The Los Angeles Lakers have one of the biggest near-trades in NBA history: a deal for superstar point guard, Chris Paul.
The Los Angeles Lakers are unquestionably one of the greatest franchises in the history of professional sport. Yet even with sustained periods of greatness, the franchise still has some prominent “what-if’s” surrounding it, such as:
- Could Shaquille O’Neal have been the greatest player of all time if he had Kobe Bryant’s work ethic?
- Would my stress levels in my youth have been lower had the front office not wasted some of Kobe’s best years by surrounding him with starting lineup “talent” such as Chris Mihm and Smush Parker?
However, of all the “what if’s” that have plagued the Lakers over the years, I would argue that none of them haunts fans more than the vetoed Chris Paul trade of 2011.
For those Lakers fans out there who are a little younger or are unfamiliar, on 8 December 2011, the Lakers orchestrated a three-team trade with the New Orleans Hornets and the Houston Rockets. The terms of the trade as per Bleacher Report were:
Los Angeles Lakers: PG Chris Paul (from NO Hornets).
New Orleans Hornets: F Lamar Odom (from LA Lakers), SG Kevin Martin (from HOU Rockets), PF Luis Scola (from HOU Rockets), PG Goran Dragic (from HOU Rockets).
Houston Rockets: PF Pau Gasol (from LA Lakers).
I remember jumping for joy at the thought of the best point guard in the league and (at the time) my favorite non-Lakers player joining forces with Kobe Bryant. However, there was an unprecedented twist set to occur. At the time of the trade, the NBA happened to own the New Orleans Hornets franchise, a move that was designed to ensure financial stability while they waited for a more permanent owner to take over.
This led to David Stern, the NBA commissioner at the time, taking the unfathomable step of stepping in and vetoing the trade, infamously citing “basketball reasons” as the reason for this. What came next was nothing short of a tragedy for Laker Nation; not only was Chris Paul eventually shipped across the hall, but the Lakers have not won a title since that fateful day.
This begs the question: how good would the Lake Show have been with Chris Paul in his prime? For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that as he did with the Clippers, Paul opts into the final year of his contract, giving him two full years as a Laker.