Some NBA trades are remembered for their lasting impact on NBA franchises but few trades that didn’t happen become a legend like the Lakers’ botched trade for Chris Paul in 2011.
In 2011, Chris Paul was looking for a trade away from the New Orleans Hornets as the lockout was coming to an end. Paul had his sites on Los Angeles and New York despite the Celtics and Warriors making a move at the time.
The Lakers, Hornets and Rockets made a move that almost sent Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first round pick (Royce White) to the Hornets. Los Angeles would have gained Chris Paul and the Rockets would have landed Pau Gasol. The trade fell through thanks to David Stern exercising his right as the acting owner of the Hornets.
Still, this trade is often cited by fans and media who follow the Lakers as the trade that propelled the Lakers into some of the franchise’s worst seasons in history. This almost trade turned five years old last December and it is time that we bury the legend. Between the Lakers’ bright future and Paul leaving the Clippers for Houston, here are five reasons we need to forget about Paul’s alternate reality with the Lakers.
The Hornets turned out O.K.
In the six seasons that Paul wore a Clippers jersey, Lakers fans loved to remind Clippers fans that Paul was almost theirs. Let’s not forget that the Clippers paid a competitive price for Paul in December 2011. A few days after the failed Lakers trade, The Clippers sent Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman and a first round pick that would become Austin Rivers (Ironic).
Maybe this is the Clippers homer inside of me but that is a solid trade. Gordon and Aminu never lived up to their high draft bill in New Orleans but both have stuck as fringe starters in the league. Kaman was a double-double machine and Rivers was once one of the most coveted players coming out of High School.
Does that core of players equal the Point God? Probably not, but there are few packages that do equal Paul. Either way, the Hornets got three lottery picks and a starter for their superstar that wanted out anyways.
Moreover, that 2011 season featured a terrible Hornets team that landed the No. 1 overall pick. This pick led to the Hornets getting Anthony Davis who is a top-5 NBA player. Without the Hornets trading Paul to Los Angeles, they never land their next superstar.
In the Lakers’ trade scenario, the Hornets acquire a few starters that make them mediocre enough to miss out on a high draft selection that became Davis.
The Clippers did Clippers things
Even if the ball finally bounced into the Clippers court with the acquisition of Paul, let’s not forget they still had plenty of Clipper-ish things happen to them while CP3 was in L.A. Yes, they had their six most productive seasons in history but they always found ways to not make it to the conference championship.
Los Angeles changed ownership and logos while Chris Paul was there. They blew a 3-1 semi-finals lead to the Houston Rockets in 2015. Los Angeles watched Paul and Blake Griffin end the season on injured reserve for consecutive seasons. The Clippers lost DeAndre Jordan to the Mavericks in free agency for a few days. Oh, and Paul left town thanks to a rumored fall out with Griffin and coach Doc Rivers. Rivers made multiple free agency signings that resulted in nothing (Jordan Farmar, Spencer Hawes, Josh Smith, etc.). Rivers also traded-for and re-signed his son Austin Rivers (the pick they sent to the Pelicans for Paul).
Moreover, there’s an argument that the Clippers could’ve been just as successful without Paul. Remember, this team traded away Eric Bledsoe right before his breakout season. Who know if Bledsoe, Gordon, Griffin and Jordan would’ve been enough to compete in the Western Conference but we’ll never know thanks to the Paul trade.
Ultimately, the Clippers swooping away their cross town rivals’ most coveted player was not enough to end the dreaded Clippers Curse. Sadly, the Clippers didn”t turn Chris Paul’s tenure into a NBA title. L.A.C. did not even emerge from the shadow of the Purple and Gold. They still did Clippers’ things.
The Lakers got their point guard
Here’s why you can’t live in the land of the what-ifs. If the Lakers landed Chris Paul in that deal, do they pull the trigger on a Dwight Howard trade a season earlier than fate would have it? Does two seasons of the Paul, Howard and Kobe Bryant trio win a championship? Does Howard become a beloved Laker?
ward trade that happened a year later. What would happen to Andre Iguodala who was a part of that four-team deal for Howard? Does Iggy end up staying in Philadelphia if he never gets traded to Denver? Without signing Iggy a season after Denver, does Golden State become a marquee free agency destination? Do the 76ers ever tank? What happens to Andrew Bynum’s career and the Orlando Magic if the D-12 trade happens a season earlier?
All in all, there are too many variables and question marks in the Lakers’ fantasy land that includes Chris Paul. Still, it is safe to say the Lakers never land their current young core that includes Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Larry Nance Jr. or Jordan Clarkson in this alternate Lakers’ universe.
Further, the Lakers finally got their point guard of the future in Lonzo Ball. There is no telling if they ever land the the hometown phenom if the Lakers ever landed Paul.
The Rockets moved on
Houston had a team with Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic when they would’ve made the trade for Gasol. That could’ve been enough to make them a contender in the Western Conference.
Regardless, you never hear the Rockets crying about how they did not land Gasol. That is because the Rockets moved on from the botched Paul trade. They held onto the assets they would have used to obtain Gasol, acquired more assets and eventually traded for James Harden.
Harden has become an MVP and a player that everyone wants to play with. Houston used Harden to help recruit Howard for a few seasons which turned into a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2015.
Now, Houston got Chris Paul to buy into playing with Harden. The duo combines for one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Hence, the Rockets moved on from this trade a few times over. Everyone should follow their lead.
The NBA was never the same
In the end there are more questions than answers when we think about what would have happened if Chris Paul did end up with the Lakers.
Ultimately, Chris Paul was not the first superstar to force his way to a city or team that he wanted. He was not the last either as we’ve seen stars like Kyrie Irving and Paul George force their ways onto new teams this offseason. It’s funny given the context that Paul’s trade and almost trade happened after the lockout that was a result of super teams like the Miami Heat getting built.
Thus, the botched Paul trade is a dark clowd over David Stern’s term as commissioner. Public opinion sees it as Stern vetoed the Lakers trade because it was unfair. The truth is, this is not your fantasy league. Stern doesn’t care about fair trades, even if some owners wrote letters crying about how the trade was unfair. He said multiple times that he made the trade for basketball reasons. He wanted the Hornets to get more young players and a high draft pick. Since the NBA was acting as owner of the Hornets, it was Stern’s right to shut down the trade.
5 years after Chris Paul trade fiasco, David Stern blames 'ticked off' Lakers & Rockets for 'wrong impression' https://t.co/Ljfa2NKYwe pic.twitter.com/JHruF5dQJz
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) December 8, 2016
Stern said multiple times that he made the trade to the Clippers for basketball reasons. He wanted the Hornets to get more young players and a high draft pick. Since the NBA was acting as owner of the Hornets, it was Stern’s right to shut down the trade. As he has said since, Dell Demps did not have the authority to make the trade as general manager. Moreover, Stern blamed some of the other GMs involved in the almost trade for the backlash he received from denying the trade. He is right for doing so because the trade was never officially agreed on, despite what people think. The trade was also killed when the Lakers dealt Lamar Odom to the Mavericks a few days later.
David Stern said if Mitch Kupckak hadn't "panicked," the vetoed trade sending CP3 to the Lakers could've been redone.https://t.co/ogrHTEK73q pic.twitter.com/2Zw67B3Z3k
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 28, 2017
Additionally, it is important to point out that this trade had impacts on the awareness of athletes’ mental health. A recent Fansided column wisely points out that Lamar Odom and Royce White were both involved in this would-be trade. White advocated for mental health during his short tenure in the NBA. Meanwhile, Odom had a very public battle with addiction and mental health. There is no telling if either of these two players’ lives would’ve been better or worse had this CP3 trade held up. Either way, Odom and White made progress for the mental health of athletes after this failed trade.
Nonetheless, the NBA is going into it’s seventh season since the botched Chris Paul trade. There are too many variables between now and then to pretend like we can play what if the Lakers landed CP3. The Rockets, Clippers, Hornets, Lakers and NBA found their destiny since the almost trade. It is time for the rest of us to bury the legend of Chris Paul’s trade to the Lakers. With the dawn of the 2017-18 season here, it is time to erase Chris Paul to the Lakers fans’ hypotheticals, archives and fantasies.