Have you voted in today's matchup of Dean Blevins vs. Bob Barry, Jr? No? Then go, do that! Yes, before you read this article! Done? Okay.
Today's burning question comes as a bit of a "what if" question. And I won't lie. I'm not a big "what if" guy. I prefer taking the facts and analyzing them. That's why you don't see me posting lots of trade rumors or Draft Coverage. But, being a blogger, sometimes I have to dip into the depths of "what if".
And today, I'm answering a question that I get from a lot of casual fans that I meet in my travels. You know, the fans that go to a few games a year, and really don't know how the NBA works. The type of guy who will come to a Magic game and say, "Wow, Vince Carter is still playing? He was really good back in the day."
And, do you know what that question is?
#9. Why don't we trade for Chris Paul?
To most fans, the answer is obvious, but I'll delve into it anyway. The first and most pressing reason would have to be injuries. In the 5 seasons Chris Paul has played in the NBA, 2 of those have been injury shortened by more than 4 games. And do you know what his injury last season was? A knee tear. And that's never good. A progress report from June said that progress was "slow". Now, I'm not trying to say that his career is doomed or anything like that, but when a star player gets injured on your team, it really sucks. Thunder fans haven't had to experience this first hand, as we have the remarkable fortune of extremely healthy players. But, try to think back to the 2006-2007 Hornets season. Sure, towards the end it was nice, simply because we were chasing other teams for playoff spots. And the first few games were also nice. But, do you remember the middle? When Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic, David West, and Tyson Chandler were all out? When we had Marc Jackson and Devin Brown in the starting lineup? When, at one point, the Ford Center was nearly half-full, and the Hornets were languishing at 12-22? Yeah, that time was pretty horrible. And it's the reason we never saw a playoff run until the Thunder. So why, when we have a nearly completely healthy team, would we trade for an injury-prone PG?
Which brings me to our next point. Look at who we have at the Point Guard position. Russell Westbrook. Sure, Kevin Durant is the guy who always gets the credit for putting Oklahoma City on the map. But, he didn't do it alone. The emergence of a premier guard in Russell Westbrook has certainly helped his cause. Consequently, I can count the teams, on one hand, who wouldn't trade their current starting Point Guard for Russell Westbrook in a heartbeat. The Jazz, The Suns, The Celtics, and the Bulls. Maybe cases could be made for the Warriors or Wizards. But, the simple fact remains, we have somebody near the top already. Sure, Chris Paul is better on a purely statistical level, but simply looking at that wouldn't be taking into account the situations both players find themselves in. Chris Paul is/was on a team that asks him to create the offense, score all of the points, and guard the tougher assignments on defense. Russell Westbrook is on a team where he only has to create half of the offense, is only the secondary scorer, and leaves the tougher guarding assignments up to Thabo Sefolosha. Now, I'm not saying that if your reversed their roles that their stats would flip-flop. But, it is reasonable to assume that they're a lot closer than their stats tell you.
But, even getting past that, you have to beg the question: would Chris Paul accept a secondary role? Sure, at one point he suggested teaming up with Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. But even in that situation, he'd still be the top banana. Amare Stoudemire has always lived in the shade of Steve Nash, and would continue to do so under Paul. And Carmelo Anthony isn't the superstar he once was. A few years back, he was considered to be among the ranks of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade as the pride of the 2003 draft class, but in 3 of the past 4 years, his season has been shortened by 13 games or more through injuries or otherwise, and he has had several off-the-court problems. Plus, he's languished on several underachieving Nuggets teams. So, even with his injury history, I think Chris Paul would get top billing. Better face, and better numbers overall. On the Thunder? Not so much. He'd have to defer to the Durantula. Would he be willing? Maybe, maybe not. But it's still and underlying problem, and one that could grow over time.
Another problem, and a much more practical one, is the issue of money. Chris Paul currently makes 13.5 Million Dollars a year. Russell Westbrook currently makes 3.8 Million. That means, under current salary cap rules, that the Thunder have to give the Hornets about, oh, 8 or 9 million more dollars. And where's it going to come from? Krstic? Peterson? Collison? Pick one. And, since the Hornets will undoubtedly have no money to spare of their own, you can't pick two of the above three. You'll have to dip in the lower salary echelons. And who do you include from there? Sefolosha, Cook, and Ivey seem like the most logical candidates. So, when you get all of the balle out of the way, you're essentially trading Westbrook, Peterson, and Cook for Chris Paul. Oops, there just went our scoring off the bench. Krstic and Sefolosha? There just went 2 of your starters. Collison, Ivey, and White? Sure, but do you really want to give all of that up just for a slight upgrade at PG? All but the most die hard of Chris Paul supporters would probably say no. If you want to look at the Thunder salaries yourself, click here. And yes, you could wait until Russell Westbrook outgrows his rookie contract. But by that time, Paul will surely be off the Hornets and to a team that covets him much more than they do at the moment.
After all of this, there's only one more reason one could really throw at me if they agreed with my previous logic. What about Chris Paul's playoff experience? Okay, I'll give you that. He's played more playoff games than Russell Westbrook has, and on a higher level. But, think about who Chris Paul played with. The perfect defensive center in Tyson Chandler. The consummate scoring forward in David West. A wiley veteran in Morris Peterson. The perfect sharpshooter in Peja Stojakovic. And Pargo, Wells, and Armstrong off of the bench. That's a pretty powerful team, especially name wise. Of course, Paul did his part to help the team into the conference finals. Saying he didn't would be silly. But, he had a great supporting cast, and that's part of the reason why he got to where he was. But, back to Russell Westbrook. Do you remember how he carried the Thunder through Game 1 against the Lakers? How he hit several key shots throughout the series? How smoothly he worked with Kevin Durant? Sure, it was a first round playoff loss. But it was against the NBA Champions, and it was pretty clear he'd developed a great repertoire with his team. Do we really want to break that up? Still, if there was one valid point to make about the argument of Paul over Westbrook, I think this would be it.
I think the above arguments speak for themselves. And I think that most people reading this article have already realized that they'd prefer having Russell Westbrook on the Thunder before this point. But now, if your friend at school, at work, or at the bar rants about the old days where we used to have Chris Paul in our city, you can point them to this article. And they can summarily stop reading after the first couple paragraphs, and either give up or yell at you for making them read such trash writing.
Mission Accomplished is what I say.
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