The Mavs were much better positioned to make a blockbuster deal for Chris Paul at the beginning of the month. They still had Erick Dampier's nonguaranteed contract in their possession and Rodrigue Beaubois was last seen lighting it up in a playoff game, not struggling in the Las Vegas Summer League.
Only problem: The Hornets brass wasn’t budging.
Mavs management moved on – dumping a couple of bad contracts along with Dampier’s deal on Charlotte for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca – without giving up hope on the Hornets changing their minds. Mark Cuban and Co. maintained financial flexibility by taking back two expiring contracts, although neither has the instantly-vanishing allure of the Damp chip.
Paul is apparently ready to move on as well, with a source close to him telling CBSSports.com: “He wants out.” ESPN’s Chris Broussard reports that teams expected to be in the running if/when Paul is traded include the Knicks, Magic, Trail Blazers and Mavericks, with New York topping the list.
An argument could be made that the Mavs can offer the best deal, even after giving up the Damp chip.
The Mavs have more than $30 million in expiring contracts (Chandler, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, J.J. Barea and Ajinca), although they have to wait a couple of months to include the ex-Bobcats in a package with other players. They have two intriguing, inexpensive young prospects in Beaubois and first-round pick Dominique Jones. (However, it should be noted that Hornets guards Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton were impressive as rookies last season, so it’s not like youth in the backcourt is a big need in the Big Easy.) The Mavs would certainly be willing to include as many future picks and as much cash as allowed – and take back the bad contracts of Emeka Okafor ($53.2 million over four years) and James Posey ($13.4 million over two years) -- to get a legitimate All-NBA talent who has yet to reach his prime.
Orlando could also put together a reasonable package to take Okafor and Posey along with Paul, but it wouldn’t be nearly as financially attractive. The Magic might offer Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson and Marcin Gortat along with picks and cash for Paul and the pair of bad contracts. Carter’s megacontract comes off the books after this season. But the Hornets would have to want Nelson ($22.8 million over three years) and Gortat ($28.1 million over four years).
The Knicks and Blazers can’t offer the Hornets a dumping ground for Okafor and Posey. They’d have to hope that the Hornets, under pressure from Paul and his reps, would be willing to swap their franchise cornerstone by himself for a package that featured expiring contracts, a couple of promising young players, picks and cash. The Blazers have reportedly offered guard Jerryd Bayless and small forward Nicolas Batum. Wings Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler are the Knicks’ most attractive assets.
Of course, New Orleans could simply opt to play hardball with a player under contract for two more seasons. If the Hornets cave to CP3’s trade demands this season, the Mavs are still positioned to perhaps make the best offer.