Was the Clippers trade doomed to fail or the product of bad luck? Can teams "win" trades when a superstar is forcing their way out of town?
Kevin Barrios: Teams can win trades when moving on from a star, and depending on your feelings on the past and present star players to rep New Orleans on the court, you can say we did win — but it was bloody. Look, I know it is a super unpopular opinion, but I never liked Chris Paul. I know he is an incredible basketball player and he did make my jaw drop many times, but I never liked his demeanor, his personality, his complaining, his flopping and his little bag of dirty tricks. It doesn't mean I didn't cheer my heart out for him — just that he really didn't seem like a guy I'd like to hang out with. He reminded me of the coach's son on a playground team, or the fake nice guy that is "just really good friends" with your girlfriend, but tries to subtly move in whenever you guys are having a rough patch. It's why I wasn't all that upset to see him go.
Anthony Davis is the opposite of this. He's way more superhuman of the people. He's completely likable and guess what, he's a better player. Davis is not only redefining a position, but he's also putting up historically great numbers. Also, I feel like Anthony Davis has adopted the city more, and appreciates it. Chris Paul never seemed to embrace New Orleans, but that could just be me reading into things. Regardless of how I feel about their personalities and devotion to the city, I'd trade CP3 for AD straight up forever, so while the pieces provided didn't result in anything to push this team forward — being terrible enough to win the lottery because we dumped Paul for almost nothing useful initially did land us Anthony Davis.
Then from a broader stroke if you look at other superstar trades there have been several wins for the team that moved a star — Denver was better off after Melo, Utah is better off after the Deron Williams trade, while it hasn't translated into wins at this point yet you could argue that Minnesota is better off for the near future after the Kevin Love trade. Though the Cavs obviously are the better team now, Minnesota will be better than they ever were with Love very soon.
However, when you break down the actual package it looks like a failure. Eric Gordon was the crown jewel of the trade — and at the time it was rightfully so. Gordon was coming off of a great year with the Clippers. He looked like he was going to be a real star in this league. Dig into the Grantland archives and see what Gordon was before his New Orleans tenure blew up in his and our faces like a practical joke cigar. Clearly bad luck destroyed any real impact Gordon could have had on this franchise. However, had we gotten that Clippers' Gordon we probably wouldn't have Anthony Davis.
Al-Farouq Aminu was misused in his New Orleans tenure. It may have been a product of entering the league just before the small ball four era, but Aminu's impact, athleticism, defensive abilities were wasted as a small forward in lineups with non-shooters. He was very raw offensively in his NO tenure, but had he could have been a great switch everything on defense four if he had some shooting on the court with him and a coach with a bit more innovation. This is why he became a very serviceable player in Dallas and now in Portland.
The Minnesota Timberwolves did just well enough for us to miss the opportunity to draft two ADs — Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond — cementing our front court for a decade while also preventing the eventual Asik and Ajinca deals. Instead we ended up with Austin Rivers, which was a terrible pick, but would lead to the Pondexter acquisition that enabled the 2014-2015 playoff run. However, bad luck struck again and we will likely never see that Q-Pon again. Still, with the 10th pick in the 2012 draft, Dell could have hit on a few really good players — Draymond Green, Jae Crowder, Khris Middleton and Will Barton, or even some decent role players who'd have contributed more than Rivers to this roster — Meyers Leonard, Jared Sullinger, John Henson, Maurice Harkless, Evan Fournier or Kyle O'Quinn. So while the 10th pick we got didn't net much of a return, it could have had we drafted better. Then throw in the fact that Dell was pushing to have Eric Bledsoe in the deal as well and this could have potentially been a pretty nice get had Gordon only been injured in the first year making us bad enough to still draft AD.
As a side note, it would be unfair to not mention that Dell did have a deal with Golden State that would have netted Steph Curry and Klay Thompson if Chris Paul would have agreed to an opt in. We'll never know if those two players would have become what they did become, but Chris Paul prevented us from having that back court in New Orleans and that would have been a huge win after trading a star. So yes, wins can be had.
Isaac Constans: Bad luck, and a bad mix of team selection — but I won't pretend that I saw it coming. When Gordon came and hit the game-winning pull-up from the elbow in his first game, I thought Demps had struck gold. And Aminu was teeming with potential. At the end of the day, injuries and indiscretion in choosing the rest of the team cost N.O. I did not mind the trade itself though, and even now, I see the logic behind it.
Teams can of course win when trading superstars, but they have to find the right combination of picks and prospects. Whenever people ask, I bring up Danny Ainge pilfering of the Brooklyn Nets. There, he found a team that was aging and in "win now" mode knowing that "win now" equated to lose later. He acquired some valuable role players, sure. But he didn't try to replace the superstars. He tried to rebuild.
Chris Cucchiara: The trade did have it's share of bad luck, but the trade would have also been a huge winner for the NOLA franchise had Drummond or Lillard dropped to #10 instead of Austin Rivers. Regardless of what the franchise got from Gordon, Aminu or Kaman, a trade that allowed the Pels to be bad enough to get AD and add another all-star would have been a franchise changing moment in NOLA... but alas here we are.
Teams can win trades when a superstar forces their way out — see the Kevin Love trade — but it does not happen often. I almost prefer to let the star walk and force them to take less money to go elsewhere. If a player like AD wants to leave an extra $20 million on the table guaranteed, let him.
Jamile Dunn: Well, when considering a trade you can't look at it in the vacuum of just what was received in return. You have to look at it in total. One thing the Clippers trade did, and I don't think this was a mistake, was make the team bad enough to get high in the lottery. Given that AD, Damian Lillard and Andre Drummond were all in the top 10 of the 2012 draft you have to consider those players (or at least the probability of being able to acquire them) as apart of the deal. When thinking of it in that way and considering that we ended up with Davis I considered the trade an unmitigated success.
In reference to the second question, its very difficult to "win" a superstar trade. Many people will say that the team should get more but in that situation you aren't negotiating with the entire league, only the team the superstar will agree to resign with. Obviously this makes it difficult to get full value as the opposing team is not willing to sell the farm for a player that despite handshake agreements could decide to simply walk when his deal expires. It will be interesting to see if the new CBA has any changes that would allow more flexibility in negotiating extensions. If it does and teams can actually agree to terms of an extension prior to completing the trade (as often occurs in the NFL), that would go a long way to increasing the haul teams can get for superstars.
David Fisher: It is always hard to win a trade when a superstar is forcing their way out of town. A few teams, notably the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, and Minnesota Timberwolves, managed to do well with trades sending out superstars before they lost all leverage. Also, two took advantage of awful management in New York to get it done. The Nets had no need for a point guard and the Knicks had little in the way of assets to make a big deal happen when Dell Demps was forced to make a move.
The Clippers deal appears as good as it was going to get given the constraints. Can a team win when a superstar forces their way out? The only examples we can find are teams taking control of the situation first.
Oleh Kosel: In earlier years, I had always believed the Pelicans were largely victims of bad luck following the Chris Paul trade. Now I’m of the mind that a good deal of the failures might have been inevitable, especially when looking at the successes enjoyed by Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu with different organizations as well as after factoring in New Orleans incredibly poor record with injury.
Teams can absolutely win trades after being forced to trade away a superstar, but it’s such a fine line that sometimes it also requires just a little additional luck. The Timberwolves had finished 30th and 29th respectively, but in 2011-12 they significantly improved and finished with the 21st best record in the league. Had they maintained their status quo, New Orleans could have drafted another integral piece alongside Anthony Davis. Nab Damian Lillard and likely the team doesn’t give up assets for both Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. Add Harrison Barnes and the seemingly eternal problem at small forward doesn’t culminate in Solomon Hill. Draft Andre Drummond and Omer Asik never comes to New Orleans.
Frank Spiro: There is no doubt that New Orleans won that trade. In no world could the Pelicans surround Chris Paul with half the talent that Clippers organization has, and the Clippers still haven’t come close to winning a ring. Assuming championships are the supreme objective of trades, I believe the Pelicans have a higher chance of winning a ring before the Clippers do. Chris Paul is a really good player in an era of amazing players, we got an amazing player who just might peak in an era of really good players. That was the trade the Pelicans made, and we have David Stern to thank for it.