Earlier tonight, Matt Moore of CBSSports.com threw out a bold idea - that, even after Chris Paul's apparent NYC demands, Orlando should still try to trade for him. On the surface, this idea probably seems ludicrous from both sides. Orlando would be acquiring a player who has made it known that he plans on relocating to the Big Apple when his contract expires, and the Magic don't exactly have the trade chips that a rebuilding team would covet. However, if we dig deeper, we can see that maybe this idea isn't so crazy after all.
So, to briefly paraphase Matt, the Magic would agree to this trade for two reasons which are highly correlated. They make the deal to win a championship this season, and worry about repercussions later. The ultimate goal, besides winning a championship, is that Paul and Howard have so much fun bringing a title to Orlando that they both decide to stick around and try and win some more. The latter of the two trade motives is a long shot, but what do they have to lose?
As for the Hornets - besides Orlando's first round pick that they would undoubtedly command (although it likely wouldn't be a terribly valuable one since it'd be linked to a suddenly powerful Magic squad), they possess some of the last guys you would name when trying to think of players to rebuild around. Let's list them.
Player (2011-12 salary, years remaining)
Gilbert Arenas ($19.3 million, 3 years) - Likely to be amnestied. Total waste of space, see: 2011 playoffs. No further explanation necessary.
Dwight Howard ($18.1 million, 1 year) - ...yeah right. Get real. Not now, not ever. No way.
Hedo Turkoglu ($11 million, 3 years) - Vastly overpaid, poor-defending small forward. Think Peja with better handles, a worse 3-point shot, and everything else basically the same. Now ask yourself why that player is making 8 figures every year until he's 35. No thanks.
Jameer Nelson ($8.6 million, 2 years) - Former all-star, but realistically just an above average, slightly overpaid point guard. Could be an asset for a contending team needing an upgrade at the point.
J.J. Redick ($6.75 million, 2 years) - Very good shooter, decent defender and ball-handler. Not quite worth the money he's making, but not nearly overpaid enough to be looked over by a team in the playoff hunt that needs a shooter.
Brandon Bass ($4.25 million, 2 years) - Originally drafted by the Hornets out of LSU, Bass has turned into a solid backup power forward and spot starter. He's essentially a slightly less talented Carl Landry; not as good of a scorer, but slightly better defensively (though that isn't really saying much). Bass could absolutely help a playoff team looking for a solid big man off the bench.
Chris Duhon ($3.25 million, 3 years) - Incredibly ineffective player with an awful contract. He may be a local product, but you won't find him anywhere near the Hornets.
Quentin Richardson ($2.45 million, 3 years) - Looked like a decent backup wing player... until last season, that is. He doesn't do anything terribly well, and considering he's signed through his 34th birthday, he's not an incredibly attractive option.
Ryan Anderson ($2.24 million, 1 year) - Anderson is a fantastic 3-point shooter, a decent (at best) rebounder, and a poor defender who blocks a few shots here and there. The Magic love him, so they would likely be reluctant to include him in any potential deal, but if it's for Chris Paul, I'd have to imagine that anyone is attainable outside of Howard.
Daniel Orton ($1.1 million, 1 year w/ team options for 2 more) - Orton was the Magic's late first round pick in 2010 out of Kentucky and is still a major work in progress. He's big and can rebound and block shots, but that's about all that's known about him right now. Currently, he seems like a poor man's Aaron Gray (is that even possible?), but with much more upside due to his young age of 21.
Those are the guys that the Magic are currently employing. Besides taking a gamble on Orton, none of those players are ones to really rebuild around. Which brings us back to the question - Why the hell would we trade Chris Paul to Orlando for them?
Here's why, as first explained by Moore. The thing with at least half of those players is that, while they may not be valuable to a Hornets team looking to start over, they would have much, much greater value to other teams battling for playoff position. Nelson, Redick, Bass, and Anderson are four players who could each return decent hauls individually as the trade deadline approaches. Teams looking to make a postseason push could turn to the suddenly trade-happy Hornets looking to make a deal. In addition to any draft picks the team would receive from Orlando initially, they could also possibly net a couple more by turning around and trading whoever else they receive from Orlando.
Think about something along the lines of CP3 and Trevor Ariza for Nelson, Redick, Bass, Orton, and Orlando's 2012 first round pick. The Hornets get to unload Ariza's inflated contract and horrific shot selection (his excellent defense isn't really going to be much help to a rebuilding Hornets team), and in exchange they get 3 guys who would all be attractive assets as the trade deadline approaches, a project to work with at center, and a first rounder in a deep 2012 draft class.
Is it an ideal situation for the Hornets? Of course not.
Should they pursue other trade options before settling on the Magic? Unquestionably.
But is it better than whatever garbage they would get from the Knicks? You bet.