David Stern Is the Owner the Hornets Deserve

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Published: December 12, 2011

The following is a guest post by Jesse Blanchard from 48MinutesOfHell, part of the ESPN TrueHoop Network.

After years under owner George Shinn, the New Orleans finally has an owner it deserves. One that may have just saved the NBA in New Orleans from itself, citing basketball reasons.

Merci Beaucoup, David Stern.

While the vetoing of the proposed Lakers trade may not have been for the most benevolent of reasons, it most certainly–if inadvertently–had legitimate basketball reasons. The difference between the Los Angeles Lakers deal and the Los Angeles Clippers deal is night and day.

If you will allow this writer a moment of hyperbole, the New Orleans Hornets would have been better off amnestying Chris Paul than accepting the proposed three-team trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers. Stern was absolutely right in killing that deal as interim owner of the Hornets.

I know, I know, three quasi-stars, a backup point guard, and a shoddy first round pick in a situation in which Dell Demps had no leverage is akin to squeezing water from stone.

But here’s the thing, in the NBA you want to be either 1.) really good, b.) have the opportunity to become really good, or c.) bad enough to get a draft pick that can give you the chance to be really good.

In acquiring Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, and Goran Dragic the Hornets roster met none of the criteria above.

For a small market team there is no hell worse than being maxed out in that 7-10th seed limbo, and with that trade the Hornets would have been competitive, but stuck in the same mediocrity that has permeated the franchise since it chased bad contract after bad contract in trying to build around Chris Paul. Only they would have lacked a superstar in Chris Paul.

ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Broussard’s reports have the Clipper sending back prospects and a potentially prominent draft pick in exchange for Paul:

The trade as submitted would cost the Clippers guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman and forward Al-Farouq Aminu. It would also include Minnesota’s first-round draft pick in 2012.

This report conflicts with the original Los Angeles Times report which had point guard Eric Bledsoe included in the deal instead of Gordon. Either iteration is infinitely better than the original Paul trade, which brought back more salary and no prospects.

Assuming the NBA and David Stern approve of this trade, it places the Hornets simultaneously in the “have the opportunity to become really good,” AND the “bad enough to get a draft pick that can give you a chance to be really good,” categories.

For any deal involving Chris Paul, since any deal isn’t likely to bring back an equal superstar, it was important that the Hornets be left with some assets but still bad enough to tank the season.

After all, contending teams are built around elite players, and season tickets can be sold with elite and/or promising young players. For New Orleans, the only viable option for finding and retaining those pieces is through the NBA draft.

When I said the Hornets were better off amnestying Chris Paul than making the Lakers trade it was with this upcoming NBA draft in mind. There is fallacy in taking whatever package you can get for a player of Paul’s stature because it assumes that the loss of a Chris Paul leaves the Hornets with nothing.

Losing a franchise player, as the Cleveland Cavaliers can attest to, almost certainly leads to top ten, and in all probability, top five draft picks. These picks are often cheaper, and better, than any assets you could have acquired in trying to make this mess look salvageable.

In acquiring Odom, Scola, and Martin the Hornets were not just losing Chris Paul, they were devaluing their own draft pick in a very good draft.

Instead, under the management of Stern, the Hornets are set to acquire the very real possibility of two top-ten picks in a deep draft, an expiring contract in Chris Kaman, a young, cheap, and talented wing in Aminu, and either a promising young point guard in Eric Bledsoe or an established and potential top-five shooting guard in Eric Gordon.

Instead of almost assuredly being the next Houston Rockets or Atlanta Hawks over the next 3-5 years, the Hornets have a shot–no matter how slim–of being the next Oklahoma City Thunder.

Short of vetoing this deal, David Stern is owner the Hornets deserve, even if he’s not the one they need right now.

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