Paul's desire, according to a person familiar with his strategy, is to follow in LeBron James' footsteps by joining forces with one or more elite players. While the Lakers are viewed as a long-shot scenario, the Magic and Knicks both present tantalizing possibilities. In Orlando, Paul would team with Dwight Howard, who already has informed Magic management that he wants to play with Paul. In New York, Paul would play the role of a younger, higher-octane Steve Nash by pairing with Amar'e Stoudemire in Mike D'Antoni's offense, which was invented for a point guard of Paul's exquisite gifts.Everyone I've talked to has said that financial relief is essential in the deal. This is and will always be a dilemma because you can bet Paul wants Carmelo involved if he wants to follow the Miami model. But Melo may end up staying anyway.And as we've said, Tony Parker is waiting in the wings.
For starters, any team hoping to land Paul would have to take Emeka Okafor and his onerous contract, which pays him $53.2 million over the next four years. If New Orleans decided to entertain offers for Paul, the team also likely would insist on including James Posey, owed $13.4 million over the next two years. The Magic could offer Vince Carter, who has only $4 million of his $18.3 million guaranteed for the 2011-12 season, as well as draft picks. The Knicks don't have draft picks to offer, but since they're approximately $3 million under the cap, they could take back $3 million more salary than they send out in the deal -- a significant cost savings for the Hornets in addition to the $3 million cash the Knicks wouldn't think twice about adding to the deal. By acquiring Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike from Golden State in a sign-and-trade for David Lee, the Knicks also have young assets to pair with Danilo Gallinari and/or Wilson Chandler in a credible proposal for Paul.
I can't see Okafor fitting the system and his contract stinks, but he's a great shock blocker. Can he and Amar'e play together? If it gets you Chris Paul can't D'Antoni figure it out? If they can get Paul, even with Okafor, can Paul be sold on Gallinari as a decent the third option?
This is a tough one to gauge. People have said to me that Parker will ask for the max. I can't see that being the case. Plus Paul has little leverage here. Sitting out will kill his brand. That will pretty much be two years of not playing. He won't sit.