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The Flip Side: Dell Demps' attempt to appease Chris Paul

Aug 12, 2010, 12:07 PM EDT

chris_paul.jpgYesterday’s four-way trade
saw just about every team involved walk away a winner. However, the
effects of that trade are far more specific than just saying “This team
got better,” or “This team accomplished its goals.” In The Flip Side,
we’ll look at one player from each of the four teams — the Nets, the
Pacers, the Hornets, and the Rockets — and how their career is
impacted by the move in both the immediate and distant future.

Chris Paul wants out of New Orleans. Newly-anointed Hornets GM Dell Demps acquires Trevor Ariza in exchange for James Posey and upstart point guard Darren Collison. Chris Paul still, probably, wants out of New Orleans.

The Hornets’ intent here was obvious, but if scoring Trevor Ariza is the endgame of the team’s plan to convince Chris Paul to stay home, someone miscalculated. Badly.

There’s honestly nothing wrong with Ariza. He’s a fine athlete, a good perimeter defender, a so-so three-point shooter, and a perfectly useful cog as long as he’s not asked to power the machine. The more responsibility Ariza holds in the offense, the worse off both he and the team are going to be. He’s just not a dynamic offensive talent, and that’s fine.

Because what Ariza is — a perfectly average player — comes at a perfectly average cost. He has a contract that fits his abilities, and the only problem with that contract is that it extends over the next four seasons. $28.1 million? Not too bad in the current NBA climate. Yet with earth-shaking changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement right around the corner, paying a guy like Ariza that much money may not be reasonable in a year’s time.

Finances aside, the Hornets need help. They need players like Ariza who can fill in the gaps, sure, but what they really need is a talent who can take over the second fiddle from David West without skipping a beat. West isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future, but this team, as it’s currently constructed, isn’t working. There’s clearly not enough depth (who on earth is going to back up Chris Paul next year?), but talent at the top remains a glaring concern. Paul is a top-five player, but West, Ariza, Emeka Okafor, and Marcus Thornton aren’t enough. That combination could conceivably get the Hornets to the playoff brink, but what then?

Here’s what I’m getting at: Though Ariza might be the most intriguing wing player the Hornets have had during the Paul era, little has changed. New Orleans still has contracts that could hurt in the long-term, little financial flexibility, and now they’ve lost Darren Collison. The starting five NOLA trots out on opening night may be more complete because of this move, but I fail to see how it’s evidence of some methodical, long-term plan.

The Hornets traded in their insurance policy for a fresh coat of paint, but Paul’s no fool. He knows what Ariza is and isn’t, what he represents and what he doesn’t. Demps is trying (and that’s something), but if Paul really is insistent on finding a new team to call his own, Dell will have to do much better.   

  1. lsuhornet17 - Aug 12, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    Hornets still have Peja’s enormous contract coming off the books, as well as expirings in Songaila and Bellineli. David West also has an ETO on his contract, so they could end up with Peja and West coming off the books. That sounds pretty flexible to me. Also, this is via Marc Spears’ twitter:
    Ariza to Y! on CP3 call: “(Paul) just calling me let me know he was comfortable where he is and with the steps the organization is taking.”
    More Ariza to Y!: “(Paul said) I’ll do everything to win. I’m just more hungry now. Just getting to the playoffs is not good enough for me.”
    So if Paul is so unimpressed and ready to leave the team ASAP, why is he even bothering to call his new teammate and say these things. I realize that when he says this stuff to the media it’s widely regarded as spin generated from the team, but I don’t see someone that’s totally unhappy going out of his way to reassure the the new acquisition. I agree that if viewed as THE move to get the Hornets into relevancy, that this trade is underwhelming, but if it’s a first step, this could be a good start.

  2. JMess - Aug 12, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    Why would one move in his first month as GM be considered an endgame? Wouldn’t it be the exact opposite of that? Like, say, an opening move?
    I know this is the first real news of no-news August, but you might be overreacting.

  3. TH - Aug 12, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    If the Hornets were convinced that Paul’s situation was untenable in NOLA, they wouldn’t have traded his successor for Ariza. Hornets have shed Posey and Wright (2 corpses) plus Collison for a starter and a rotation guard who can spread the floor for Paul.
    This is a good first step in rebuilding a small, old, unathletic team into a contender. Still a lot of work to be done on the front line before all is said and done.
    But I guess it would take too much thought to right something besides Paul is leaving NOLA…

  4. TH - Aug 12, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Or too much thought to write “write”. Time to step down from my soapbox.

  5. johnmaine - Aug 12, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    Charles Barkley Disses LeBron James and James’s infamous tweet:

  6. BN - Aug 13, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    You fail to see that this a part of a plan because like most NBA writers you are a slave to the moment. A plan is called a plan because it takes place over time. With nearly 20 million in expiring contracts the Hornets are in position to get a high quality player (or players) through trades at the trade deadline. We have just acquired a long athletic swingman who can defend. That was one of the things that the Hornets needed most. Also where in any of this did the Hornets say taht Ariza was going to be the number 2 option? If this move doesn’t make Chris Paul happier than he was then he is crazy. If the Hornets would not have traded Collison then CP definitely goes. You had to get rid of an asset. Its worth the risk.

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