Chris Paul Trade: Package from Clippers Does Not Justify NBA's Trade Block

David DeRyderCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2011

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 13:  Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets fights to keep the ball away from Eric Gordon #12 and Craig Smith #5 of the Los Angeles Clippers at the New Orleans Arena on January 13, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Hornets defeated the Clippers 108-94.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Finally, Chris Paul's paychecks will no longer be singed by the NBA.

By being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, he will be playing for a real owner (on second thought, does Donald Sterling qualify as a real owner?). The package the league-owned New Orleans received (Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota's 2012 first-round pick) was about as good as they could have received considering the circumstances.

Despite getting young building blocks in return for the best point guard in basketball, though, the NBA still mishandled the Chris Paul situation.

Personally, I think the this trade gives the Hornets a brighter future than the Lakers-Rockets deal would have. I believe that the goal is to win the championship. While landing Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic would have improved New Orleans' playoff odds this year, they would have never been a legitimate contender for the title any time in the near future.

(The notion that this trade makes the Hornets more attractive to potential buyers is erroneous. Yes, some buyers will want a team with a bright future and young cornerstones. However, as the league's history has shown, many owners want to "win now." How often have fringe playoff teams traded youth, draft picks and cap-room flexibility to ensure that their ceiling would be the second round of the playoffs?)

That said, there's much to like about what the Hornets got from the Clippers. Because Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade still fill up stats sheets, most observers do not realize that the NBA is currently in a shooting guard recession. Outside of the two top players at the position, there is not another undeniably great 2-guard in the league. Of all the non-Bryant or Wade players, Eric Gordon has the best chance to assume future ownership of the position.

The 2012 draft is expected to one of the strongest drafts in recent history. The Minnesota pick has immense value; however, it is unlikely that the Wolves be as bad this year as they were last. They have a deep, young roster which should be an advantage in the lockout shortened season. The pick is definitely a valuable asset, but it may get the Hornets less lottery balls than they expect.

Aminu is a question mark and his ceiling is still unknown. He could end up being a valuable contributor for the Hornets or a staple on their bench. Chris Kaman's expiring contract could land future pieces if he fails to play at the level of his all star year.

Considering the assets New Orleans received for Paul, it would be tempting to believe the NBA controlled the situation well. Their hard-line stance eventually caused the Clippers to relent and included both Gordon and Minnesota's draft pick. If the ends justified the means, the league would be redeemed.

Instead, the events leading up to the trade showed the NBA to be dishonest and lacking in transparency. Front offices around the league believed that Hornets general manager Dell Demps had the power to trade Paul. They got this idea because the league said that Demps was in charge of New Orleans. After he agreed to send Paul to the Lakers, though, the league decided that, on second thought, Demps did not have that authority.

As I said before, I think the trade with the Clippers is overall a better deal in terms of value than the proposed Lakers deal. I have no problem with the NBA trying to stock its franchise with young talent.

The problem is that the league did not express this wish at the beginning of the Paul frenzy. If Demps was given a specific directive (get young players and enter rebuilding mode), it is unlikely that he would have ever considered the Lakers proposal, so none of this drama was necessary.

Despite the NBA's disingenuous behavior, the Hornets ended up all right. The league deserves credit for getting Gordon and the first rounder, even though their leverage had significantly fallen when the Lakers lost interest. Chris Paul had to be traded. Had he been on the Hornets roster on opening day, the league would have been vulnerable to a law suit.

(I'm not a legal expert, and I have no idea if Paul would stand a chance in court. It certainly appears that the owners colluded to keep him from wearing a Lakers uniform. The trade was by all accounts fair considering the circumstances. There's no law that a player who wants to leave as a free agent must be traded—LeBron James was never the subject of trade talk during his last season in Cleveland. The league could have avoided an potential lawsuit by stating it would not trade Paul before or during the season.)

The Chris Paul fiasco, like the lockout, will quickly be forgotten by most fans. As soon as Blake Griffin throws down a perfect thrown alley-oop pass from his new point guard, all will be forgiven. It is a relief that the issue is resolved. Unfortunately, the NBA and David Stern exposed too much of their ugly side before the deal was completed.