- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
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So you want to trade for a superstar? Sounds easy enough, right? Cultivate some young talent, acquire a few draft picks, hang on to valuable expiring contracts and wait for a small-market team to get realistic about their chances of keeping a superstar like Chris Paul, then pounce at the right moment.
After the impact Paul has had on the team It feels kind of like a million years ago that Clippers GM Neil Olshey choreographed the team's blockbuster trade back in December. Actually, it feels long enough ago that many have forgotten just how hard it was to pull that trade off.
But as we approach awards season in the NBA, it's time to revisit that trade and the other moves Olshey made this year that have completely revamped the team's roster and culture.
"Most people don't realize just how difficult it is to acquire a franchise player through a trade," Clippers president Andy Roeser told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "Neil was able to do that and set us on our way to where we are now.
"There's several guys who stand out this year. David Morway in Indiana has done a nice job putting that team together. But I think we did a nice job upgrading our team. And it goes beyond just the Chris Paul trade. Neil put together an entire roster virtually overnight. I can't think of anyone more deserving."
Whether Olshey's body of work will beat out Morway in Indiana, Spurs president RC Buford, Memphis GM Chris Wallace, Knicks GM Glen Grunwald or any of the other leading contenders for the award is debatable. There are some voters who will probably dismiss Olshey because the Clippers virtually became the Hornets only trading partner after NBA commissioner David Stern, acting as owner of the Hornets, vetoed a trade with the Lakers.
But as Roeser points out, Olshey did a lot more than trade for Paul this season.
Before the Paul trade Olshey convinced small forward Caron Butler to sign with the Clippers for less money and less guaranteed years than the New Jersey Nets were offering.
Then there was the waiver-wire acquisition of Chauncey Billups for a shade over $2 million from the New York Knicks, which effectively allowed the inclusion of Eric Gordon into the trade for Paul, and helped Paul feel OK about amending the early termination clause in his contract for the 2012-13 season.
The jury is still out on whether the Clippers overpaid for restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan, whom they matched on a four-year, $43 million offer sheet he signed with Golden State.
After the season began, Olshey snagged veteran big man Reggie Evans, who has become a valuable rebounder off the bench, and again convinced a veteran to take less money to join the Clippers when Kenyon Martin signed with the team in February for their pro-rated mini mid-level exception of $2.5 million.
Then at the trading deadline he was able to acquire Nick Young from the Washington Wizards for essentially nothing: giving up little-used big man Brian Cook and a future second-round draft pick for a dangerous wing player who has help offset the loss of Billups, who was lost for the season to an Achilles injury.
Will that body of work be enough to sway voters for the award? It's hard to say. But for the first time in quite a while, the Clippers have other things on their mind this time of year. You know, the playoffs.