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How to bring home the prodigal son (and should it happen?)

How to bring home the prodigal son (and should it happen?)

(This was written Friday, shortly after the Byron Scott firing. But it might not could have run at a better time. A lot of folks are split on the Thunder’s current point guard, so this will likely further the discussion. And PLEASE remember, it’s just that: a discussion.)

By J.G. Marking


Special to Daily Thunder

With the team’s horrible 3-8 start, with the recent firing of Byron Scott done BEHIND Chris Paul’s back, only the Hornets superstar player and the best point guard in the world and the face of their franchise, and with the Thunder holding a veritable smorgasbord of trading chips, draft picks and salary cap space to play with, one can’t help but ask the question that we’re all honestly wondering:

Can Chris Paul ever be traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder?

Now let me preface this by saying it would absolutely kill me to lose the players it would take to make this deal happen (you’re still my boy, Westbrook!). But when you have the chance to take a player that would instantly make everyone on your team two times better at playing basketball than they are now, a player who absolutely loves your small-market community (even still owns a home in the Oklahoma City metro) and is, without question, an annual MVP candidate and is STILL ONLY 24 YEARS OLD (turns 25 in May of 2010), don’t you have to pull the trigger and pull it hard?”

But the question remains… could he ever be conceivably traded to the Thunder? And all I’ll leave you with before the jump is this: Yes.

Chris Paul could absolutely be traded to the Thunder but it would take four teams (not unheard of), a very crafty GM and the use of some very clutch trade exceptions and financial considerations to get it done. But you know what; it’s not that crazy…in fact, it actually makes a lot of sense for all the parties involved.

The trade would require the Thunder, the Hornets, the Grizzlies and the Trailblazers to all be involved because of Chris Paul’s status as a Base Year Compensation player, which is a really fancy way of saying that even though Chris Paul’s salary is $13.5 million dollars, his outgoing trade value is counted as $6,760,250 because of the circumstances surrounding his contract extension.

But let me preface the following list of trade maneuvers with this: more difficult trades have been made than this one and hardly any of them made this much sense or benefited the involved parties as much.

1) Thunder send Russell Westbrook ($3.7 million + Johan Petro’s $1.9 million dollar trade exception) and Nenad Krstic ($5.1 million) to the Hornets with the Thunder’s first round 2010 draft pick and the Phoenix Suns first round 2010 pick. Yes, it’s a lot to give up, but please re-read that second paragraph to remind yourself of what they’d be giving all that up to get, because the Thunder is going to have to give up even more.

2) Thunder send Kyle Weaver ($870.9K) to the Grizzlies with the Thunder’s 2011 second round pick (or an equivalent pick down the road). Since Weaver is not even suiting up lately, this isn’t a huge loss to the Thunder but I’ve always liked Weaver so this one hurts, too. The 2011 second round pick does not hurt in any way since the Thunder’s roster already overfloweth.

3) Thunder send Shaun Livingston ($959.1K) and the Hornets send guard Marcus Thornton ($457.5K) to the Portland TrailBlazers along with the Hornets’ second round pick in the 2010 draft (or some other equivalent pick down the road).

4) Hornets send Chris Paul ($13.5 million) to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Check it. Double-check it. Every number adds up. All the “t’s” are crossed and I’ve dotted all of the…lower case “j’s.”

But here’s what’s even more interesting…those really are completely plausible trades for all parties involved.

* The Thunder get the best point guard in the game with only losing one of their cornerstone players for the future, but are replacing him with, again, the best point guard in the game. The Thunder’s loss of those two first round picks may seem rough initially, but with such a loaded roster already (those this trade would trim the fat a bit, don’t get me wrong) the Thunder would not have to pay the likely $3-4 million dollars for their pick and the $1-2 million dollars for the Suns apparent first round pick. Oh yeah, they lose Krstic but replace him with Thomas and Ibaka, who might both instantly get All-Star consideration after CP3 helps them achieve career totals in points in his first game.

And oh yeah, one more tiny thing I forgot to mention…the Thunder would still be roughly $11-12 million dollars (or more) under the cap for the 2010 Free Agent class if everything works as it should. Yes, you read that correctly.

* The Hornets lose their superstar and the face of their franchise, the man who really tried to personally revitalize NOLA after one of our country’s greatest natural disasters…and there’s just no value you can reasonably apply to that. But the Hornets do get $6 million dollars off their payroll, sliding them under the luxury tax for next season; the Hornets also pick up two first round picks in a STACKED draft class to rebuild with and pick up a very serviceable big man who already has an established chemistry with the best part of this trade for the Hornets: They pick up one of the league’s most unique and exciting point guard prospects in Russell Westbrook.

* The Grizzlies receive Kyle Weaver, an extremely versatile and high character/team oriented guard (something the team desperately needs) who can provide a defensive and PASSING geared spark for them off the bench, not to mention a nice cheap second round pick. Plus, the Grizzlies rent their cap space to anyone and everyone so they wouldn’t even really have to get a lot in return to do it.

* The Trailblazers receive a nice second round pick as well, not to mention the cap space they’d love to get back after all their moves and extensions this summer/season with the expiring contract of Shaun Livingston, if they didn’t want to keep him around (most likely he’d be immediately cut, as would Marcus Thornton since his salary would be beyond manageable to eat at $457.5K a year, if Portland didn’t want a nice blue collar guard on their rather large roster). Plus, the Blazers would then have a “Presti, you owe us a nice favor” chip against their future and even current division rival, which is just always nice to have in your back pocket down the road (hmmm, don’t know if I care for that reality, but for CP3, I’m fine with it).

So there you have it. It’s possible. Not only is it possible, but it’s kind-of, almost, if you’re a fan of the Thunder and you’re sort-of but not really kidding yourself, a trade that makes sense for everyone involved to the point that I’m wondering if Presti hasn’t already toyed with the notion or not.

So, my fellow readers, would you do it?

(You’re still….my…boy….RW)