Chris Paul is brilliant enough as a player that teams have to indulge his whimsy. He’s the top point guard in the game — no, that is not up for debate — and depending on how you slice it, either a top-three or top-five player overall. He’s not the kind of player you dismiss out of hand. He’s the kind of player you send fruit baskets to, and offer a shoe polish if he ever steps through the door. His game absolutely, positively demands your attention, and there’s no use arguing around that.
Still, there’s no point in playing the trade game until the rumors start to get a little more serious. Yes, Chris Paul has the Dallas Mavericks listed among the teams he’d prefer to be traded to, and that matters. Still, the Hornets, if they even decide to trade Paul at all, can ship their star point guard wherever they’d like. They can shop him around to every team in the league in search of the most attractive return package, and say “To hell with him and his list.” It’s certainly relevant that Paul wants to be traded in the first place, because it’s likely in the Hornets’ best interest to cash out now if they’re unable to pacify him. However, it matters less and less where he’d like to end up, because if New Orleans does make the move, they’re going to do so on their terms.
If the Hornets insist on receiving young talent in return for Paul (which only seems logical), the Mavs’ chances are dead in the water. With all due respect to Dominique Jones, Rodrigue Beaubois is the only young asset on the roster worth having, and he just so happens to be a positional duplicate to either Darren Collison or Marcus Thornton. That should be enough to cut down any possible intrigue Rodrigue may have held for New Orleans. Plus, even if Beaubois were enticing to the Hornets, a deal of this magnitude would take more than one young, talented player. New Orleans won’t ever get equal value for Chris Paul via trade, but they’re also not going to entertain a low-ball offer centered around just one young asset.
However, if New Orleans is instead focused on clearing cap to start again, the Mavs are in business. Dallas has $29 million in expiring contracts to play around with, and a Paul-less Hornets team will have a few expensive contracts to dispose of. If Tyson Chandler’s expiring deal were to be involved, a trade couldn’t officially go through until September 13th due to trade restrictions on recently acquired players. If not, the Mavs may have trouble putting together an attractive enough deal to steal the Hornets’ glance.
The most palatable offer from Dallas would likely be Tyson Chandler’s expiring contract, Caron Butler’s expiring contract, DeShawn Stevenson’s expiring contract, Rodrigue Beaubois, two first rounders, and a trade exception for Chris Paul, Emeka Okafor, and James Posey. Okafor and Posey are the two contracts that are likely to be moved along with Paul, as their departure (Okafor is owed $52 million over the next four seasons while Posey is owed $13.4 million over the next two) would help to facilitate the franchise reboot incited by Paul’s trade demand.
I have a hard time believing that such an offer would be competitive with the types of deals that will be thrown against the wall. Almost every team in the league will be after Paul, and while few teams can compete with the long-term savings the Mavs can offer, Dallas is likely still a few good, young players short of making a deal work.
Everything rests with the Hornets. Before it’s even worth it to fully analyze the Mavs’ trade potential, we need to know that New Orleans is seriously entertaining the option of moving Paul. Right now we don’t. So table your trade machine wizardry until things get a tad more serious, but with the tiniest bit of focus on what it could mean for Dallas to add one of the top talents the NBA has to offer.