The Missing Piece: Going All-In on Chris Paul

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Published: May 3, 2013
Missing Piece Four

Eleven months ago I laid out an argument for why I would not close the door on the return of CP3. Eleven months ago I laid out a scenario in which we could see the Clippers regressing and New Orleans becoming the main competition for his services. Friday night, the Grizzlies eliminated the Clippers from the playoffs and the core of that article written eleven months ago still holds up today. The fact of the matter is that Chris Paul said that winning championships was his top priority, nobody put those words in his mouth. If those words are true, then he has to leave Los Angeles, there is no argument to be made for the Clippers being his best chance to win at that level short term or long term. None.

Does that automatically mean that he should return to New Orleans? I am not saying that, but they are in the conversation. And it is imperative that Dell and Monty go all-in if there is even just a 5 percent chance. This is a superstar-less draft. It is a superstar-less free agent class outside of Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, and Dwight won’t even entertain a trip to the Big Easy. In a league where 29 out of 30 teams are going to end the season disappointed, you have to swing for the home run whenever you have the chance. If you fail, oh well. There will be another Brandon Jennings next year, another Eric Bledsoe to gamble on down the line. Solid singles and doubles will always be there. The home run comes maybe once in a General Manager’s tenure, and if you don’t at least swing, you will live to regret it.

Dell can easily get into position to offer Chris Paul a max contract without losing anybody from his core, so cap space is not an issue. There are some hurdles, however, and Dell will have to overcome those hurdles to sell CP3 on a return to New Orleans. So, let’s take a look at some questions Chris will have for Dell and how Dell should answer them.

If I want to win, why in the world would I join a team that won just 27 games last year rather than stay in LA?

Great question, Chris. Let me answer that by telling you a little story about the New Jersey Nets that happened just a little over a decade ago. In 2001, the Nets finished the season 26-56, struggling to win close games because they had a lot of young talent but no true leader. That offseason, they got a high draft pick and selected Kenyon Martin, then traded Stephon Marbury for Jason Kidd. Ten months later they were in the NBA Finals and they returned again one year later. Massive moves weren’t made, unless you call signing Todd MacCulloch a massive move. The young Nets just added a veteran guard who knows how to win to an already talented, but young, nucleus.

Why am I telling you this? Because history can repeat itself here and we can go even further. Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson are two of the most efficient big men in the league, and that was WITHOUT you. Eric Gordon would give you the best wing player you have ever played with and Austin Rivers, Brian Roberts, Jason Smith, Robin Lopez, and the guy we just drafted give us tremendous depth. Compare that to what you would have in LA if you went back, and it goes without saying that this roster gives you the best chance to win, and win big, long term. Add that to the fact that you have a stable organization with a great owner (not a racist penny pincher), a GM and a coach that you respect who are locked into new long term contracts (as opposed to an intern GM and a lame duck coach) and the choice is clear, Chris.

Why not just go to Miami or New York?

Great question yet again, Chris. While there is no doubt that you might be able to take a shortcut to a title by hitching a ride on LeBron or Melo’s train, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that this would cost you tens of millions of dollars. We are prepared to offer you 4 years and $79.6 million. The most that either of those teams can offer you over the next 4 years is $13 million. Not that it is all about the money, and I acknowledge that you could make about $6 million more over the next four years by staying in LA, there is a huge difference between leaving $6 million on the table and leaving $67 million on the table. Not to mention the fact that you would just be joining their team. You won’t be satisfied doing it that way. Come here and lead us, where we can give you the supporting cast you need and the money you deserve.

But the nickname, I hate it. How am I going to get around that?

Really? After all these good points I’ve made, you are going to let a nickname keep you from returning? That’s gonna be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Remind me, Chris, what is a Clipper again? Or how about this, when was the last time you were terrified by or in awe of a Knickerbocker? And you were in LA for a couple of years, right? How many lakes did you see in your time there? C’mon, we aren’t really talking about this are we? Moving on.

Okay, no New York and no LA. But why should I choose you over all the other teams?

Well Chris, we have already addressed money. We can give you the max, and only a few other teams can say that. When you also factor in teams that can do that AND maintain quality pieces around you, there are only a few teams that remain: Houston, Atlanta, Dallas, and Detroit. We acknowledge that a core of you, Harden, Parsons, and Asik would be solid, but I don’t know if that roster meshes with what you do best. Detroit is an up and coming team that can use a point guard, but our front court is more versatile, and Eric Gordon trumps anything they have on the wings by quite a bit. Dallas has an all-time great in Dirk Nowitzki, but his time is coming to an end and they don’t have the flexibility to add a third quality player next to you too. And a core of you, Josh Smith, and Al Horford admittedly looks solid on paper, but the rest of the roster would have to be made up of minimum players, and our roster has more depth.

On top of all that, think about your legacy. Most of the greats played for just one franchise, two tops. Whether that should matter is irrelevant, perception is reality. You do not want to be perceived as a mercenary or a quitter that just runs from a challenge. Come back here and we’ll tell the public that you wanted to finish what you started or that this is where your kids grew up, where you bought your first home. People will eat it up. They’ll applaud your renewed sense of loyalty and your desire to help return this franchise to prominence. You can’t sell that angle in Atlanta or Houston or Dallas, only here. It’s Los Angeles or New Orleans; go anywhere else and you will be viewed as a heartless mercenary. It has to be one of those two, and we have already discussed why we are better for you than LA, so what are we waiting for? Let’s get that contract signed!

More Notes and Observations

– There are two questions to ask that are completely different. Question #1: Will Chris Paul really consider signing with us? Question #2: Should Dell Demps pursue Chris Paul? Two totally different questions, remember that. One Dell can control, one he can’t. Internal locus and external locus of control. He can’t control what CP3 will do, but he can control whether or not he pursues him. I have no idea what the question is to #1, but the answer to #2 is a clear ‘yes’.

– To offer him the max that any team other than LA can give him, the Pelicans need to be $18.6 under the salary cap. Gordon, Davis, Ryno, Vasquez, Smith, Rivers, Roberts, Miller, and cap holds (including rookie cap hold) bring them to about $46 million and the cap figures to be somewhere around $60 million. In order to offer Paul the max, they would likely have to either decline the option on Lopez or trade him. Or maybe they can move Vasquez, the first round pick, and/or Jason Smith. Point is, there are numerous options and it is easy to do without breaking up the core. Dallas, meanwhile, would have far more trouble getting to a point where they can add both CP3 and Dwight. Actually, that’s not true. It would be impossible for Dallas to do that, unless they move Dirk. Houston can give CP3 a max deal if they dump a few small contracts or find a taker for Jeremy Lin. Atlanta is the big wild card. Theoretically, they can pair CP3, Smith, and Dwight by either giving Horford to LA in a sign and trade or finding a team with cap space to trade for Horford, and then just signing all three outright.

– I know nobody asked for my plan on how to entice CP3 and give him an offer he can’t refuse, but I am the Godfather in this scenario and here is my plan. My #1 objective is to get Chandler Parsons, and I would give up Lopez, Vasquez, AND our pick to get him if it came to that. Not saying Houston is specifically interested in all those assets, but I find out which ones they like, then I move the others to another team to get an asset Houston does like. If I move all those assets, I shed another $9 million (the difference between their salaries and Parsons). I target Parsons because of his insanely good contract and his budding reputation around the league. Otto Porter might one day be as good or better than Parsons, but CP3 wants a few guys who can help him win now, not a bunch of 20 year olds.

Now, I can entice Paul with a starting lineup of him, Gordon, Parsons, Ryno, and Davis. A bench of Roberts, Rivers, and Smith. Plus about $5 million in cap room to get a backup big like Samuel Dalembert and two salary cap exemptions to increase our depth on the wings. Target guys like Earl Clark and Anthony Morrow. There’s a team that is 11 deep, under the luxury tax, would be very good from day one, and every single one of those guys, with the exception of Dalembert, still have room to grow.

– Random thought here, but if the Clippers are afraid that New Orleans is their main competition for Paul, why not offer Eric Bledsoe up to the Pelicans for a reduced price before the draft, with the hopes that they take CP3 off their wish list? Or make them take back a contract that makes it impossible for them to offer CP3 the max. Clippers can do this by offering Bledsoe and Caron Butler for Vasquez and a future protected 1st rounder. Dell would have to jump on the sure thing, wouldn’t he?

– For all those people tempted to type, “I’ve moved on from Chris Paul, I don’t want him,” or something like that – no disrespect, but save it. There isn’t one fan who wouldn’t take him back if he wanted to return. The truth is that people don’t think it is likely, so they put on this act. Thankfully GM’s aren’t jaded teenage lovers. Dell’s job is to make this a championship team. The past is the past, it doesn’t matter. If Dell has a shot at any top-10 player, he is going to pursue it until it is no longer a possibility. If he loses out on him, so be it, but he is not going to not go after Paul because Paul wanted out two years ago or because it is unlikely.

– On a personal level, I still really like Chris Paul as a person and a player, but if he re-signs with the Clippers, I will lose some respect for him because it will mean one of two things:

1.) Winning is not his top priority. Actually, that doesn’t bother me in and of itself. It’s just a game. He should care about his family more than he does winning, but don’t tell me that winning is priority #1 and then go back to LA. Sign that contract and then in your press conference, say money and the exposure of that market was more important. I will respect that, but don’t sign and tell me that you did so because this  was your best chance to win a title.

2.) It could also mean that CP3 really believes that LA is the best place for him to win titles. If that is the case, I will lose respect for his ability to evaluate talent and understand fundamental logic. Either way, I lose a little bit of respect if he resigns. Not that he would care, nor should he.

– Free agency begins July 1st. Can’t wait!

The Missing Piece is a weekly feature that you can find every Saturday only on Hornets247.com. For past issues in the series, click here. 

50 comments
fraunpetri
fraunpetri

The one thing that hasn't been mentioned here but is the most obvious choice: Chris Paul re-signs with the Clippers and takes the most money now and if they can’t establish themselves as true title contenders, he looks to be traded to a team that is. It's the biggest win for him as he gets paid, another chance to build whatever roster/coach he wants, remains in a large market to keep the brand going, and if the team falters, do the same thing he did in New Orleans, ask for a trade. I appreciate the time/energy put into making the article but you guys gotta know how unlikely it is he comes back unless we go to the finals in the meantime and by then, would we really want him?

lsutigers33
lsutigers33

I would love for the staff heretofore do a comparisons of burke and CP out of college. Cp had his bad moments on D in playoffs being short and that is my only concern with Burke

Joe P
Joe P

I don't want CP3. I'm not saying he isn't a top player. I agree with some of the other commentors who don't want to build around smalls. I understand that elite players are necessary and hard to come by. I think Davis fulfills the elite criteria. I think we need players who are more dynamic, i.e. players who can do something on defense against two "positions." Wings. Many of the best teams have star swing men. The best three players are "3s," and "shooting guards" (bigger guards) are at a premium. Maybe all small/point guards are, to some degree, defensive liabilities, but that's why you don't tie up your cap with a position that is the most plentiful in the league. It's not just his body, though. CP is SO ball dominant. Playoff defenses can lock up the QB/receiver style offense. I don't think coaches Scott, Bower, Williams, and Del Negro ALL have the same Achilles heel of a stagnant half court offense. Some of that has to be blamed on Chris. The other four players on the court have to believe that they are worth 20% of the offense, whether it's screen setting, cutting, swinging the ball, or being a decoy. If three other crunch time players are being paid low NBA salaries for average-ish NBA skill sets, and Chris is yelling at them and being a bossy d!c&, defenses can stop that CP team in the playoffs. He's great, I just don't like his style/salary to build a contender.

eg10doit
eg10doit

Can we please stop bringing up CP? Please? Is that too much to ask? I mean, he was great, I mean GREAT while he was here, but he CHOSE to leave and is a completely different person now it seems. I don't even want him back, I'm sure a lot of Pelicans fans feel the same. On top of that we have an awesome person and player who already owns the PG position in Vasquez. This is my plea to please stop writing and hoping for CP to come back. Please. Thank you.

icebird
icebird

We won't give up the dream until Chris signs his new contract! I think its actually a timely look at who the other suitors for his services might be, and how attractive they might be as destinations. I'd still rate his chances of remaining a Clipper at at least 60% - not because I think the Clippers team is that much better now, or going forward, but because I think players are biased towards conservatism in these decisions. I think given the choice between the track record of a Clippers roster with numerous veterans, and an extremely young Hornets team with lots of potential, he opts for the more risk averse option. I can't see Detroit being attractive to Paul as a city to live in (sorry Pistons fans), especially compared to Dallas and Atlanta. Dallas has Dirk, and Mark Cuban, but not a lot else. They rebuilt around one year contracts this year to keep their flexibility when they couldn't lure a free agent, but they're lacking in good rookies on cheap contracts. Atlanta has two stars to the one in Dallas, so I'd consider them a strong contender. Houston is going to be a wild-card in all things free agent-y. They made it to the playoffs on the back of James Harden, rookies and role players. They're like Dallas, except with lots of useful players on good contracts to build a team around. As far as CP3 on the Pelicans goes - there are all sorts of obvious reasons why he makes the team exponentially better. But I wonder if brings out the best in Eric Gordon. With EG10, I think there's a justifiable suspicion at this point whether his issues are physical, motivational or a combination of the two. You'd hope Gordon wouldn't have motivation issues playing next to Paul - and I think Paul would have the "stature" in the game to hold Gordon accountable when he makes poor decisions (dribble the ball in place for 10 seconds, take one step inside the three point line, pull up a for long jumper...). So before reality sets it, lets take a minute to imagine a team of Paul, Gordon, Porter/Oladipo, Anderson, Davis, with perhaps a semi-competent bench to back them up (Jason Smith, maybe Aminu, maybe Roberts, a so-improved-we-wonder-if-hes-the-same-person Austin Rivers...).

Jared
Jared

If CP3 really does want to win, this is his best place. I believe Michael mentioned on the podcast that we can offer him a sure-fire playoff team, without mortgaging the future. CP3 will join a future All-Star in Anthony Davis, the best stretch 4 he's ever played with, our lottery pick, and Eric Gordon (or whatever we get in return for him). Also, our bench would include Austin Rivers (would love to see him play alongside CP3). It just makes so much sense, but im skeptical as to if CP3 would believe the same.

OkiThor
OkiThor

I must say I have been reading and listening on the podcast from MM and RS about how the Clippers are not that good and will be one and done. I have watched a lot of "Lob City" this season and was just waiting for the chance to prove MM wrong! With Clipper's up 2-0 and slightly tired of MM always being right, I started to type up my post denouncing MM's bball knowledge. But something held me back. Fast forward 4 quick games later the power of Mikestradamus strikes again!! All hail the king future bball knowledge, MM. PS-I hope CP3 comes back ; )

Andres_SAN _FRAN
Andres_SAN _FRAN

To Hornets247 and fellow Pelifans: I understand this changes the scenario, but no matter what I do not think Eric Gordon is the best fit on this team (I believe many would agree). I do not expect much other than to get rid of his contract. I still believe the Pelicans should go after Chris Paul. I therefor would like to hear from Hornets247 and readers, scenarios in which the Pelicans acquire Chris Paul and dump Eric Gordon.

lsutigers33
lsutigers33

Alot of things can happen. But we have to see how the dominos fall. Howard goes to Houston or clippers, that frees up a big that needs to be traded. Dallas isvthevwildcard

Kumar
Kumar

MM, IIRC, the Lakers cannot do a sign and trade unless they go below the tax line.

hornetshornetshornets
hornetshornetshornets

I'm sorry, but I don't think Houston would give up Parsons unless it was part of a trade for a superstar. He's their 2nd favorite player after Harden, on a rookie deal, and does more than any role player on a similar contract. With that out of the way, I also don't see how Chris Paul comes here unless we solve the SF position too. That's a gaping hole in our rotation with not a lot of viable options in the market. We would have to convince some combination of Dorrell Wright, Martell Webster, Chase Budinger, or Matt Barnes to come here for cheap to even look serviceable. Or convince CP3 that some rookie like Otto Porter is good enough to contend. Would I love if he came back? Absolutely! Do I think there's more than a 5-10% chance? Not really.

kwilly
kwilly

Rather than pine for cp3 and something that isn't going to happen, here's a suggestion on a better question you can kick around: Several ex-Hornets (Jack, Landry, Bayless, Pondexter) are playing very well with their playoff teams. Why didn't they play that well when the were here?

mateor
mateor

I just don't see the point in pining for CP. The franchise is in good shape and has moved on, the fans need to do the same.

504ever
504ever

Here are the problems I see with this idea. 1. We are all of a sudden calling Eric "perennially declining games played per season" Gordon an asset? 2. We are investing $20M/yr in a seven year vet PG who has lost a step? 3. We will have over half our cap $35M/year tied up in two smalls? 4. We are assuming we create cap space for Paul but other teams don't (and even help us like Houston)? Do we really think big budget teams like the Lakers and Celtics are going to sit pat after first round playoff losses? 5. You can only find one example in NBA history where a 27ish win team made a significant turnaround in one season! If I am Dell, who got burned by Paul once before, I don't do more than gauge CP3's interest in N.O. There are plenty of other things I can do, all with less concentration of salary in in player, that I will actually pursue.

lsutigers33
lsutigers33

Love this article. Two hung stand ut to me. Your clipper trade before the draft, and if CP went to ATL. I would take Hartford if he went to ATL, ad like the Bledsoe trade as well. We have some options.

D-Style
D-Style

Chris Paul is not coming back here to play for a half empty arena. The only reason New Orleans still has a team is because of Katrina. I still laugh at the local idiots cry about how Chris Paul makes more than drew Bree's and how unfair that is, as if Brees plays point guard. Get over it people the Deep South does not support the NBA and Chris Paul knows this.

andregurov
andregurov

I want to drink from the Kool-Aid ... I do ... and this would be GREAT and instantly catapult us into Western Conference contention, but I'm too cynical about NBA players to think CP3 will make a decision that is remotely based upon competitive instincts. I worry he'll stay in LA - in the limelight - just because it is LA and is not Louisiana. I wish he was old-school like I once thought he was, but I've lost hope. It sure would be nice to get that hope back, though.

kwilly
kwilly

You don't explain why Houston would trade parsons? He is one of their best players and has a great contract. If they sign Dwight Howard, parsons would be very valuable to them. They don't need Lopez, Vasquez and this is a weak draft so even our #1 is not enticing. Also, even if CP3 joined the Pelicans, could they beat the Thunder, Spurs, or Grizzlies? I doubt it. My prediction is that he goes to Atlanta. He would have much better chance of reaching the finals in the weak east with Horford, Smith, Korver.

Snow
Snow

I tweeted about this last night lol "CP3 just needs to re-sign w/ the Pelicans. Davis > Jordan, Anderson > Griffin, Gordon (when healthy) > Crawford, Smith > all bench players" If we could get him back we'd be contenders right away! What'd be even crazier is if we got CP3 AND bring back his old buddy David West. We could trade Lopez to somewhere like you said to get Parsons. MLK had a dream... Why can't we? Lol

LLHOPS
LLHOPS

Nice post Michael and I would love to see CP3 back in NO. But it's not going to happen. Clippers fire Del Negro this coming week and then hire Phil Jackson. Chris Paul stays in LA.

Pelicanfan101
Pelicanfan101

Chris Paul was mad when we traded Tyson Chandler. Well look who we have a younger better Tyson Chandler in Anthony Davis. I say welcome crescent city connection 2.0

marios123
marios123

As much as we would like CP3 back, don't you think that signing him now would make us "too good too soon"? I thought this was something we didn't want to happen again cause we saw how it ended last time...

LaNative
LaNative

Michael, as much as I'd love to have CP3 back, I don't think it is likely. I agree, if winning is his objective, the Clippers have to make changes and I think they'll start by firing Vinny. With the Lakers in chaos and the talented but mentally fragile Dwight Howard as the centerpiece, he would be the brightest sports star in LA. It's going to be interesting to see what the Pelicans pull off with free agents and the draft, but it is going to be interesting nonetheless.

mateor
mateor

Am I crazy, or is Chris Paul making it a habit to lose series in which he has a 2-0 lead? This is possibly in my head, I haven't checked this. But I feel like I can remember three or four just now...

Trackbacks

  1. […] Also, Mike’s Missing Piece this week focus on the piece that left: Chris Paul. He details why the point guard may want to return to New Orleans. […]

  2. […] Hoops, Chris Paul. But good news, optimists, he’ll have the most amazing season next year when he comes back to the Big Easy. We won’t tell him he won this award though, just like we won’t tell him how most of us are […]

  3. […] recent days I have become more skeptical of this scenario than I was when I wrote this article, mostly due to some information we got from inside the […]