Last season, the speculation surrounding where Carmelo Anthony would end up playing, when and if his contract expired, consumed the entire NBA.
It was clear that Anthony held the power, refusing to sign a contract extension with the Denver Nuggets, ultimately forcing them to trade him to a team of his choice.
By trading Anthony to his hometown New York Knicks, the Nuggets accommodated their star player with what he desired, and at the same time, made sure they received young talent and assets in return, rather than letting Anthony venture off to New York with nothing to show for it at the end of the season.
With that infamous toast from Anthony’s wedding (in which Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Paul and Anthony “joked” about joining forces in New York to form their own “Big Three”) constantly playing back in everyone’s minds, it’s only natural for rumors to swirl about the Knicks adding the third and final piece to their puzzle.
There’s no doubt that a talent of Paul’s magnitude craves to be celebrated in a big market like New York, just like Stat and ‘Melo. Lucky for him, the Big Apple has long awaited the next elite point guard to hit the hardwood at Madison Square Garden as a member of the Knicks.
Though desires to bring Paul to New York may be mutual, the newly agreed upon CBA makes reeling him in a bit more difficult than it was the last time around in the case of Anthony. That’s because the Hornets now have a certain advantage over the Knicks when it comes to obtaining (or retaining, in their case) Paul’s services.
Under the new CBA, the Hornets are allowed to offer a full season more on a potential contract than the Knicks. That would mean Paul could sign a contract worth approximately $100 million over a five-year period with his incumbent team, rather than signing a shorter and less lucrative deal elsewhere, worth approximately $74 million over a four-year period.
The question now becomes whether stars like Paul and/or Dwight Howard would rather stay with their current teams in order to cash in on a more lucrative contract, or if the bright lights of a big city are attractive enough to make a certain monetary sacrifice.
Of course, the advantage they have may give teams like the Hornets and Magic a leg up on the competition. That being said, money isn’t everything.
Whereas Howard may end up happily continuing to play for the competitive Magic, what about Paul?
The small-market Hornets—though the franchise has shown a tremendous amount of heart and passion through struggles like Hurricane Katrina that brought the team and community closer together—have not made strides to improve the team over the years, weakening their case to retain Paul.
In fact, the team’s next best player, big man David West, is not only coming off a season-ending knee injury, but is also seriously flirting with the free-agent market. Many insiders expect him to sign elsewhere for the upcoming season.
Should that become the case, who/what would Paul be left with, competitively speaking?
With things not too promising in New Orleans, why would he want to stay in town for another five years, should the team not be headed toward improvement? In this scenario, the ability to add an extra year to a contract does not appear as though it would work in the Hornets’ favor.
On the other hand, Paul may happily defect to the Big Apple (even if it were only for four initial years) to make the massive push toward a title with talents like Stat and ‘Melo. The rumored future Knicks trio is certainly a better-balanced combination in terms of different skills and talent than the “Big Three” currently residing in Miami.
If the money Paul would sacrifice is even the smallest bit of an issue, it’s plausible that the multi-time All-Star could easily make most, if not all, of that forgone money back via the various endorsement deals he would be able to snag as a superstar playing in one of sports’ biggest markets of all time.
Even if all signs point to Paul becoming a New York Knick, might the “when” and “if” become an issue?
After making the giant trade for Anthony last February, the Knicks no longer have a bevy of assets to offer New Orleans in a potential trade. What they do have that could possibly interest the Hornets, however, is Chauncey Billups, a five-time All-Star and former NBA Finals MVP, who will see his rather large contract expire after this season.
In addition, New York also has two young point guards in Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert to make any potential deal a bit sweeter.
Aside from having very few assets, the Knicks would likely be forced to renounce any existing Bird rights to players such as Douglas or Landry Fields, in order to ultimately make cap room for Paul.
While renouncing such rights may be an unfortunate sacrifice, the team has seemingly been building and making moves toward the future in an effort to eventually secure Paul (as well as Stat and ‘Melo, of course), so it appears to be a small price to pay in order to do so.
Even with the lack of assets, the tides having been turning in the Knicks’ favor to acquire Paul one way or another.
As fate would have it, fans may have to wait an entire season to finally see it happen this time, but the probability of Chris Paul donning orange and blue is undoubtedly gaining steam.
There’s certainly promising hope for a “Big Three” in New York.
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