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The Slippery Slope of the Tax

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Over the last two years, the Hornets have carefully treaded the "reload the roster without pissing off Chris Paul" line.

At times, they nearly made monumental errors that might have pushed Paul off the edge (see: the initial Tyson Chandler trade). To get under the tax line, it was imperative they made outright sales of certain players. Rasual Butler moved in the summer for no return. The Browns moved this year in similar deals, as did Better Than Wilt. But in the midst of that mass exodus of players,  the Hornets also made fundamentally sound deals. Jeff Bower did eventually trade Chandler, but got a capable center in return. Then he improbably drafted two solid contributors with the 21st and 43rd picks of the '09 draft.

As often as the media bashed the Hornets for each of the four sales, even a casual observer could see the Hornets were still trying to compete and set themselves up for the future. And if a casual observer could see it, there's no doubt Chris Paul could see it too. By no means are the Hornets out of the woods. They'll be almost 20 million over the cap next season. Looking at Deron Williams' quote today, though, makes me appreciate the Hornets' balanced approach to getting under the tax line.

Williams, regarding the recent trade of Ronnie Brewer to the Grizzlies for a protected '11 first rounder:

"I think if we’d make a trade it would be something a little different than that. You look at all the teams that are getting better around the West and we essentially get worse, if you ask me."

"That’s why I signed a three-year deal."

Ouch. "That's why I signed a three-year deal"? I know stars probably think along these lines often, but to say it out loud? I'd feel bad for Utah if they didn't own us all the time.

Either way, Utah's situation is pretty similar to ours. The owner wants to get under the luxury line, and the team essentially sells its starting shooting guard. We sold Butler and Brown, both of whom were starting at SG at the time of their trades. Brewer has started 209 games since the start of the 2007 season. While he hasn't had a terrific 2009-2010, he's long been one of my favorite secondary scoring options in the league.

Utah and New Orleans will actually head into this offseason in similar situations: both will be over the cap, and unable to sign players outside of exceptions.

Perception is reality though, and by all indications, CP and Deron see NOLA and SLC quite differently.