Does Darren Collison Make Chris Paul Expendable?

Matt GelfandCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 29:   Darren Collison #2 of the New Orleans Hornets reacts to losing the game to the Chicago Bulls at the New Orleans Arena on January 29, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.   The Bulls defeated the Hornets 108-106 in overtime.  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

I had trouble just typing this headline.

My hands were shaking, palms sweaty, the undeniable fear of the wrath of negative comments sure to come my way if I dare publish such an idea.

But for the Hornets, a 31-31 team on the outside looking in at the eighth playoff spot in the West, a team which made absolutely zero noise at the trade deadline, and a team who's wallet will continue to be stingy this offseason after just barely creeping under the luxury tax, there are two real choices:

a) Keep Chris Paul and remain mediocre for another two to three seasons until CP3 is fed up with the team’s lack of progress and starts to demand a trade.

b) Trade Paul for a king’s ransom and issue a mass apology to fans for trading away the greatest point guard they may ever see in their lifetime.

The Bobcats make a titillating trade scenario with the pieces they have. Would they part with a trio of, say, Raymond Felton, Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw?

How badly do you think newly-minted Bobcats owner Michael Jordan would want to bring Paul to Charlotte, the Hornets’ original home? 

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We can speculate forever over the package of players that may come close to equaling Paul’s value, but in the end, as Hornets fans—people who have a vested interest in this franchise—will it ever be enough? 

Even after typing those options, I’m finding it hard to convince myself that this is a good idea.

But it’s really the only option, right?

The Hornets unfortunately have multiple overpaid declining parts still locked up for at least another season (Posey, Stojakovic, Peterson). While David West’s market value is still relatively unknown, they’re reaping the benefits of his services for far less money than he’s probably worth on the open market (he’s due to earn $8.2 million in 2011). 

So where do the Hornets turn in terms of improving?

While it’s pretty much gospel that Paul is currently the NBA’s best point guard, one has to appreciate what Darren Collison has been able to do in Paul’s absence. His assist numbers have been staggering, and the fact that New Orleans’ season hasn’t sputtered without CP3 in uniform for half of the season is a testament to how valuable the rookie out of UCLA has been. 

For comparison’s sake, lets look at Paul’s rookie averages compared to Collison’s—only we’ll use the 18 games in which Collison has played over 35 minutes (Paul averaged 36.0 MPG his rookie season).

The results are quite eye-opening:

Paul: 16.1 points,  7.8 assists, 5.1 rebounds, 2.2 steals.

Collison: 19.7 points, 9.4 assists,  4.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals.

Do the Hornets have Chris Paul 2.0 on their hands? Is it possible that Collison may turn out to be better Paul? 

There are a lot of unanswered questions that the Hornets have the displeasure of dealing with this season. It almost makes this season seem obsolete due to the fact that they’re trotting out a team of players whose contracts they wish were expiring. 

The Hornets may have saved the franchise by drafting Collison and found second round gold in Marcus Thornton. But if Jeff Bower and Co. want to save face in the future, trading the face of the franchise may become a reality sooner rather than later.


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