The Missing Piece: Going All-In on Chris Paul

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Published: May 3, 2013

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. 

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