With Ken Berger's Free Agent Buzz report that Dwight Howard is pushing for the addition of Chris Paul to the Magic, we can anticipate some fallout.
Paul has been discussed as potentially "on the block" as far back as midseason, but it was just before the draft when talk of him as a possible trade target really heated up . Darren Collison's performance in relief of Paul during injury, still in-the-meantime owner George Shinn's desire to slash costs to facilitate the sale, and good ol' fashion superstar unhappiness have all been discussed as reasons why the dynamic point guard might want up elsewhere.
Hornets bloggers are, predictably, in deep denial over this possibility . (Hornets fans also refused to believe that the team would make trades based on cutting salary only, until they slipped the Thunder Cole Aldrich just to get rid of Mo Peterson.) The truth of the matter is that when you have a team that falls off the pedestal as quickly as the Hornets did, with a superstar on the payroll who wants to win and an ownership with an active history of making finance-based moves, there's going to be talk. And the Magic are notorious for not being shy about adding payroll. They could send the Hornets a deep package of flexible contracts and talent they need, while still having a stud sophomore point guard to develop. It only makes sense to explore possibilities.
But the question that may need to be asked is, what about the Magic? How is this kind of talk going to impact their squad? Chemistry on the Magic was down significantly last season from the year before. Part of that was Vince Carter, or as I like to call him "the cure for what isn't ailing you yet." Part of it was just a strange run of events, including Marcin Gortat being unhappy the Magic matched his offer from Dallas and Brandon Bass being unhappy he got inked to get no run. But in general, this team still likes one another. And Jameer Nelson, the center of any trade talks between the two teams, has been with Howard the whole way through.
Nelson wasn't particularly good in 2007-2008, but hit his stride in the playoffs (a shiny +18 PER through 10 games in the postseason), and launched into being a star the next season, before getting hit with a shoulder injury. He came back with a bang, and his combination of perimeter shooting, speed, athleticism, and playmaking ability has been a big part of the Magic's success. How will he react to being moved as the "weak link" for the Magic starting unit?
From there you've got to wonder about Howard. Howard pushing for this trade says two things. One, he's got the same fever the rest of his superstar peers have: the drive to play on a team stacked with multiple All-Stars. And two, he may not recognize that what the Magic need more than anything is for him to continue working with Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston to develop a post-game. Of any kind.
Would Paul help the Magic? Undoubtedly. That's just as terrifying a combo as you're going to find in the league, and the way Paul used Tyson Chandler in the pick and roll for alley-oops means that he and Howard could set the record for most alley-oops in a season. It would be an unstoppable combo. Paul's also a better shooter than Nelson, and Nelson's really good. Before injuries started to hit him last season, Paul was on pace for a 45-50-95 season, which is, to be honest, freaking absurd. Working with the kind of perimeter options the Magic have to create space for him would make Paul somehow more lethal than he was before.
But if the Magic can't find a package the Hornets find enticing financially or basketball-wise before Shinn's sale is complete, they'll probably be left without Paul, and the repercussions on a locker room that now could start tearing apart instead of drifting. Pushing for progress is a good thing. But it comes with its price if you fail.