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Dunk that Sh!t: CP3 Edition

Published: May 24, 2011

Well, at least the made up trade scenarios for Chris Paul are getting better. Remember when he was going to Orlando for Jameer Nelson and a pile of junk last summer? No longer. Now, he is destined to be a Thunder (it is so odd when the team name is not plural) and the Hornets will be granted a budding All-Star in return. Gee thanks false internet rumors, we really appreciate it. How very kind of you.

Today we had two questions that come regarding CP3 that kind of go hand in hand, so we will take a look at what the facts say on this edition of Dunk that Sh!t:

James Grayson (Swarm and Sting): What is the likelihood that Chris Paul accepts the extension offered by Dell Demps? Seeing as the contract can only be offered AFTER the CBA expires can Dell even offer it to him? And if so is it a 20 million-a-year contract or one far less?

Michael McNamara: I will actually answer the second question first, and although I can not know this for certain, everything points to a scenario in which Chris Paul’s contract extension will be significantly less than the 20 million dollar per year one that you proposed. All we have to do is look at the aims of the owners in prior CBA’s as evidence for how they are going to negotiate in this session. In 1998-99, the owners were worried that spending was getting out of control and that they needed to put a cap on max salaries in order to curb that spending. Michael Jordan had just received a contract a couple of seasons prior that paid him $30 million annually and Kevin Garnett had recently inked a 6 year 126 million dollar contract after just three years in the league. Seeing the potential for this to become disastorious, the owners capped max contracts at between 9 million and 14 million (depending on how long you had been in the league).

Think about that for a second. That means that Michael Jordan’s earning potential would have theoretically dropped by over 50%. Garnett’s dropped by nearly that same amount when you factor in that he was just a fourth year player after the lockout ended and would have likely only gotten 10-11 million per year. This is the reason why Carmelo Anthony’s agent was so aggressive in getting him dealt to a team where he could sign the 3 year/65 million dollar extension. In all likelihood, Melo would have lost 20-35 million dollars had he waited until after the new CBA, just like KG would have lost boatloads of money if he had not signed his extension prior to the lockout.

There is no telling just how much the owners will push to put a significantly lower cap on max contracts, but they might not even have to directly write this into the CBA. Let’s say they get this 45 million dollar hard cap that they are looking for. How then could they commit 20+ million dollars to one player and still be able to put together a competitive team? The only hope for superstars is that the owners do what they should have done all along- pay the mega stars what they deserve and give the change to the guys who don’t put the butts in the seats. But even then, committing half of your cap to one player will, best case, just lead to a Lebron in Cleveland type of outcome for a team.

As for your first question- how likely is CP3 to sign the extension? I say 1%, and that is being generous. What’s the rush? That deal will still be on the table next summer or the summer after that if he decides to invoke his player option for 2012-13 (a real possibility that NOBODY is considering). How can you fault CP3 for waiting to see what kind of moves Demps and Williams can make to ensure that the Hornets become a long term contender? Why should he commit to four or five more years when he did that just a couple of seasons ago and doesn’t have one playoff series victory to show for it?

The only argument that could be made is that if CP3 signs the extension, it will signal to other free agents that they should consider New Orleans because CP3 is not going anywhere, but that is just a bunch of hogwash rhetoric that has no real tangible power. How many mega free agents or disgruntled players have set their sights on New Orleans since the last time Chris Paul signed his extension? Those who want to believe in this rhetoric cannot be convinced otherwise, so I will not spend another 200 words denouncing it, but believe it when I say that this is not the key to luring Dwight Howard or some other superstar.

The simple truth is that CP3 will play out next year and will stay in the present as he does so. Professional athletes of high character know that when they start to look ahead, they are doing their team, the league, and themselves a disservice. By simply offering CP3 the extension (knowing he will not sign it), Demps is putting himself in a position where he can spin the situation in his favor no matter how it plays out. If he has to trade CP3 at some point, he can honestly say that he did everything he could to keep him here and if CP3 does eventually re-sign it will be because Demps was relentless in his pursuit.

Andrew Alvarez (via mailbox): I am hearing a lot of internet chatter (make believe trades) about a Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul swap. How do you feel about that kind of trade if Chris doesn’t want to stay in NOLA?

Michael McNamara: I want everyone to notice the conditional at the end of Andrew’s question: If Chris doesn’t want to stay in NOLA. This means that he and Dell Demps have sat face to face and CP3 has told him that in no uncertain terms that he will not sign an extension no matter what. That he will be gone the first chance he gets. What then? Well, first of all, I can not see this happening until January at the earliest. Think about it. CP3 feels good right now about the season and has seen a new foundation put in place by Demps/Monty that revolves around committment to defense and commitment to winning.

On a personal level, he knows that he was still not 100% physically and that he will be back to his old form in the upcoming season. Combine that with the fact that the Hornets are likely to be aggressive in the offseason, and there is no reason to believe that CP3 and the Hornets will not be hopeful going into next year. Even if they start off poorly, they can blame that on West not being back yet and talk themselves into him being a difference maker once he returns in November/December. Because of all of those reasons, I can not see CP3 demanding to be traded prior to late January/early February.

But what do you say to a Westbrook/Harden type of package under those circumstances? Can you do much better than an All-Star point guard and a budding shooting guard on rookie contracts for CP3? Would you take a slightly lesser deal just to make sure he is in the East and not alongside Kevin Durant? Would you have to change the other core pieces of your team to accommodate a guy like Westbrook? Will Westbrook just bolt in 18 months when he becomes an UFA?

These are all legitimate questions that Dell Demps would have to ask himself if this scenario would come to fruition. I am not going to speculate on how the team would look after the trade or what other pieces that we could add, as I am sure that many of you could do that better than I can. What I will say, however, is that this scenario only plays out if the Hornets struggle mightily next season and Russell Westbrook does not improve over the next 7-8 months. After seeing the Hornets make a giant leap forward this past year and Westbrook grow every season he has been in the league, the odds of both of those things occurring seem rather unlikely to me.

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