|Mark Cuban questions David Stern's Chris Paul trade. (Getty Images)|
The Los Angeles Clippers added Chris Paul and became an instant contender; the New Orleans Hornets traded away Chris Paul and have the worst record in the Western Conference, by far.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wants the world to know that the league-owned Hornets, with NBA commissioner David Stern calling the shots as de-facto owner, screwed up in making that trade.
ESPNDallas.com provides Cuban's trade analysis, in which he argues the Hornets should have simply held on to Paul for the duration of his current contract rather than trade him away to the Clippers after previously discussing a 3-way deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets.
"You're better off just taking the cap room, or whatever," Cuban said.
"I don't think it was about the Lakers, per se," Cuban said before the game. "I think it was just the way they did the deal, which was ridiculous. I don't think it was about which team. I think it was the fact that, even with the Clippers, we just went through this whole (collective bargaining agreement) and said the incumbent team still has the advantage and then the team the league owns (wimps) out. And look how it's worked out for them.
"Bad management gets you bad results."
It's impossible to believe that Cuban actually believes his own cap room argument but it's an absolute certainty that he enjoys reading the "Cuban blasts Stern over management decision" headline on every NBA website. That's probably endless amusement for him.
The recent case studies in handling disgruntled superstars all point to getting maximum value in trade rather than risking flight in free agency. Ask the Toronto Raptors if they could re-do the Chris Bosh departure. Ask the Cleveland Cavaliers if they could re-do the LeBron James departure. Ask the Utah Jazz if they are pleased with the return they got for Deron Williams, who is holding up the future of the New Jersey Nets as he contemplates his next move. Ask the Denver Nuggets if they're constant with the ransom they got for Carmelo Anthony at last year's trade deadline.
There's no question that Stern was operating from the right playbook in moving Paul, who had clearly had enough with the dysfunction and ownership questions in New Orleans. Look no further than the Cavaliers for additional proof. Do you think owner Dan Gilbert is happier with getting nothing but a trade exception in James' departure or getting the No. 1 overall pick and Kyrie Irving, his next franchise player, by trading guard Mo Williams to the Clippers last season? Obviously, getting the rebuilding value back is key for a struggling team that needs to drastically change course.
In addition to a likely lottery pick coming over from the Clippers, the Hornets still hold matching rights on Eric Gordon, who has star potential, and they will have a top-5 pick based on their own performance. That's a potential up-and-coming "Big 3" in New Orleans as soon as next season, depending on what happens with Gordon in free agency and how the lottery balls fall. Al-Farouq Aminu, also acquired in the trade, isn't worth writing home about, but he's probably worth at least a mention here. Meanwhile, if Paul walks, all New Orleans has is its own pick plus cap space to chase free agents that don't want to play for the Western Conference's worst team. The choice is here.
If Cuban's larger argument was that the management decision to trade a superstar for parts continues a bad precedent that was supposed to be fixed during the lockout labor negotiations, he's right, of course. The system was changed but it wasn't entirely overhauled, and Stern and the Hornets had to act in their own self-interest, not take a stand for the greater good of the league. The risk/reward calculus was crystal clear given Paul's years of frustration and the weak Hornets roster that would have surrounded him this year. He had to go as soon as possible.
The conclusion that Cuban likely wants you to take from his comments is not that Stern, the owner, is an idiot for the trade. It's that the NBA's system is still broken because not even Stern, the commissioner, trusts its new mechanisms for retaining franchise-player talent. That's an excellent point, although everyone seems to have been acting under that assumption since the first day that the lockout was lifted.