The New Orleans Hornets plan on dealing Chris Paul before the start of the season, with several notable suitors interested in the point guard's services, according to ESPN sources.
Paul, who is a free agent at the end of the season, reportedly is interested in playing with the Lakers or Knicks, but the All-Star may find his way to the Celtics, Thunder, Clippers, or Warriors.
Several trade rumors have floated around as teams begin to scramble to sign and make trades as the Dec. 25 season opener looms.
One trade that is currently making the rounds is a three-team deal that would send Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets, and Luis Scola and Kevin Martin to the Hornets.
The Lakers received little production from the point guard position last season, so Paul would be an enormous upgrade. With Yao Ming retired, the Rockets desperately need a big man, so adding Gasol would completely change the dynamic of the team. As for New Orleans, adding Martin and Scola would provide more balanced scoring for a team that is may lose David West to free agency.
Another potential deal has the Knicks trading Amare Stoudemire for Paul, in a clean swap of high-profile players. New York appear to be on the verge of adding Tyson Chandler, so Stoudemire and Chandler playing together might create chemistry problems in the interior, while Paul could serve as a key facilitator for Carmelo Anthony. Paul and Chandler are looking to reunite after Chandler spent three seasons with New Orleans. The Hornets would receive one of the best big men in the NBA in Stoudemire, and a player who carried the Knicks on his back prior to the Anthony trade.
Though Boston general manager Danny Ainge has stated his devotion to having Rajon Rondo on the squad, rumors persist that Rondo would be moved to New Orleans along with Jeff Green, two first-round picks, as well as additional players from other teams via trade. Paul has been rumored to not want to sign with Boston, but that could change if they make moves to strengthen the squad by clearing salary-cap space. In the short term, the Celtics could be favorites to win the 2011-2012 NBA title with Paul at the point. The Hornets would receive an elite point guard for their point guard, as well as a quality young small forward in Green, and build for the future with draft picks.
There has also been speculation that the Hornets would prefer former starter Darren Collison, who currently plays for Indiana, and could make a deal that sends Rondo to the Pacers.
The Thunder and Hornets could make a point guard swap, with Russel Westbrook and a few reserves moving to New Orleans. Westbrook has been subjected to some criticism for his decision-making but is among the most athletic players in the NBA, and averaged nearly 22 points per game last season compared to Paul who averaged just under 16. The Thunder would have perhaps a better compliment to star forward Kevin Durant in Paul at the point, but Oklahoma City may not want to risk it.
A Clippers-Hornets trade would involve combo guard Eric Gordon and reserve big man DeAndre Jordan. New Orleans would be getting one of the best young guards in the NBA in Gordon, while the Clippers would receive a more polished player in Paul as they try to make a real push to make the postseason.
The Warriors would have to include Stephen Curry if they were to make a deal for Paul. The other two players that would likely be involved would be Klay Thompson and Ekpe Udoh. Golden State reportedly doesn't want to deal Curry, but there have been hints that Curry may want to move on the Warriors are coming off a season where they won just 36 games, so they may need to make a serious change.
More than likely, one of these trades will go down, or new teams will pop up if they think they have a chance to land Paul should the Hornets believe they are being short-changed by offiers.
Suffice it to say, this will probably be a very wild couple of weeks for NBA general managers.