First off let me say that I don't believe basketball is actually dying in New Orleans, but right now the team looks like trash and their future is nowhere near as bright as it was two summers ago. A Paul injury would be a blessing in disguise for an organization in need of help.
Off court the Hornets have been making money for a few years now and the franchise really isn't in the dire straits that the sensationalist media makes it out to be.
On the court is a whole different story. Early results on the Chandler for Okafor swap pretty much shows two losers. Don't get me wrong, Okafor is a better player than Chandler, but he doesn't seem to be meshing with the Hornets roster.
So how does this all relate to Paul being injured?
Let's say that Paul had to miss the entire year due to an injury that would have no lingering effects next season. An injury that many Hornets fans thought they watched last Friday night when he landed awkwardly on a Blazer foot.
Here's how it would play out:
First off Okafor would be dealt for either expiring contracts, young wings, or a combo.
The young guys would start playing tons of minutes. They have struggled with developing talent in the past and judging by GM Jeff Bowers decision to play them a combined 60 minutes in his first game I think he would agree that more playing time helps young players develop.
The season wouldn’t be pretty, but they would get better and more importantly they would wind up with a top three pick. Let's face it. A Paul-less, Okafor-less Hornets team won't win more than 20 games even if things go well.
The fan base will of course shrink slightly, but most will understand. The 10,000 plus season ticket holders paid in full anyway.
As the trading deadline nears there will certainly be a team interested in adding a James Posey, Darius Songaila, or Morris Peterson, especially if they throw some cash their way. The Bees will literally be swimming in it if Okafor can be dealt.
Let's assume that they dangle James "Rabbit Foot" Posey in front of a contender and they bite. It might not be him, but someone would be traded for nothing.
So let's fast forward to the off-season of 2010.
The Hornets would have eight players under contract for $55 million dollars.
The kicker is that most of them are expiring. Peja will be in the last year of a deal that pays him 14.2 million. The Hornets don't need him and don't want him. He's been in the league a long time and is physically hurting. He's a prime candidate for a buyout and he would probably take it for 10 million or so. Shinn can afford that with all the money saved during the prior season.
Now the Hornets have a solid core of eight guys (two all stars) under contract for 40 million dollars. That leaves them about thirty million dollars of cap room AND a top three draft pick to fill out a roster that looks like this:
PG- Darren Collison
SG-Marcus Thornton (who looks like a good 6th man), Mo-P
The class of 2010 is so deep that they should be able to sign a superstar AND fill out the roster with above average players. With the economy the way it is, if you have extra cash it will be a great time to shop for players.
With a few good signings The Hornets would have a top three pick, three or four established all stars, and a solid bench without even being over the cap.
I'm not going to speculate on much else, but it's pretty clear that this scenario would lead to the Hornets being in a great position to contend, remain financially viable, and keep Chris Paul and New Orleanians happy for years to come.
As a fan I hate to see Paul hurt for even a single game, but a whole season could do wonders for the Hornets organization.