Last night the Lakers faced the worst defeat in franchise history to the hands of their hallway rivals, the Clippers and the one who got away, Chris Paul. The Clippers have clearly eclipsed the Lakers as the franchise with a bright future. They have Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. The Lakers have an injured Kobe Bryant, an injured Steve Nash, and an on-his-way-out Pau Gasol. But this wasn’t how things were supposed to be.
The Lakers had a trade in place to acquire Chris Paul from New Orleans. Pau Gasol was going to be a Houston Rocket, and Lamar Odom was going to be playing for the then Hornets. New Orleans was also scheduled to receive Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Goran Dragic, in addition to a 1st round pick which ended up being the 16th overall.
The trade that actually went down ended up being Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, and Al-Farouq Aminu and a 1st round pick that ended up being the 10th overall pick for Chris Paul. Once this trade was completed, everyone was quick to say how much better this trade was for the Hornets/Pelicans. They get a “young asset” in Eric Gordon and two other players that will help them on their way to the bottom.
Looking back, was the Clippers deal really that much better?
Eric Gordon is now an un-tradable contract. He signed a 4-year $58 million contract, mostly due to one big season for the Clippers. Since Gordon’s final season in Los Angeles when he averaged 22 points per game, his average has dropped to 20 to 17 to 15.8 this year. He has also struggled to maintain any semblance of health. In three seasons since being in New Orleans, Gordon has only played 109 games. He played 9 games his first season in New Orleans, then played 42 last season. This year has been his healthiest, only missing 3 games so far. What looked like the diamond of the CP3 trade has turned out to be cubic zirconium.
Chris Kaman is now a member of the Lakers. Kaman spent one injury riddled season in New Orleans before heading to Dallas. He gave them standard production for who he is, but he was never expected to be in their long term plans. The last piece is Al-Farouq Aminu, a former lottery pick, who has proven to be a middle of the road NBA player. He doesn’t score particularly well, rebounds at a slightly above average rate, and plays decent defense. He’s a dime a dozen type player.
The pick New Orleans used ended up being Austin Rivers, a player who in his two years has shot 37.9% from the field, 32.7% from three point land, and 59.4% from the free throw line. None of these are acceptable for a score-first point guard.
The real “win” of the trade was being bad enough to earn the #1 overall pick, Anthony Davis. Aside from that, this looks like a really bad trade in retrospect.
But what if the Lakers trade had gone through?
New Orleans would have had Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic, and a slightly later 1st round pick. The argument was that this trade made New Orleans too good. Odom proved to be completely done by this point and wouldn’t have helped the team win any more games. Luis Scola, while a solid player, isn’t the type to be a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd option on a team. Kevin Martin has always been a player who can score in bunches, but his teams generally don’t have any success to show for it.
Goran Dragic is clearly the best player who would have been involved in either trade. Dragic has been one of the top 5 point guards in the league this season, helping lead an undermanned Suns team towards the playoffs. But Dragic has taken a massive leap forward this season. He showed flashes over the two previous seasons, but this year he showed he can be the player you build a team around.
New Orleans would have had a point guard of the future, draft picks, and the ammo to attempt a trade for someone such as James Harden. Harden was traded for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and two first round picks. The Hornets could have easily been able to put together a comparable package.
Potentially, the Hornets could now have James Harden, Goran Dragic, AND Anthony Davis (wasn’t it convenient that the league-owned Hornets got the 1st overall pick that year?). Instead the the Hornets have Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, and Al-Farouq Aminu.
So what would you rather have?