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Chris Paul Trade Cancelled: Does 'Basketball Reasons' Explanation Hold Up?

The NBA cancelled the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers due to "basketball reasons." Let's accept the explanation at face value for a second. Does the NBA have a point at all?

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The Chris Paul trade to the Los Angeles Lakers is dead, with David Stern killing the deal while citing "basketball reasons" as the rationale. Most people seem to think that explanation is disingenuous, and there are reports that several owners tried to convince Stern to kill the deal. One such owner has even been revealed (thanks, Dan Gilbert!).

But just for a second, let's take Stern's rationale at face value. When he says the league cancelled the trade due to "basketball reasons," he's really saying the deal was unfair. So that begs the obvious question: was the deal actually unfair?

Suppose for a second that David Stern told every team in the league that they had 48 hours to assemble a trade package to acquire Paul. How many teams could match the offer the Lakers, Rockets and Hornets put together? What follows is a comprehensive evaluation of all the possible trade offers the Hornets could have received, both reported and hypothetical.

Our task: to determine if the Hornets' return for Paul (Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, who was later flipped to Houston for Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and the 2012 first-round pick the Rockets acquired from the New York Knicks) was actually reasonable by the "basketball reasons" rationale. Here we go.

Teams that would not trade for Chris Paul for any reason

The following teams are set at point guard, either due to having a young star or an entrenched, older superstar, and would simply sit out the bidding:

Teams who actually put offers out there, according to reports:

The following teams have been named in published reports as being part of the actual Chris Paul bidding. We will assume they will put out the same offers they reportedly did before this Lakers trade was vetoed.

Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, multiple first-round picks.

This was the deal the Celtics were desperately hoping to push. It's not clear which picks were involved, but I'd imagine at least one would have been the 2012 first-round pick (top-10 protected) that they acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade at the draft last year. That pick would be either the Clippers' or Minnesota Timberwolves, whichever finished worse. If that's the case, the other pick would have been Boston's first-rounder at the 2014 NBA Draft. The presence of Jeff Green is also problematic, in that if he took the Celtics' one-year qualifying offer, he could veto any trade.

In any event, though, this deal would offer the Hornets an obvious Paul replacement in Rondo, plus some future assets. But there are questions about how Rondo would fare with a team of his own, and there's a good chance the Hornets don't see that pick next year. This offer looks good at first, but it's really nothing special. There's a reason Boston was searching around for a third team to provide more pieces.

VERDICT: Worse than the Lakers trade.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, Klay Thompson, 2013 first round pick.

The Warriors reportedly were against including Stephen Curry in any trade, which should have pretty much killed the Hornets' interest. The Warriors have been trying to deal Ellis for a while, so including him doesn't really do much for me. Thompson's a rookie, while Udoh came along really slowly last year. Golden State also has no pick to trade until 2013, so there's no immediate draft payoff.

VERDICT: Worse than the Lakers trade.

INDIANA PACERS: Darren Collison, Tyler Hansbrough, Brandon Rush, 2012 first-round pick, 2014 first-round pick.

This wasn't exactly a trade offer, but in one of Adrian Wojnarowski's stories, he noted Indiana's presence in trade talks involving the Celtics. In the story, Wojnarowski wrote that the Pacers were not willing to include Danny Granger or Paul George. That should pretty much have ended any talks.

VERDICT: Worse than Lakers trade.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: DeAndre Jordan, Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe, 2012 draft pick from Minnesota.

A lot depends on whether the Clippers would be willing to include their unprotected 2012 first round pick they got from the Minnesota Timberwolves way back in the Sam Cassell trade. If so, this offer, even without shooting guard Eric Gordon, is very enticing. However, without Gordon, the Clippers have to hope that they can deal Jordan, who is a free agent and may not end up being allowed to move. Lots of hypotheticals here.

VERDICT: Better than Lakers trade, but only if Jordan checks out and the pick is included. Otherwise, it's worse than the Lakers' trade.

NEW YORK KNICKS: Chauncey BIllups, Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert, 2018 first-round pick.


VERDICT: Much worse than the Lakers' trade.

Hypothetical trade offers

Let's say all other teams put forth an offer. Here's what they would look like, in alphabetical order. (Note: the Hornets can take on more salary than they give out, but teams over the cap or near the cap level cannot).

ATLANTA HAWKS: Josh Smith, Jeff Teague and a 2013 first round pick.

Smith has been on the block for a while, Al Horford would never be included in any talks and the Hawks can't trade their 2012 first-round pick since they dealt last year's pick to the Washington Wizards for Kirk Hinrich. VERDICT: Worse than Lakers' trade.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Tyrus Thomas, 2012 first round pick from Blazers.

I doubt the Bobcats would move either Kemba Walker or Bismack Biyombo, so we're left with some combination of these three players and the pick they acquired from the Blazers in the Gerald Wallace trade. That picks is likely to be in the teens or worse. Meanwhile, Augustin is decent, but is never going to be one of the top 10 players at his position. VERDICT: Worse than Lakers' trade

DALLAS MAVERICKS: Corey Brewer, Jason Terry, Rodrigue Beaubois, Rudy Fernandez and a 2012 first round pick.

Terry is in there to match salary for Dallas and because he's an NBA-quality player with an expiring contract. Otherwise, that's a bunch of nothing, unless you are a member of the Church of Roddy. VERDICT: Worse than Lakers' trade.

DENVER NUGGETS: Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, 2012 first round pick, Nene sign-and-trade?

This is actually an interesting offer, and it could become more interesting if a sign-and-trade involving Nene is a part of the proceedings. If it's the latter, Nene, Lawson and Gallinari are starter-quality players, and the pick adds another asset to the Hornets' roster. Adding Nene would add some complications, though, so I wouldn't automatically assume the Nuggets could add him to the offer. VERDICT: Better than Lakers' trade, but only if Nene is included. Without Nene, probably about the same.

DETROIT PISTONS: Brandon Knight, Jason Maxiell, Austin Daye, 2012 first round pick.

If Knight is really good really fast, this is somewhat legitimate, but we simply don't know that. Maxiell is an albatross contract included just to match salary. VERDICT: Worse than Lakers' trade.

HOUSTON ROCKETS: Some combination of Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Chase Budinger, Goran Dragic, 2011 first round pick, Knicks.

If the Rockets decided to go after Paul himself, they have plenty of pieces to do so. Martin, Scola and the draft pick are already heading to the Hornets, and Lowry and a draft pick would probably join them. Is this better than adding Odom to the deal? Probably a little, since Lowry is younger, but not incredibly so. VERDICT: About the same as the Lakers' trade.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Darrell Arthur, Rudy Gay?

It would definitely be interesting to see if the Grizzlies would include Gay, or if the Hornets would even want him. Without Gay, this isn't much of an offer. VERDICT: Worse than Lakers' trade.

MIAMI HEAT: Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers.

This is one of those deals that sounds fun, but probably wouldn't appeal to the Hornets. Is getting Bosh really much better than getting Scola, Martin, Goran Dragic and a draft pick? Even if it is better, it has to be much better since the only other somewhat valuable piece Miami has to trade is Chalmers. VERDICT: Worse than Lakers' trade.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS: Brandon Jennings, Stephen Jackson, Ersan Ilyasova, 2013 first round pick.

The Bucks are going to have to include some albatross contracts in this deal just to match salary, and we've only seen one month of evidence that Jennings is any good. VERDICT: Worse than Lakers' trade.

ORLANDO MAGIC: Jameer Nelson, Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, 2013 first round pick.

Nelson's decent, but hasn't been quite the same player since his shoulder injury in 2009. Anderson is a stathead favorite, but there are many other prospects around the league who are better. The Magic traded their first-round pick last year, so they can't offer one up until 2013. Otherwise, it's a bunch of bad contracts that the Hornets won't want. VERDICT: Worse than Lakers' trade.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, 2012 first round pick, 2014 first round pick.

Iguodala's been on the block for a while, but he's still quite good. Holiday's a pretty good young replacement, and the picks could be worth something. Still, this is a rebuilding trade, and I'm not sure that's what the Hornets want right now. VERDICT: About the same as the Lakers' trade, maybe slightly worse.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Greg Oden.

Oden can veto any trade since he's on the qualifying offer, which should put an end to this one. VERDICT: Worse than the Lakers' trade.

SACRAMENTO KINGS: Jimmer Fredette, J.J. Hickson OR Jason Thompson, Donte Greene, 2012 first round pick.

Without either Tyreke Evans or DeMarcus Cousins in this offer, it's hard to see much upside for New Orleans. VERDICT: Worse than the Lakers' trade.

TORONTO RAPTORS: Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, 2012 first round pick.

I'd imagine the Raptors won't want to include Jonas Valanciunas in the offer, so we're left with Bargnani's albatross contract to match salary on Toronto's end, plus a couple decent youngsters and a pick. It's not the worse rebuilding trade in the world, but it's not better than what the Hornets got from the Lakers and Rockets. VERDICT: Worse than the Lakers' trade.

UTAH JAZZ: Some combination of Devin Harris, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter OR Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, 2012 top-seven protected pick from New Jersey.

A lot depends on what Utah would be willing to give up. With Kanter, Favors, Hayward and the Nets' pick from the Deron Williams trade, Utah has plenty of assets. Millsap and Harris are also solid NBA players that could be used to match salary. Assuming the Jazz would be willing to make many of their assets available, they could probably trump the Lakers' trade. VERDICT: Better than Lakers' trade.


At the end of the day, we have the following trades that would absolutely be better than the one Dell Demps was able to secure.

  • Denver (only if they included Nene)
  • LA Clippers (only if they included the unprotected first-round pick AND DeAndre Jordan)
  • Utah (depending on the assets they'd include).

And we have the following trades that are in the same ballpark:

  • Houston (if they just dealt for Paul themselves)
  • Philadelphia

That's five trades total that even match up to the Lakers' offer. Basically, we're left with the same conclusion we all kind of figured: the "basketball reasons" explanation is ridiculous.