell Westbrook is one of the better players currently at the point guard position, but it's apparent that he needs to be a scoring option for his team to be most effective. During the NBA Western Conference Finals it seemed that Westbrook was unsuccessfully trying to take over late in games. He has the ability to do so, but taking the ball away from Durant is not the best thing for Oklahoma City.
While being just 22 years old, Westbrook has the time to develop the skills to make him a true point guard and help the Thunder compete for a title. With either him or Paul complementing Durant, I'd actually consider them Western Conference favorites.
Paul would bring a defensive intensity that the Thunder seemed to lack in 2010-11, and also help progress the growing Sege Ibaka as an inside presence.
Durant and Paul both run the floor well with fast-break opportunities, but can also thrive in a half court set as well. When Durant has a rare off game, Paul is an excellent scorer who can take over games if needed.
A simple Westbrook-Paul swap is always possible if Westbrook doesn't work out in Oklahoma City, but that's unlikely for now. The Thunder are a young team with one great playoff run already under their belts. Giving up on a young duo that consists of two potential Hall of Fame players is absurd, but both stars could be destined to lead their own teams.
If this is the case, Paul is a perfect fit to help the Thunder mold together.
Blake Griffin will be the best power forward in the NBA in the next three years. Keeping him along side a valid scorer in Eric Gordon and putting him with a great point guard could make the Los Angeles Clippers a championship contender.
While Griffin has shown some pure athletic ability and the talent to throw down on innocent defenders, he has a long way to go before he reaches his true potential. He must develop a reliable jumper and become more than a dunking threat to be a versatile option.
Given the fact that Griffin just completed his rookie season you can bet that he will be a top five player eventually. He averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 points a contest in the midst of looking like a veteran against his competition.
However, Chris Paul could help Griffin become even better.
To say the least, Paul helped lead a sub-par supporting cast to the NBA playoffs multiple times in New Orleans. If anything, that proves just how good he can make his teammates.
With Griffin's athletic premises, it's great to imagine the type of exciting plays these two could put up together. Whether it's a pick-and-roll or an alley-oop, you could expect plenty of highlight plays for years to come.
Based on Paul's excellent court vision, Griffin would get many looks and touches wherever he decides to set up. If he improves his skill-set, look for him to average 30 points a game while Paul leads the NBA in assists.
The Clippers seem like a long shot at this point, but with Donald Sterling running things you never know what to expect. He hasn't screwed up yet with the duo of Gordon and Griffin, so maybe this is a turning point for Clipper basketball.
Could we be seeing a change for the best basketball team in Los Angeles?
The NBA's best center meets the best point guard. It's a combination that is rarely seen in modern basketball, but if put together properly can be a force to be reckoned with.
While Jameer Nelson has been a pivotal member of a competitive Magic team, he's not a player that can bring out the best in Howard. Nelson is a valuable scorer who has nice range, but his inability to create offense for a team has really hampered Orlando's shot at winning.
On the other hand, Chris Paul is a premiere pass-first guard in the NBA and could feed Howard inside virtually anytime. In his short stint in the league, Paul has helped make big men look extremely useful in his time in New Orleans.
Last season Howard averaged a career high 22.9 points a game on just 13.4 attempts a game. While he is an easy target to hack and put on the line, he rarely gets plays set up for him to show his improved arsenal.
The combination of Howard and Paul would satisfy the needs that both players have when it comes to building a team: help and a bright future.
Many have already declared this the last year Howard will play in Orlando, but putting Paul in a Magic uniform could be a key factor.
It's likely that the Magic will use their gifted amnesty clause to rid themselves of Gilbert Arenas' atrocious in turn freeing up room for a move. While Orlando doesn't have many players worthy of being considered trade bait, it would be a hard concept to think of a worthy trade.
However, a tough defensive duo with the ability to work a team-based offense could keep Howard in Orlando for a promising future.
The New York Knicks already have a duo that can contend in the Eastern Conference and it's crazy to think of the effect that a superstar point guard would have.
Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire played less than a half a season together last year and it already looks like they have the offensive swagger to destroy opponents. While that sounds nice, the fact is they still lack defensively.
You can't stress the talent level of Paul when it comes to defense, and he could be exactly what is needed to jump-start a complete Knicks team. New York must put a defensive core around their two current stars, but a complete point guard who can both handle the ball and force turnovers would once again make this a high-scoring team.
New York is likely going to make a "big three" eventually, and it could happen with either a trade for Paul or a signing in the offseason. Anthony has publicly stated that he is interested in bringing CP3 to NYC, but it will be a hard task to get him.
Signing Chauncey Billups to such a large contract after an early playoff sweep could provide the blessing needed to land Paul. Billups would free up a mass amount of cap space for New Orleans after the season is over based on his expiring contract, and would give the Hornets the room needed to bring in a potential star in a stellar free agent class.
Could this trio be better than the current group in South Beach?
If they mesh well together, we could easily see these teams eventually meet in the Eastern Conference Finals to decide.
Amare, Anthony and Paul could easily be the most reckoned force in the NBA along with winning championships together. If surrounded with a few pure shooters and a solid defensive cast, New York basketball could once again be relevant.