The Clippers, the league’s punchline, have acquired Chris Paul and two second-round picks for (deep breath) Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu and the Timberwolves’ unprotected first-round pick in 2012. This is a better deal for the Hornets, in basketball terms, than the three-team monster involving the Lakers and Rockets that the NBA blocked last week. And though the Clippers are parting with a bounty in exchange for the Point God, they managed to hang on to Eric Bledsoe and their own 2012 first-round pick — assets the league reportedly sought this week. Los Angeles, as is, will be in the mix for one of the Western Conference’s last three playoff spots. If the Clippers do make the playoffs, their pick is headed to Boston, which acquired it subject to top-10 protection. A mid first-rounder is a small, extra price to pay for Paul, even in a loaded draft.
Let’s put aside the heavy-handed Lakers veto and the craziness of the entire situation to talk basketball. This is a fair trade, and every fair trade brings caveats:
• Gordon is probably going to be the best shooting guard in the league in three or four seasons, or whenever Dwyane Wade begins showing his age. Gordon finished last season with a very good Player Efficiency Rating of 18.5 — near All-Star-level — but that under-sells how great he was. In December and January, before a wrist injury derailed his season, Gordon averaged 25 points and four assists, shot 48 percent from the floor and nearly 44 percent from three-point range, got to the free-throw line six times per game and became an elite pick-and-roll ball-handler. He is a huge loss.
• The precise state of Paul’s less-than-100 percent left knee is somewhat of an unknown, and there are folks around the league who are worried that the Clippers — and the rest of us Paul optimists — are putting too much stake in one six-game playoff series, against the Lakers last season, in which Paul looked like himself again. As Justin Havens pointed out at ESPN.com on Wednesday, in 2007-08 and 2008-09, the seasons right before Paul’s knee injury, he wasn’t just the best point guard in the league; he was putting up some of the best numbers in the history of the NBA, for any position. His PERs for those seasons — 28.3 and 30, respectively — put him in territory only a half-dozen or so guys have ever touched. Read More…