Thursday, July 22, 2010

So Chris Paul Wants Out?

I was reading Henry Abbott's terrific analysis of the Chris Paul situation in New Orleans and saw this line:
There are a lot of different stories you can use to rally your fanbase -- good ones include: we're young and growing, we're fun to watch, or we're contenders.

A less compelling story: We're on the playoff bubble, and likely to stay there. In other words, it's entirely possible they won't be exciting in the playoffs nor the draft.
Yes. This is, approximately, my Unifying Theory of the NBA. I went through it last year, in a less nuance form: You're either contending or not, and I argued that the list of real contenders -- not teams with a shot at the title but teams that were actually trying to win a title, this season -- was about a half-dozen long. Maybe a few more.

Everyone else fell into categories like Henry described: Young and growing (Thunder) or fun to watch (Warriors). Everyone else was in a neutral zone of tanking or sucking. And, by sucking, I mean that even if you make the playoffs, if you're not eventually going to contend for a title, you're not going the right way.

That's why I was so happy the Wizards got John Wall: They may not contend for years -- they may not contend ever -- but they will be fun to watch. And that's enough. Only one team can win a championship; in the NBA, the calculus is brutal. (See the limited number of teams that have won titles in the last 20-30 years.) I am perfectly happy for my team to be fun to watch.

Here is why the Hornets should trade Chris Paul, even though he is a megastar and they will get back dimes on the dollar: Because they have Darren Collison -- who isn't Chris Paul but proved that he isn't devastatingly far behind, either -- they can still be entertaining, but a hell of a lot more financially sound. And, even at dimes on the dollar, Paul should command a premium of talent complementary to Collison.

The game isn't competing for championships -- any Hornets fan who thought the team was in that position is deluding themselves. It's about being fun to watch and having the financial flexibility to maintain the fun in the near and long-term future. Dumping CP3 gives them that.

If it's the Lakers, I demand Bynum.
If it's the Knicks, I demand Gallinari AND Randolph.
If it's the Celtics, I demand Rondo (and make it work).
And 1st-round picks from all of them.
And taking on my worst contracts.

The Hornets will be better off.

(And that doesn't even get into CP3 not wanting to be there, which -- as a fan -- would make me want to ship him out as fast as possible. Good riddance.)

Don't get LeBron'ed, NOLA.

-- D.S.

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