Is Paul Leaving the Worst Case Scenario?

This will be the last column I write on a possible CP3 trade- I PROMISE. Like many of you I am sick of hearing about it, reading about it, being asked about it, and speculating on it. But I am a sucker for playing Devil’s Advocate and after reading Ryan’s amazing column on possible CP3 trades and the subsequent comments left by Hornet fans, I just cannot resist.

When the crowd all seems to be going one way, I immediately start exploring the opposite direction and whether people are pro-CP3 trade or anti-CP3 trade, there seems to be a built in belief that the worst case scenario would be to lose Chris Paul in 2012 without getting anything in return. This nightmare scenario is why we are discussing trading CP3 in the first place, right? Nobody would seriously consider Gallinari and Randolph or Nelson and Vinsanity for the best PG on the planet if this fear weren’t lurking in the background. Losing Chris Paul in two years while getting nothing back in return is a risk Hornets fans are afraid to take, but is it really the worst case scenario?

First off, it is necessary to acknowledge your own personal philosophy with regard to what qualifies as success in the NBA. Personally, I am an all or nothing guy and believe in only three directions: being a legitimate championship contender, building toward being a legit contender, and completely rebuilding. I look at a team like the Milwaukee Bucks, for instance, and see a direction that I would never take personally. They have a nice team that is built to make the playoffs for the next five to seven years, but have absolutely zero chance of ever winning an NBA title. Zero. A squad full of good, but not great pieces that play hard every night but will just not have enough talent to get through four quality teams come playoff time.

Now for some, they might be happy with Milwaukee’s future and consider their franchise a success considering the market they are in and the resources they have to work with. Fans will pay money to attend games and feel that they got their money’s worth because the players gave it their all and in the regular season they will win more times than they lose.  I am more of a big picture person however, and I just cannot fully enjoy winning battles if I am one hundred percent sure that at the end of every season we will lose the war.

For those who adhere to this all or nothing philosophy, it has to be asked whether letting Chris Paul go in two years is the absolute worst-case scenario out there. Let’s say 2012 comes, Chris Paul leaves and the Mayans are wrong, leaving us with a future that does allow us to live on this planet, but it does not include CP3 in a Hornet uniform.  His departure will leave us with a gaping hole that simply can not be filled, even if Daren Collison remains, and we immediately sink to the back of the pack in the West.

Now contrast that with the other side of the coin. Let’s say that we fear his departure and decide to move him to the Knicks in a deal that lands us a couple of quality prospects- Danillo Gallinari and Anthony Randolph, while subsequently allowing us to unload James Posey and Emeka Okafor. This team would have six young quality prospects and a ton of financial flexibility. On paper that seems that like an infinitely better scenario, but in reality wouldn’t it just lead the Hornets to the same position Milwaukee is currently in?

That team would have too much talent to go through a season that a team must go through to get a Durant or a James or a CP3. It would likely finish somewhere between 8th and 11th in the West and would max out as a 4th seed team if all those players developed properly while adding some veterans via trade or free agency. A first round victory would be possible, but championship expectations would be unrealistic. There are no Kobe’s or Wade’s or Durant’s on that squad, and even worse, there would be no realistic way of acquiring one.

Again, it all comes down to what you personally qualify as success in a league where thirty teams compete and only one can win it all every year. Have the Utah Jazz been a success these last five years? Were the Atlanta Hawks a success in the 1990’s? How about the mid 90’s Milwaukee Bucks or the Boston Celtics from 2001-2005? All these teams won multiple playoff series and even made an occasional co nference final, but they never really had a shot of winning it all. The Atlanta Hawks, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Dallas Mavericks all find themselves in the same position currently. They are not good enough to seriously contend, but they have no chance at being bad enough to land the next mega star in the draft that can turn their franchise around.

As an all or nothing guy I can think of scenarios that are far worse than CP3 leaving in two years. I can imagine other players following Paul’s lead if we trade him out of fear. How do you say no to the next guy who feels entitled when you just appeased Chris Paul’s trade demands? I can imagine becoming a perennial playoff team terrified to blow up the roster; a team that overpays their own players just to remain slightly above average. (I am looking at you Atlanta). I can imagine an asylum run by the players, a front office with no control, and a coach who feels powerless. All of these things happen if you let fear of the future dictate the present. All of these things are worse case scenarios for me, but again it all depends on your definition of success. 

With CP3 on the squad I know there is a chance. I know tha

t with Kobe slowly declining, Howard not improving offensively, and Wade always one fall away from a serious injury that CP3 can be a top two player in this league if he puts it all together and stays healthy. I know that in at least seventy games per year the Hornets will have the best player on the floor and in the NBA that means more than it does in any other team sport. I know that if management makes the right moves and ownership is willing to pay the luxury tax that the Hornets at least have a shot. The same cannot be said for twenty to twenty five teams in this league.


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