The biggest NBA news of the week is the report that New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul is seeking a trade.
However, with those admissions of reality in place, there are plenty of reasons why the Grizzlies could be a good destination for Paul and a good trade partner for the Hornets. And while the chances of something like this happening are probably close to zero, allow me the brief indulgence of laying out the pitch I'd like to see the Grizzlies make.
The General Pitch to Paul: We can pair you with two great young pieces — Rudy Gay (23) and Marc Gasol (25). Gay is an emerging star and one of your closest friends in the league. He'll be the most dynamic wing scorer you've ever played with and also a player who will become much better playing alongside a point guard of your caliber. Paul-to-Gay will become one of the most exciting and effective open-court pairings in the league. Gasol, who just finished second in the Most Improved Player race, is a proven winner and emerging all-star-caliber true center who will be the best two-way big man you've ever played with. We believe that, with the right mix of role players — shooters, rebounders, defenders — a team built around this trio can be a legitimate contender, and one that will allow you to still be the unquestioned team leader. We will commit to putting a winning team in place around you, Gay, and Gasol, including paying luxury tax if needed. And we will give you a three-year max extension under the current CBA, with a player option in the second year, giving you the flexibility of opting out if you don't like the direction the team is heading after three seasons.
The General Pitch to the Hornets: To trade a player the magnitude of Paul you need two things: A young player (or two) in return with all-star-level ability and massive future savings. We are uniquely positioned to give you this because we can build a deal around two key assets — the $17.3 million expiring contract of Zach Randolph and guard O.J. Mayo.
The Deal: The Grizzlies could easily do a simpler deal directly with the Hornets, but I like this three-way trade proposal best:
To Hornets: Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo, Hasheem Thabeet, Darrell Arthur, Brandon Rush.
To Grizzlies: Chris Paul, Emeka Okafor, James Posey, Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price
To Pacers: Mike Conley, Hornets second-round pick
Obviously, other picks and cash considerations could be added to the mix if needed.
Why the Pacers: If the Grizzlies are trading for Paul, then Conley has to go, but the Hornets would presumably be turning their team over to Darren Collison. Thus, Conley needs to head somewhere else, and a three-way allows some of Conley's value to be shifted to the Hornets. The Pacers need a point guard badly and Conley is an Indianapolis native. They
The Hornets Rationale: This deal allows them to shed their two worst contracts in Posey and Okafor, totaling more than $65 million going forward. They add the #2 (Thabeet) and #3 (Mayo) picks from the past two drafts along with a couple of potentially useful young role players (Arthur, Rush). They retain David West, giving them another terrific trade chip to further remake their roster.
The Grizzlies Rationale: A team built around Paul, Gay, and Gasol has a chance to contend. With Paul and Gay on the perimeter, the team just needs role players at the two, and may already have them with a defender (Tony Allen), a shooter (Xavier Henry), and a slasher (Sam Young). Okafor isn't a great fit with Gasol, but Gasol is a good enough mid-range shooter and high-post passer for it to work and the pairing should be good defensively and very good on the boards. With Paul, Gay, and Okafor already on big contracts and Gasol due for an extension next summer, a massive payroll is inevitable, but if you won't do that for a chance to land Paul, then why are you in this business?