This Can Still Happen
Back in the June of 2005, the Bobcats had an opportunity to draft local legend Chris Paul with the third pick in the draft. The Blazers held the pick and offered the selection to Charlotte for the 5th and 13th choices in the draft. The ‘Cats turned them down and the rest is history: Blazers dealt the pick to Utah, and New Orleans (picking 4th) scooped up the the NBA’s best under-30 PG. It was rumoured that Paul wanted to play in Charlotte. He was from Winston-Salem and had played college ball just up the road at Wake Forest. The Bobcats needed a point guard. They needed a star. This can still happen.
Watching the New Orleans game on Wednesday night, it struck me: Chris Paul is going to be traded. Maybe this summer. Maybe sometime during next season but soon. Here’s why:
- New Orleans is a small market team that’s losing money almost as fast as the Bobcats.
- George Shinn is in “SELL“-mode.
- Chris Paul is due $49 million over the next three seasons. His replacement against the Bobcats, rookie phenom Darren Collison, is due just $5 million in the same time span.
- The Hornets have more than a couple of holes on their roster to fill.
- Hometown hero D.J. Augustin is way “OVER” (You bet he’s Over) with the local crowd.
- Anybody ever seen those Nike Air Jordan CP3s?
So what kind of a deal could the Bobcats put together to entice New Orleans to let go of their superstar???
Well, from a salary perspective, the ‘Cats are going to have to return a few things in exchange for Paul’s $14.9 million dollar cap number. They’ll also have to offer the Hornets some attractive pieces in exchange. Here’s my proposal:
- D.J. Augustin. Again, hometown hero. Still on a rookie deal until ’12-’13. While not remotely in Chris Paul’s league, D.J. could form a great combo with Collison and help stretch the floor with his long distance shooting.
- A Sign & Traded Tyrus Thomas. Something like 3 years, $18 million sounds about right. Another local product (high school in Baton Rouge, later LSU). Thomas not only turns the local turnstiles, he would be a welcome athletic addition to a fairly unathletic frontcourt (Emekatron 2000 and David West). The Hornets could then shop West (who has a great contract that declines in salary) for a physical starting two guard.
- Gerald Henderson. Let’s face it. If Larry Brown is coaching the Bobcats, The Sequel is never seeing any PT and that’s not good for a young player’s game (just look how Darko’s skillz atrophied in Detroit). The Hornets need a tough, defensive minded 2-guard to pair with Marcus Thornton and Gerald Henderson just may be that guy.
- Salary Relief. New Orleans currently has $73 million committed in salaries for next season. This before factoring in any draft picks or filling out the roster. The assumption around the league is that the luxury tax will lower to around $69 million. By trading Paul for Thomas, Augustin and Henderson, the Hornets will save $4.5 million next season (putting them under the tax threshold).
From a Bobcats salary perspective, this trade would put them at EXACTLY the tax threshold ($69.8 million) with only eight players under contract. The question is, would Michael Jordan spend an extra $5-$10 million if it meant bringing in a superstar like Chris Paul? I think he just might. The Bobcats would enter next season with:
- PG: Chris Paul
- SG: Stephen Jackson
- SF: Gerald Wallace, Derrick Brown
- PF: Boris Diaw, Alexis Ajinca
- C: Tyson Chandler, Nazr Mohammed, Gana Diop
Now, there’s obviously a crowd at Center but the good news is that both Nazr Mohammed ($6.8 million) and Tyson Chandler ($12.75 million) represent expiring contracts in a year in which those will be very, very valuable (free agent summer ’11 looks like it’ll rival summer of ’10). Could the Bobcats trade Mohammed for someone like Kirk Hinrich? Maybe. Take one or both centers off of the roster and run a platoon of a re-signed Theo Ratliff, Gana Diop and a (hopefully) developed Alexis Ajinca and then resign everyone’s favorite utility players Stephen Graham and Larry Hughes to veteran minimum deals and you have:
- PG: Chris Paul, Kirk Hinrich
- SG: Stephen Jackson, Larry Hughes
- SF: Gerald Wallace, Stephen Graham
- PF: Boris Diaw, Derrick Brown, Alexis Ajinca
- C: Tyson Chandler, Gana Diop, Theo Ratliff
Not bad. And considering that Larry Brown will run basically an eight or nine man rotation throughout the season, 10-14 depth isn’t that big of an issue. This team could go deep into the Playoffs and finally bring star power to the CLT.