Counter-point: Chris Paul is the Answer

Published: December 3, 2011

I’m just going to say it bluntly.

Trading Chris Paul will be the worst decision this franchise has ever made.

Now, if you’ve listened to the Podcast and read the blog, you’ll probably wonder at such an unequivocal stance from me.  I always hedge.  Hell, I wanted to hedge on the statement above, and my first draft started with.  “if there is any chance the Hornets can keep Chris Paul past next season . . . ”

You know what, though?  That’s crap.  There is no way a Paul trade will net equal value.  He’s not Carmelo Anthony – a faux star who scores inefficiently and does very little at an above average rate.  Anthony can be replaced by a parcel of middling talents.  Chris Paul cannot.  This isn’t an unproven Kobe Bryant traded for a needed center, or LJ being traded for Anthony Mason.  The only thing that could possibly come close was letting Alonzo Mourning walk, and that was as much to keep LJ as to keep from paying Mourning the largest contract in NBA history at the time.  This would be worse.

Now, I could, for the umpteenth million time, start talking about advanced stats and efficiency and Chris Paul’s position among the league’s top five in almost every category.  Instead, I’m going to do what I never do.  I’m going to simplify this down to scoring.

  • A team needs enough quality to win 55 wins or more in order to be a real contender for a championship.
  • A team, on average, needs to scores 5 more points per game than their opponent to win 55 games or more.
  • Chris Paul, over his career, scores 1.46 points per shot.
  • An average player scores 1.22 points per shot.
  • Over 11 shots per game(Paul’s average last year) Paul adds a +2.64 to the Hornets point differential compared the to NBA average.

In other words, Paul gets you more than halfway to contender status if you fill the rest of the team with purely average scorers and defenders.  By himself.

And that ignores any additional boost his passing provides the rest of the team’s efficiency. It ignores the fact he’s a better than average defender himself.  It ignores his ability to not turn the ball over and the way that keeps the Hornets as one of the least turnover-prone teams in the league.  Add all that together, and would anyone argue that he could make a team of average players a contender all by himself?

If the Hornets trade him for a platter of players like the Nuggets received, then each player might be worth half a point or maybe a full point over the average.  Even with 4-5 players being included, all of decent to good quality, there isn’t much chance they’d match the 2.64 points over differential that Paul provides – much less all the other stuff.  Paul is that rare of a talent.

But let’s say those players do combine to match Paul.  These hypothetical 4-5 players, since they are good, will each command an average salary or better.  That’s the reality of the NBA.  That means they will cost the Hornets anywhere from $30-40 million a year to keep around based on their scoring prowess.   Besides the big price tag, you now have to rely on 4-5 players to all keep in shape, keep interested, stay healthy, and work their tails off every night.  If you are just outside contender status and need an amazing run, you now need 2-3 players to get hot and produce 20% more than usual for a series.

CP3, on the other hand, will probably average around $18-20 million a year as a single max-contract talent.  If the Hornets need a push, it’s more than plausible that Paul could surge in the playoffs and dominate for a few games. (Think of it this way – add an average shooting guard’s performance for New Orleans to the Lakers-Hornets series this last year, and doesn’t Kobe go home in round 1?)

The risks are the same, injury-wise. If Paul goes down, the Hornets do too – but really, if any of the above good players go down, things are finished there too, it just won’t be as obvious.

To me, the Hornets already have the one player that could make them a championship contender with a couple good signings and a touch or two or luck.  Moving him, for anything, would be a disaster.

Get West.  Get a better Wing.  Play out the season and see what happens.  Maybe it will be something magical.


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