It’s difficult to say if the NBA truly blocked the Chris Paul trade for “basketball reasons”, but many are assuming they did not. The new CBA had barely been ratified before the ole conspiracy theory machine got cranked up, with seemingly every talking head, writer and player agreeing there were some shenanigans – the technical term—going on. People range from confused to irate, but the bottom line is for the owners of the New Orleans Hornets, which happens to be the NBA, the deal made no sense.
In sports when a team is up for sale, the owners will often cut salary. The Jagars refused to extend the contract of their assistant coaches, including current Panther assistant coach Mike Shula for that reason. The Astros recently did the same and it’s thought the Bills are doing it now. People were amazed when the Rangers entered into the Cliff Lee sweepstakes just a year ago, because the team was in the process of being sold. So why then should it be shocking that the owners of the Hornets would not want to add potentially $50 million in salary over the next several years? It shouldn’t be. A team with large amounts of money tied makes a franchise less appealing to potential buyers. It’s all the more reason why the team should have been looking to acquire more draft picks, which technically have zero value. Acquiring talent through the draft is the best way –some might say only way – to be successful as a small market team and the Hornets were poised to get only one, a likely middling first rounder from the Knicks via the Rockets.
Adding two 32 year-old power forwards (Scola will turn 32 this season) and a 27 year-old one-dimensional shooting guard, who has made only a handful of meaningful baskets in his career, is not the way to rebuild a franchise and adding their contracts only hinders the process. The Thunder franchise is the current model for how to build a small market team, and they did it by avoiding bad contracts and stockpiling draft picks. This deal did neither for the Hornets. Whether the NBA was acting as a penny-pinching owner looking to sell or as an owner wanting to help turn around a franchise, the decision to nix the trade was the right one.
Were either of those ultimately the motivation for stopping the deal? I can’t say, but in this instance the best interest of the small market team was served. It’s being asserted that the NBA’s credibility has been seriously hurt by this, but could not the same be said if coming off of a lockout, they pillaged a team they currently operated to form a Superteam that would surely help TV ratings? People can mock the league for saying they blocked the trade for “basketball reasons”, but those same people can’t produce any basketball reasons why the Hornets should have made the deal.