How Does Chris Paul Cut Through LA? By staying

Stephen Dunn

Part 6 of a series on Chris Paul. In the final installment of the series, we look at Paul's NBA future when he becomes a free agent in 2013.

As part of the ad campaign for Jordan Brand's new CP3 VI shoe I've been asked to write a series of posts on Chris Paul. This is an assignment I am happy to do.

For the sixth and final post in this series, I'm going to take a different tack. We've already examined many of the aspects of Chris Paul's game on the basketball court that make him such a unique and dominant player: his intelligence, his competitiveness, his leadership, his handle and his scoring. We haven't even focused on his court vision and passing, which sort of go without saying.

The name of this series comes from the name of the Jordan brand ad campaign, about how CP3 cuts through LA. It's a reference to the traction control of his new CP3.VI shoe, but for now I'd like to look at it a different way: what is the likelihood that CP3 will cut through LA for a couple season on his way from New Orleans to some other NBA city?

When Paul was quoted regarding his impending free agency at the start of training camp, Lucas Hann and I reacted very differently to his statements. Lucas felt the interview made Paul sound ambiguous about his future while I felt like he was sending a very clear message that he intended to remain a Clipper. For me, the money quote from that particular interview was this one:

...it's no secret. Everyone knows I love it here. I love our team, I love everything that's going on.

I suppose it comes with the territory for a Clippers fan to worry about the worst case scenario. But rather than continue to parse Paul's words, I decided to take a different approach to the situation. Instead of trying to read his mind, let's look at what his alternatives are. Assuming that he doesn't decide to leave the NBA in order to try his luck in the Spanish league with Barcelona, there are a finite number of teams places he could go. How might he get there?

I asked the other NBA bloggers in the SB Nation network to give me their best case scenario for how Chris Paul might end up with their team in 2013. A scenario where their GM makes it an overriding priority to acquire Paul and Paul chooses to go there, bearing in mind that Paul is essentially going to have to agree to anything, whether in free agency or via trade, for it to happen: teams aren't going to trade for him if he's unwilling to sign an extension.

I received responses from 19 of the 29 other NBA team blogs. Here they are:

  • Lakers, CA Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: "It'd never, ever happen, but Steve Nash and Pau Gasol for Paul and Lamar Odom + whatever makes the trade legal. Purely for the sake of the thought experiment, would never, ever, ever happen."
  • Blazers, BlazerDave, Blazersedge: "We can clear cap space AND we can give him Voodoo Doughnuts plus specialty coffee at every corner."
  • Spurs, J.R. Wilco, Pounding the Rock: "None of the Big Three are moving, period. So it would have to be a trade deadline deal this year. And the Clips would have to take Stephen Jackson, Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair ... If those 3 entice you, then you may be in trouble, but I don't see it happening."
  • Bobcats, Ben Swanson, Rufus on Fire: "lol we are the bobcats." (True, but the real offer here would be lots of money with their cap space and the chance to move home to North Carolina.)
  • Hornets, Rohan Cruyff, At the Hive: "Put me in Chris' would never, ever, ever happen boat, but: Eric Gordon stays healthy (lol), Anthony Davis is awesome, Hornets win 35ish games, attain TEAM OF THE FUTURE status. Team declines options on Warrick, Aminu, Henry, and if need be, Vasquez, and can then max Chris Paul, who is swayed by (a) having a real owner this time, (b) CP3/Gordon/Ryan Anderson/Davis, and (c) having realized that Los Angeles is kinda meh. Also, the Clippers thing maybe. I give all of this a 0% chance of happening."
  • Kings, Tom Ziller, Sactown Royalty: "There's no way the Kings pull him without relocating to Chris Paul's actual backyard, which is actually pretty plausible at this point."
  • Suns, Seth Pollack, SB Nation NBA: "The Suns would give up anyone on their roster to get that deal done and they've got some extra picks to throw around as well. There would be no untouchables in Phx in such a transaction including the Gorilla, who is clearly the team's most valuable asset. Dragic, Morris, Scola, Marshall, Beas, Wes Johnson, PJ Tucker...take your pick."
  • Knicks, Seth, Posting and Toasting: "Yeah, unless he wants a vet's minimum deal, there's no way. Toast or no toast."
  • Celtics, Jeff Clark, CelticsBlog: "Hmmm. I guess I could dust off some old Rondo trade ideas but my heart wouldn't be in it."
  • Nets, NetsDaily, NetsDaily: "8 > 3."
  • Grizzlies, TLorenzo, Straight Outta Vancouver: "Mike Conley (and his protein shakes), Rudy Gay and anyone not named Marc Gasol for Paul and whoever you want to dump on us... Did I mention we're throwing in Conley's protein shakes?"
  • Wizards, Andrew Sharp, SB Nation NBA: "Working in our favor: D.C.'s close to home (but not the Bobcats), he's got ties to DC (works out here), he could work more with Michelle Obama and be best friends with Barack, dovetailing nicely with my prediction that Chris Paul will be President one day. The Wizards would have John Wall to offer in a sign-and-trade, which is better than any other team would offer. Working against: Reality? The Wizards are Clippers east, only worse, and they've locked themselves into a bunch of veterans like the Clippers, only worse, so..... Yeah. The best chance the Wizards have is Wall missing three months, Beal taking over and making them a solid playoff team anyway (where a superstar could make them contender-ish), and then LAC panicking and trading CP to the highest bidder at the deadline. 800/1 odds on this happening."
  • Raptors, Adam Francis, Raptors HQ: "Raptors...right. Although if the Clips got desperate Toronto has two solid point guard options to return for his services. Problem is, as much as NBA players love visiting White Vegas, they're not signing here. Can't see the Raps making this move without some assurance Paul would stay long-term and well, the likelihood of that is about the same as it not snowing in TO this winter."
  • Cavs, Conrad Kaczmarek, Fear the Sword: "For the Cavs, if Chris Paul really wanted to play for Byron Scott again, that'd be the only real selling point. But we have Kyrie, so whatevs."
  • Mavs, LJ Rotter, Mavs Moneyball: "Wait aren't the Mavericks the ONLY team in the WHOLE LEAGUE who planned for the new CBA so that we'll be the only team with room to offer Chris a lot of money? At least that's what Mr. Cuban has been telling me..."
  • Nuggets, Nate Timmons, Denver Stiffs: "If the Nuggets decided to get crazy with it they could offer up a little package to the Clippers. With Ty Lawson's rookie contract running out they could offer him up in a sign-and-trade along with perhaps somebody else on the roster - maybe Danilo Gallinari?"
  • Sixers, Michael Levin, Liberty Ballers: "I suppose the Sixers could feasibly offer everything but Andrew Bynum but I still don't think there's a shot in hell it happens. Unless they throw Kwame in there, and no one could reject that trade."
  • Jazz, Amar, SLC Dunk: "The Jazz have all the money in the world, 8 expiring contracts, and the only people ON contract for 2013/14 are Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, and Jeremy Evans. (Four rookie deals and a guy making $1.6m) In Utah he'd have complete control of the system, and be the coach on the floor because Tyrone Corbin isn't going to yell at him. CP3 would love running with four lotto picks and a slam dunk champ while playing in a system designed for ball dominating, pass first PGs. (Rickey Green, John Stockton, Deron Williams all did okay here). Additionally it would allow the Jazz to have the #2, 3, and 4 player from the 2005 draft on their team at some point. Furthermore, the Miller family will make sure that he'll get plenty of car dealerships named after him and partly owned by him so that he can accrue a steady and significant income that is not on the salary cap. If CP3 likes money, good schools for his kids, and a USG% of 40% while throwing Alley oops all day . . . it's Utah's gain. And the Clippers' loss."
  • Bucks, Frank Madden, BrewHoop: "Beno Udrih, Drew Gooden and a 2nd rounder. WHO SAYS NO???? But seriously, the most realistic path for the Bucks to get CP3 on the roster next season is to ask Larry Sanders to invent a time machine and then just draft him over Bogut in 2005. And then hope he doesn't con his way out of Milwaukee in the interim, which he almost certainly would have done anyway."

-----

Those are the scenarios that some fairly knowledgeable (if somewhat snarky) people came up with.

Would the Clippers take a John Wall or a Rajon Rondo in trade? Not likely. But more importantly, why would Paul prefer the Wizards or the Celtics? It's next to impossible to imagine the Wizards future as brighter than the Clippers even with Chris Paul changing teams, and he's certainly not going to Boston just to attend the retirement parties for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce unless he always dreamed of wearing Celtic green since he was a little boy. The other trade offers on the list are laughable (most of them intentionally).

As for the teams with cap space, it's really difficult to see Paul winding up in Charlotte or Portland or Salt Lake City or back in New Orleans. As much as the NBA would like to pretend that market doesn't matter, it does, and Paul has thrived in L.A. He likes showing up on Leno and Kimmell, he likes being in the media capital of the country, and as he has said, he loves L.A. Not to mention that the competitive situation for all those teams with space would hardly offer Paul a better chance at a ring than remaining in L.A. with Blake Griffin. If Anthony Davis becomes a combination of Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady or Kanter and Favors become Sampson/Olajuwon type twin towers, maybe -- but how likely are those things to happen? So unless Paul is feeling homesick for North Carolina or New Orleans (which he's not) then these small market teams with cap space just aren't realistic destinations for CP3.

Does this exercise prove that Paul won't leave? Of course not. Anything is possible. The point is there are two parts to the equation: when an NBA pundit says "Paul could leave the Clippers" because he hasn't signed an extension or because they didn't improve enough or because he doesn't like his coach or whatever reason they give, that's not sufficient. Where would he go? It's not enough to say "Remember that toast he made at Carmelo's wedding?" He would have to wind up on the Knicks through some sort of legal NBA transaction, and as Seth from Posting and Toasting points out, unless he's willing to take a massive pay cut (he could actually get the mid level exception, not just the vet's minimum) that's not happening. The simple fact is that for the time being -- and recognizing that the season has not started yet and a lot could change once it does -- for the time being, the Clippers are a much more attractive option for Paul than anything else out there.

So for now, if the question is "Will CP3 cut through LA on his way to another NBA city" the answer is "No." And that's great news for Clippers fans.

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