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Los Angeles Clippers Land Chris Paul

Aaron Fischman |
December 14, 2011 | 9:33 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

Chris Paul's wish to be traded was finally granted Wednesday (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Chris Paul's wish to be traded was finally granted Wednesday (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)

The Los Angeles Clippers finally acquired four-time All-Star Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets Wednesday night, effectively ending the trade saga that seemed to last an eternity.

Six days earlier, the NBA, which currently owns the Hornets, vetoed a three-way trade that would have brought the star point guard to the other team that inhabits Staples Center, the Lakers. 

The Clippers agreed to send the Hornets Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al Farouq-Aminu and a 2012 first-round pick that the Clippers originally acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005, in exchange for Paul and two future second-round picks. 

Although the Lakers and their fans are upset that the league vetoed last Thursday’s three-way trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers, with this deal New Orleans was able to receive younger players and an extremely valuable draft pick. In other words, the Clipper deal will allow the Hornets to rebuild more quickly, while simultaneously giving the club a good chance at fielding a respectable team this season. 

Gordon and the first-round Timberwolves' pick are clearly the centerpieces of the deal for the Hornets.

For one, Gordon is still only 22 years old (he’ll be 23 on Christmas day), yet is already a proven scorer at the NBA level. In Gordon’s third year in the league, he raised his scoring average to 22.3 points per game (an increase of 5.4 ppg), while simultaneously maintaining his efficiency.

Most 22-year-olds must live with a decreased field goal percentage when their team begins relying on them to take more shots, but not Gordon. Gordon maintained a 45 percent field goal clip, while taking 17 shots per game (up from 12.7 attempts per game the previous season).

Gordon is a great passer at the shooting guard position, and even more importantly, he’s a very accomplished three-point shooter. For some time now, Clippers fan have known Gordon was something special, but the undersized shooting guard started to gain national attention in the summer of 2010, when he exceeded expectations while representing the USA in the FIBA World Games. 

Secondly, the Timberwolves pick is especially valuable to the Hornets because it is unprotected.

This means that no matter how high the pick is (the worse the Timberwolves perform this season, the greater the likelihood that the pick will be near the top), the Hornets are guaranteed to possess it. Let’s face it: more likely than not, the Timberwolves will be bad.

Last season, Minnesota finished a miserable 17-65 for the league’s worst record, even worse than the LeBron-less Cavaliers. While Minnesota returns talented big man Kevin Love, who will be joined by promising youngsters Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves remain extremely inexperienced.    

Then there's Kaman, a solid center who rebounds well and is ambidextrous around the basket. More importantly for the Hornets, however, his contract expires at season’s end. With his sizable salary coming off the books, the Hornets will be blessed with additional salary cap room next offseason.

For his part, while Aminu is largely unproven, he definitely showcased some bursts of excellence in his rookie season. Ironically, Aminu, who only scored 5.6 points per game last year, averaged 14.7 points over his three games against the Hornets. With more playing time, Aminu’s game has a great chance of improving.  

New Orleans originally wanted Eric Bledsoe (a promising young guard), too, but the Clippers ended up keeping him. Going forward, Los Angeles can elect to keep Bledsoe, but will likely ultimately trade him for a big man. Nevertheless, it’s a good thing for the Clippers that they were able to keep Bledsoe this time around, considering that the league was driving such a hard bargain. Then again, the Clippers were also originally opposed to parting with Gordon, a refusal they ultimately abandoned.

As noted above, the Clippers paid a hefty cost to land Paul, but one that they will not regret, regardless of any future circumstances (such as the position of that Timberwolves pick, or how good a season Gordon has).

The reason?

Paul is a truly special player, who has agreed to opt-in to his contract for the 2012-13 season. This means that he won’t be a one-year rental, participating in a one-year experimental run at success. Instead, the Clippers will be able to pair Paul with the reigning Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin for at least the next two seasons. 

Paul is widely regarded as the best point guard in the league, and it’s easy to see why.

The Wake Forest alumnus has placed in the top five in the NBA in assists each of the last five seasons, including two years in which he led the league. For a player who accumulates so many assists, it’s remarkable how few turnovers CP3 commits. Over his six-year career, Paul has boasted an assist to turnover ratio of 3.97. By comparison, Deron Williams’ average is 3.01, and Steve Nash comes in at 2.99. 

The sneaky point guard has led the league in steals three of the last four seasons. He’s also a gifted rebounder, especially for a 6-foot-point guard. In addition, Paul’s speed will be a godsend for the Clippers, who love to run the fast break. Paul loves to throw alley-oops and running mates Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (both pictured right) love to finish them, as well. 

With the Paul acquisition, the Clippers do not instantly become a title contender, but they have now become a surefire playoff team.

But wiith the team’s current construction, one glaring deficiency remains.

Presently, the team is lacking in depth at the center position now that Kaman has departed. It should be noted, however, that the Clippers are not done wheeling and dealing just yet.

Faced with an extremely condensed offseason, the Clippers’ front office has done a magnificent job in its quest to build a winning team.


Aaron can be reached via email or Twitter.

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