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Thursday, December 8, 2011
Who to include in Chris Paul offers?

ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network

Chris Paul
Where will Chris Paul play? CP is staying quiet, so we'll answer some of the major questions for him.

Chris Paul trade talks are cooling off for the moment, with top suitors hesitant to send their best packages to New Orleans.

But should the Warriors be willing to give up Stephen Curry? Should the Clippers fork over Eric Gordon? Would Oklahoma City be wise to part with Russell Westbrook? And what should the Lakers and Knicks do in the CP3 Sweepstakes?

Let's play a little 5-on-5 to draw up the best play for each team:

1. Fact or Fiction: Warriors should be willing to trade Curry to get CP3.



John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Fiction. The issue isn't trading Curry for CP3; the issue is trading Curry to rent CP3. Even with Chris Paul, I don't think this is more than a one-and-done outfit in the Western Conference playoffs, so without stronger assurances that Paul would stick around, it's a tough risk to take.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Fact. Last season the Warriors won 36 games, while the Hornets, with comparable talent, pushed the Lakers to six games in the playoffs. The difference: Chris Paul running the point and assistant coach Mike Malone designing the Hornets' miserly defense. In one offseason, the Warriors could get both.

Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Fiction. First, the obvious: There's no commitment from CP that he'd stay beyond this season. Huge red flag. Second, Curry is a heady, 23-year-old guard who's the best all-around shooter in the league. Face-of-the-franchise material. I know it's Chris Paul, but the Warriors are doing the right thing in saying Curry is off-limits.

Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA: Fact. The Warriors have two great guards in Curry and Monta Ellis. The problem is that neither is a true point guard. Curry is a great talent and would be a steep price to pay, but if the Warriors want to make a splash under new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, this is the move they should make. Paul may not want to re-sign with them, but it makes too much financial sense for him to do so. The Warriors need to call that bluff and go all-in.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Warriors World: Fact! It's not like the Warriors are bathing in the sunlight of a championship window. First, a dirty secret: Curry bought a house in the Charlotte area and publicly spoke well of playing close to home. For all the fretting over how Chris Paul is a "rental," Steph could be merely a longer-term lease in the Bay Area. And if the Warriors get this Chandler-Lee-Wright-Ellis-Paul lineup, that team could contend and woo CP3. This real possibility is only exceeded in strangeness by how so many fans are saying, "Nope, too much of a risk for my always-mediocre Dubs."


2. Fact or Fiction: Clippers should be willing to trade Gordon to get CP3.



John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Factish. I would do everything humanly possible to keep Gordon out of the deal if I were L.A., but I also can't ignore the fact that he's a trump card that no other suitor can match, and it's a lower risk than the Curry proposition because CP would almost certainly re-sign in L.A.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Fact. My mind bends like melting plastic when I fantasize about Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combining in their primes. That isn't a slight at Gordon; I'm ecstatic about the current future in Clipperland as-is: The broken windows have been repaired, people expect success. Still ... Paul could single-handedly make up for all the bad decisions Vinny Del Negro will ever make from the Clippers' sideline.

Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Fact. Gordon is terrific. Real shot for him to average 25 and make the All-Star team this season, but Paul fits so much better with Griffin. Big difference between Paul and Gordon: EG doesn't make Griffin a better player, but Paul could help Griffin become one of the best power forwards ever. As good as Gordon is, shooting guards can easily be replaced.

Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA: Fiction. The Clippers already have two great players in Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon. They'll need a third one to win an NBA title. It makes no sense to trade Gordon and still be one "superfriend" short of a championship trio. The Clippers are set up well for the next three or four seasons with the team they already have, particularly if they can add a small forward via free agency this year, and then draft an elite talent with Minnesota's unprotected first-round pick in 2012. The Clippers have the most to lose by making the wrong move here.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Warriors World: Fact. If we ever make first contact with space aliens, our welcome package should include clips of Chris Paul throwing alley-oops to Blake Griffin.


3. Fact or Fiction: OKC should be willing to trade Westbrook to get CP3.



John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Absolute fiction. Westbrook is younger and has two functioning knees. Setting aside who might be better this season, over the next five years Westbrook would appear to have the major advantage, and OKC's title window is open for at least that long.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Fiction. I'm not even ambivalent here. Westbrook had a better season than Paul in 2010-11, and if you believe in things like friendship (and isn't that Paul's motivation for playing for the Knicks?), it's reasonable to expect that Westbrook is far more likely to spend his career in Oklahoma City. Stay the course, Mr. Presti.

Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Fiction. Westbrook is one of the league's most promising talents; he has a massive ceiling, no injury history and is still learning the game. He's three years younger than Paul and hasn't missed a game since he's been in the league. Let him grow with Durant. There is a real chemistry developing among OKC's young core group and there's no need to disrupt that. If that's not enough, the Thunder simply doesn't need Chris Paul to get to the Finals. They can do that on their own.

Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA: Fact. OK, take 20 seconds to get your snickers out. I know how ridiculous this sounds. But in terms of the player who fits better with Kevin Durant, it's Chris Paul, not Westbrook. Paul is more of a true point guard, shoots better from the field (47 percent to 42) and behind the 3-point arc (36 percent to 27 percent) and has a more complementary personality to Durant. That said, if Oklahoma City decides one day that the Westbrook/Durant duo doesn't mesh well enough, it should deal from a place of strength now and get more in return for Westbrook.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Warriors World: Fiction. Oklahoma City is already a championship contender. Unlike the Warriors, OKC has something to lose from taking a large risk.


4. Fact or Fiction: Howard should be a bigger priority for Lakers than CP3.



John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Fact. He's a better player, and bigs maintain their peak much longer than point guards.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Fact. Paul is a genius and uses skill and brains to bend the defense to his will. But Howard just grabs the whole game like a circus strongman and twists opposing offenses into metal pretzels. More importantly, Howard is simply more durable and build-aroundable than Paul -- especially because of how much Paul would play off the ball until Kobe Bryant retires.

Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Fact. Once-in-a-lifetime, dominant bigs will take priority over just about anyone. Always. Howard would continue the Lakers' tradition of bigger-than-life, championship-winning big men that began with George Mikan and continued all the way to Shaquille O'Neal. Howard would keep the Lakers relevant for the next 7-8 years. After Kobe is gone, he would attract wave after wave of great free agents. This one's as close to a no-brainer as it gets.

Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA: Fiction. I would've answered this question differently five months ago. But the more I've asked scouts, front-office personnel and coaches, the more the pairing of Kobe Bryant and a point guard like Paul makes more sense than Bryant-Howard. At 33, Kobe is still a great perimeter player. But as he ages, he'll move toward the post. A floor general like Paul who can create his own shot, deliver the ball to Bryant in position for him to score and space the floor with his own outside shooting just might help Bryant age more gracefully than a dominant center, who would still need Bryant to propel the offense from the perimeter.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Warriors World: Fact. Los Angeles has a brief championship window, but Dwight Howard could be an All-Star center for another decade. Love CP3, but: Short point guards have short careers. This is why we compensate them with more coaching jobs, GM positions and Sacramento mayorships.


5. Fact or Fiction: The Knicks will ultimately land CP3.



John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Fiction. CP3 ultimately will be traded someplace other than New York, where he will have overwhelming incentive to re-sign for nearly twice as much money as the Knicks can offer.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Fact. It's so hard to sort out what the Hornets can even do in free agency, considering they don't have an owner. How does this work? How is this not a crazy conflict of interest? Any deal that goes down before Paul becomes a free agent will be endlessly scrutinized -- as it should be. And if there is no deal, Paul gets to go where he pleases. Which means New York, I hear.

Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Fact. Chris Paul will go where Chris Paul wants to go. If he wants to be there as bad as I think he does, there isn't much that's going to stop him. Playing in another city for a year is a small thing if it gets him to N.Y. The Hornets aren't going to give Paul away. They want players in return to build around or who have trade value down the road. Unless your name is Carmelo Anthony, the Hornets won't pull that trade and Paul will have to take a detour to Gotham. But he will get there. Bet on it.

Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA: Fiction. Unless the Knicks can somehow offer shares in the newly renovated Madison Square Garden to Paul on the side, I don't see him giving up over $40 million to sign as a free agent in New York. We've all been hearing about the toast at Carmelo Anthony's wedding for the last few years, but this certainly wouldn't be the only time promises made on a wedding day go unfulfilled.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Warriors World: Fiction, by a thinner margin than Melo whiskers. As much as Chris Paul seems currently inclined toward New York, 2011-12 should expose the Knicks as a mediocre squad. And if they falter, Paul might notice that Carmelo Anthony interprets a point guard as someone who sets up Anthony's 17 jab steps. An offensive positive: Amare could be CP3's popping David West and flushing Tyson Chandler. It will be close, but my guess is that Chris Paul balks at joining Dolan's Heat Lite.