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Okay Neil, I Admit it. It Was a Trick Question.

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While we sit around and wait for the players to gather/vote/decertify or whatever I thought we'd return to our little game.  

I'm sure you remember that last week I asked you to play the role of Neil Olshey, Los Angeles Clippers General Manager. In that post I challenged you, Neil, to figure out what you would do first if the damn lockout were to suddenly end. And then I gave you the answer. Only it was the wrong answer. Now, I didn't do this intentionally, rather, I made a mistake. The shocking thing is that almost everyone played along anyway. Of course there were various smart citizens who caught on (I believe osamu had it first, later the estimable madglove had it, and there were probably others but I'm too lazy to go back through all the responses to check.) The correct answer is that if the free agency period were to start at midnight, you, Neil, wouldn't call DeAndre Jordan's agent first. Oh, you'd call him sooner rather than later to express your enthusiasm for DJ, and you might even make him a nice offer somewhere around the mid-level just to show him how much you like him and get the ball rolling... but none of it matters, because as we noted, Mister Jordan is a "restricted" free agent and you don't have to bid against yourself. So, if you didn't get to DJ's agent until two or three a.m. or even sunrise I don't think it would be the worst thing in the world. So, let's do it again, "Quick, You're Neil Olshey, the Lockout's Over, What Do You Do (For Real This Time)?" 

Now, this is a lot harder isn't it? Let's think about this (but not too long). Oh, damn! You're cell phone just went off. It's Mitch Kupchak wondering if you'll trade Blake Griffin for Luke Walton. Sheesh, Mitch is annoying. You hang up and punch up Rod Thorn, Philadelphia's GM. You get his voicemail and you leave the following message, "Hey Rod, Neil Olshey here, you remember me, right? GM of the Clippers? I just want you to remind you about Chris Kaman. Did you see him in the European games? He's good. Anyway, how about straight up for Andre Iguodala. I might throw in a bonus prize, but you'll have to call me back in the next ten minutes or the offer will reset."  Oh, man Neil, that was cool. You did learn something in that darn lockout.

You'd love to have Iggy, he'd look good standing next to Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon and would fill that annoying three spot like nobody's business. But Thorn wants something extra. He wants your 2012 Minnesota number one draft pick. Of course he'll have to pry that out of your cold, dead hands. Oh, you'll give him something, a nice player, maybe Al-Farouq Aminu, certainly Ryan Gomes or Randy Foye, you'd also give him a number two draft pick, perhaps even a future number one if you can engineer it around the fact that you probably won't have your own number one pick this year and the league rules say you can't trade away two number ones in a row... ah, being a GM isn't easy is it, Neil? You know you can't pay too much for Iggy because even though his stats last year were good (14/6/6 with a TS% of .530 and a PER of 17.3) his numbers have been decreasing the last few years and, worse, he's owed 45M over the next three years. See Neil, there's a reason Philly's been trying to trade the guy.

With Blake headed for a max deal, DeAndre signing for somewhere in the 7 to 10 range and Gordon also due (for 12 or 13M?) you've got to watch your pennies. Just adding things up in your head and counting Iggy, you're over 50 million just for four guys... and you need five guys to play! Of course you've got one more year on Gordon's rookie deal and two more for Blake, and Mo Williams, Gomes, and Foye will be dust by the time those come due... but it's gonna be tricky Neil. It's not like the old days, when Mike was making the decisions. Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown, Neil, even if the crown is a small one like yours.

Okay, quick, let's go through some other options at the small forward spots. Shane Battier is out there and Memphis probably can't s-- oh, there goes your phone. Hey, it's Chris Wallace, Memphis Grizzlies GM! He's wondering if you'd like to send Chris Kaman and some other pieces to Memphis for Rudy Gay. Rudy Gay?! Awesome! You love Rudy. You open your laptop and look at his numbers... 17.9/5.6/2.6, .588 TS%, 17.8 PER. Not bad. Of course Wallace is in a bind and he's got to do something about his payroll. Kaman's expiring and good insurance if the Griz can't re-sign Marc Gasol.
Hey Neil, maybe this is a good idea! But then you go here and... WHAT! Rudy Gay is a max player! You're kidding! He is owed 69 million dollars over the next four years! Here's the thing Neil, you're not sure you want Rudy Gay, but you're damn sure you can't afford him.

You hang up on Wallace when your eye strolls up the page and you notice something. You hit another number on your speed dial. You've got Shane Battier's agent on the line. You tell him you love Shane. But the agent cuts to the chase and tells you Shane wants ten million. You're ready to hang up but then realize it's all a negotiation. You say, "I'll give him three years at $15 million. But don't sign a deal until you get back to me." You hang up. Hey, Neil, that was easy. He didn't say no, right?

Okay, let's look around at the other free agents. Andre Kirilenko can't shoot but he's a great defender. He's been way overpaid and the rumors that he's going to New Jersey just might be true. You will lose in a bidding war with that Russian guy. But you send his agent a text anyway. Tayshaun Prince is a couple of years younger than Battier. You like him too and he might  might be a nice fit in the front court. You tap out another text suggesting his agent call you. Good work. 

Gee, the small forward free agent pile is kind of thin, isn't it Neil? But there's something else bothering you. It's been nagging at you for months, hasn't it? Iggy, Shane, Andre, Prince, they're all interesting, but none of them are home runs. And you, Neil Olshey, long to hit a home run. It would shut up all the doubters, it would quiet down all the rabble who questioned you when you traded Baron Davis last year, it might even get you out from under cranky old DTS and onto greener pastures. So what's the home run? Of course it's not a what, it's a who. Let's quit pretending, Neil. His name is Chris Paul. Oh sure, there are other, lesser home runs, solo shots, run-scoring doubles, but CP is the grail, a bases-loaded slammer that would move the earth.
You call the New Orleans front office, only accidentally you get the NBA office in New York. Oh, right, the NBA owns the Hornets. You forgot. You ask for Dell Demps but he's out, so you ask for David Stern, but they finally connect you with Jeffrey Kessler instead. You didn't hear? After the negotiations Stern hired Kessler, calling him "a man after my own heart." You tell Kessler you'll give him Chris Kaman for Chris Paul. You'll include some other interesting stuff, young guys, Eric Bledsoe, maybe Aminu. If there's another piece he'd like, well just name it. Kessler laughs and says something and hangs up.

Easy Neil, you're shaking. Stop shaking. You get up, go wash your face, and come back. You sit at your desk. The phones are ringing. You let them all go to voicemail. This is big, big stuff. You can't do this alone, Neil. You look at the phone. Not the one with all the buttons, the other one, the red one. You pick it up, the receiver clicks, and someone grunts on the other end. You try to keep the quiver out of your voice as you say, "Hello Don, it's me, Neil-- Neil Olshey... Clipper's GM, you remember? --Ha ha, no, Mike's gone, almost two years now. Yeah, I replaced him. I mean, you replaced him with me. Oh good, I'm glad you remember. Anyway, I have an interesting offer on the table, I wanted to run it by you. I called the New Orleans franchise--yeah, that's right, one of the small market bast--I mean franchises, yes sir. They have Chris Paul and I'm trying to swing a deal-- oh, yeah, he's good sir. ESPN recently rated him the fourth best player in the league. Anyway, if we had Chris Paul it would be really great and the Hornets are apparently willing to give him up because they don't think they can re-sign him, so-- uh, no, no sign and trade, sir, I think that was outlawed recently, though I'm not sure, we'll have his Bird rights and I'm pretty s-- no sir, he's already a max player, he's gonna cost plenty, but, anyway, here's the thing: They want us to give them Eric Gordon."

Boom, there it is Neil. You said it out loud. New Orleans will give you Chris Paul if you give them Eric Gordon. Yeah, you'll probably have to give up Kaman as well, in order to match salaries, and maybe another young piece, and maybe a future first (but you're not going to give up the Minny pick, you're simply not). Don tells you he wants to talk it over with Mike and Elgin, (you'll let Andy Roeser straighten that part out), and yeah he'll be expensive but you dumped Kaman's salary and Eric's future salary, and Mo Williams is expiring after this year anyway. 

Just to make sure you've done all your homework, you go here and here and you look at the numbers. Chris Paul is 26 years old. He went 15.8 pts, 9.8 assists, and 2.4 steals(!) His career PER is 25.2! TS% is .578. He's phenomenal. Of course Eric's good too: He's only 23, and he scored 22.3 points, 3.3 ast, 2.7 rebounds. His PER was 18.5 and his TS% was .566. Eric's younger and perhaps most importantly, he's the best defender on your ballclub. Probably one of the best defending two-guards in the league. Oh, you'll miss Eric, he's on the upswing. He scored 16ppg his first year, 17 his second, and then almost 23. On the negative side, he missed 27 games last year, and 20 the year before. But Eric Gordon could be one of the best. He could be... but Neil, Chris Paul already is

Of course the move would give you other problems. You've got to sign a good defender for that small forward spot, but Battier practically invented defense and Prince is good and they don't call the guy AK47 because he's good-looking. You've also got a hole at the two guard spot, but you've got Mo Williams and Randy Foye (if you don't send them out in the deal). But, at the end of the day, you're running Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan out on the floor every game for the next ten years, you've still got the Minny pick... and you will be seen for what you are, Neil, a bold, brave, risk-taker. 

So, what are you going to do Neil? Would you trade Eric Gordon if it meant you could bring in Chris Paul? What if you could bring in someone else... Deron Williams... Steve Nash? What are you going to do, Neil? The clock is ticking. Now, go call DeAndre Jordan, then figure out what else you're going to do.