In what might be the biggest “what if” question in the NBA, there are so many questions that surround the Chris Paul trade to the Los Angeles Lakers that was nixed by the league and Commissioner David Stern in December 2011. It quite possibly had a tremendous affect on multiple franchises, the NBA itself and several different players that had their careers altered by the dropping of a commissioner’s gavel. But, what if the Chris Paul trade had been allowed by the NBA?
The teams that were involved in the Paul trade to the Lakers were, obviously, the Lakers, New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets. But, another team would have been affected as well, as the Los Angeles Clippers would not have been a part of the picture if Paul had been traded to the Lakers.
Before jumping into all areas of teams and players affected by the nixed trade, it is important to refresh the background of the story itself.
The trade was proposed following a five-month work stoppage (strike) in the NBA, and a new labor deal looming, but that is where things start to get interesting. According to ESPN, there were reports that NBA owners were irate by the proposal and were all in New York to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement. The report also points to Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert calling the trade “a travesty.” The Hornets (now Pelicans) were owned by the league at the time, thus the control came down to the NBA and what they felt was best for the team and league. But the teams and players involved in that trade were altered because of the nixed deal and impending departure of Paul to the Clippers.
New Orleans Hornets
Yes, they were the Hornets then, but they had an unhappy guard on their hands whom they knew would be leaving when free agency hit on July 1, 2012. There hands were relatively tied, so they were looking to deal the All-Star guard. A proposed three-team deal would have sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick to the Hornets.
This trade would have been good for both teams — even facing strong criticism of its unfairness — and the Hornets would have been fairly compensated for an All-Star that wanted out. After all, it wasn’t like the Kwame Brown trade that was completely one-sided.
It also would have prevented them from getting less playmakers when eventually dealing Paul to the Clippers for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al Farouq Aminu, a 2012 first-round pick and two future second-round picks. Gordon is the only player from the Clippers trade that is still with the team.
If the Lakers trade had occurred, there is a chance that New Orleans wouldn’t have landed Anthony Davis with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, but the team would have still been better off in the long run with the players that they received from the deal.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers were left with a pile of unhappy players after the botched trade and Odom appeared to be the most upset, although he felt for Gasol as well.
“I don’t know what to do for the Lakers,” Odom told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m even weirded out by the league doing what they did. I don’t know what to do.”
A “somber” Odom told the newspaper he thought it was a lie when he was first told about the trade to the Hornets.
“And then it doesn’t go through,” Odom said. “Oh, lord. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ll pray about it,” via ESPN.
The nixed deal also left the Lakers searching for a point guard to help out Kobe, before they ended up signing Steve Nash. He brought elevated guard play, but nothing like what Paul would have brought to the court. There is also a chance that this deal could have arguably kept Odom happy and helped him stay away from the rock-bottom point that he ultimately reached in late 2015.
The 2012-13 Lakers were in desperate need of athleticism and consistent guard play that Paul would have brought to the team, and Kobe could have been even deadlier with a guard that can score and dish out assists with the best of them. It also could have saved the team from the many Nash injuries that occurred while he was with L.A.
The Rockets would have added Gasol to a roster that included Kyle Lowry, Tragic, Chandler Parsons, Martin and Scola, and might have altered the history of Dwight Howard and James Harden in the process. Gasol would have added a consistent scoring and rebounding threat, and could have kept Parsons on the Rockets roster.
Like the Lakers and Hornets, the Rockets would have likely fared better if the Paul to the Lakers trade had happened, but it might have forced them to look elsewhere than Howard and Harden because of cap space.
The move could have also altered the Chicago Bulls plans that included Gasol being on their roster now.
Los Angeles Clippers
When looking at the trade that they were able to be a part of after the Lakers deal fell through, the Clippers might have been the best off, even without Paul. They still had Gordon, who is decent but not at the level of Paul, and Kaman was a worthy backup center for DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers also had Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams and Nick Young (Lakers) at the time.
But, the playoffs and success that the Clippers have now would not have happened as easily without Paul. They still have no championships, but they have started to rise above the Lakers and switch places in the shadows with them. That in itself is something that happened because of the Paul-Clippers deal, and the Clippers might still be in the Lakers’ shadow in L.A. if not for the nixed deal.
With so many players and teams that were affected by a nixed deal, and potential landing spot of the Clippers for Paul, the NBA might have looked much different today than it did back then.
And the only person to blame is former NBA commissioner David Stern (and maybe Dan Gilbert and other NBA team owners).