As we all know, it's been one heck of a week in the Nation. We've seen a flurry of activity highlighted by rumors surrounding the possible acquisition of New Orleans Hornet's All-Star PG Chris Paul. New headlines today include the Clips claiming former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups off of amnesty waivers, and matching a four year, 43 million dollar offer to RFA DeAndre Jordan.
After NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed a three-team trade between the Lakers, Rockets, and Hornets on Thursday, Lakers GM Mitch Kuptchak pulled out of negotiations, preferring to pursue Dwight Howard instead. The next-favorite landing spot for Paul was quickly established to be with the Clippers. Not only did the Clippers want him, as every NBA franchise would, but Clippers GM Neil Olshey had the pieces to make a deal work, and CP3 wanted to play with Blake Griffin.
Sunday, when the Lakers officially gave up on a Paul deal, Olshey stepped in, and the next slew of headlines on ESPN sent CP3 to Los Angeles. Sometime Monday, the league demanded that the Clippers give up more for Paul than Hornet's GM, Dell Demps, had originally agreed to. This interference by the commissioner's office led to Olshey pulling out of the trade.
While this commotion occurred, Olshey managed to navigate the salary cap in order to acquire more assets for his team. If Neil had agreed to match the large contract offered to DJ immediately, that move would have put the Clippers over the cap for the season, and essentially make impossible another free agent signing. Instead, knowing that he could go over the cap to match Jordan's contract offer, Olshey used the club's cap space to acquire veteran guard Chauncey Billups, and then proceeded to exceed the cap by picking up the contract to retain Jordan.
Credit where credit is due. Olshey has, this week, made the Clippers a much better basketball team. Veteran slasher Caron Butler, veteran game manager Chauncey Billups, and prize prospect DeAndre Jordan are all potential full-time starters this season. Basically, in a few days, our former actor of a general manager has stepped up big. So
hat tip hats off to Neil Olshey.
The only thing that Olshey hasn't wrapped up beautifully and placed under the Christmas trees of Clippers fans? A resolution to the Chris Paul trade. How could the former soap opera star use this trade to clinch the NBA Executive of the Year award before the season tips?
Here are the facts. Chris Paul is willing to commit to a second year with the Clippers. Therefore, the Clippers will offer more to acquire him. Chris Paul has not ye been willing to commit to do this with any other team who is currently pursuing him. So teams like the Warriors will not be willing to trade major assets, like Stephen Curry, to acquire him.
For the purposes of this post, I will be using NBA Trade Machine, from ESPN, to demonstrate the different options that the Clippers have. Please note that the Trade Machine does not include future draft picks, so all trades below include the Clippers golden asset (the Minnesota Timberwolves' Unprotected 1st round draft pick this summer).
First of all, here is the basic fundamental option that the Clippers are offering the Hornets.
In the above trade, Kaman is only important in terms of making the salaries match. Between Bledsoe and Aminu, the Hornets get two young prospects. For those of you who question the value of each if these young players in this deal, consider this: Both are former 1st round draft picks. Also, both have seen enough action to show that they can play.
As for the Minny pick, it was originally not included in this deal. However, once Paul committed to staying a second year with the Clippers, the pick was made available to New Orleans.
So, now we know that the Clippers are offering. What do the Hornets want? Well, they want this, plus the minny pick, plus a Clippers future 1st.
The pieces included are the same as the Clipper's offer, plus one Eric Gordon and a 1st round pick. The pick? Not a big deal. The Eric Gordon? Yeah, that's a big deal. Olshey's pattern for building this team has everything to do with Gordon and Griffin. So taking Gordon out of the equation is no bien. Neil Olshey said at the beginning that he would not include Gordon in any offer.
So, we are at an impasse. What the Clippers are willing to give up is not equivalent to what the Hornets want to accept. Stern's lack of negotiating savvy led to Neil Olshey leaving the table Monday afternoon, and ESPN pronouncing the trade 'dead'.
At this point, it is not Olshey vs Demps. If it was, Chris Paul would likely be at Clippers practice tomorrow. Stern has completely taken over the management of the Paul trade, and we will have to meet his demands to acquire the All-Star.
As far as we know, including both Gordon and the Minnesota pick is not an option. However, many reporters seem to suggest that Olshey could be persuaded to swap Gordon for the pick. But, even that does not meet the objectives of the league office. So what can the Clippers do? Before today. nothing. But now that Billups and Jordan are both under contract, Mo Williams and Chris Kaman become infinitely more expendable (Jordan and Billups cannot be traded this season).
So how can the Clippers make an offer more agreeable to the league office? Well, Chris Broussard of ESPN said on SportsCenter today that the Hornets are more likely to accept a trade in which the Clippers take back one of New Orleans more undesirable contracts.
The Hornets only have two such contracts: Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. Okafor is due approximately 40 million over the next three years, While Ariza is only owed 20 million over the same time period. In order to make the contracts match for either of these deals, the Clippers would need to include another big contract. Besides Kaman, the only large contract on the books is 8.5 million to Mo Williams. Before the new CBA, Mo would need to be included. However, the flexible trade rules allow for a greater disparity in incoming salaries (150%, up from 125%). Now, the Clippers can take on Ariza in the current trade, and all they would need to add for Okafor would be Randy Foye's expiring deal.
The question that remains would be who would we rather absorb? Okafor or Ariza?
Here is what the trade for Ariza would look like. New rules allow the Clippers to simply take on this extra salary.
Now, this deal doesn't exactly help the Clippers from a roster strength standpoint. Ariza is clearly an upgrade at backup SF/SG (over Randy Foye/Ryan Gomes), but the wing positions are not an area of need. However, six million a year is not a huge deal. We could easily move Ariza again, or just sit back and let his contract run out.
But, we could also do this trade.
Okafor helps the Clippers out massively. In this trade, we lose Kaman, and Okafor fills in that spot. He would be the backup PF/C, and having a player of his caliber off the bench would finish off the roster magnificently. Unfortunately, Emeka comes with a hefty price tag. His eight-figure yearly salary would put the Clippers into deep cap problems in the years to come. While Olshey would still be able to retain our key players in the years to come (due to bird rights), these deals would put Sterling far into a luxury tax which will grow stricter every year. Again, the new cap rules aid us, and we only need to include Foye's expiring deal to take on the much larger contract of Okafor.
So, where do the Clippers go from here? Do they sell out both Gordon and the pick? I doubt it. Would it be enough for the Clips to absorb Ariza's less harmful contract, or would they need to take on Okafor's? Alternatively, Olshey could end up deciding to walk away from the deal altogether. Truth is, we won't know until it's done.