Veteran NBA beat writer Sam Amick cites "a league source" in reporting that the Orlando Magic are interested in trading for New Orleans Hornets franchise point guard Chris Paul, a three-time All-Star whose 10.0 career assists-per-game average leads all active players, and ranks third all-time.
While it's not known what the Magic would be willing to offer, the mere inquiry is a reflection of the organizational thinking as they move forward with Howard as the centerpiece and Jameer Nelson running the show.
Orlando is interested in an elite-level, pure point guard to replace Nelson, who has never averaged more than 5.6 assists per game in his six-year career and has three seasons and a combined total of $21.9 million left on his contract. The Magic attempted to make up for his distributing deficiencies by signing veteran Jason Williams last summer, but both him and veteran point guard Anthony Johnson will be free agents on July 1.
Prying Paul from New Orleans is no easy task, but would certainly be a worthwhile one. As I see it, he is the league's top point guard by miles, easily eclipsing the likes of Deron Williams, Steve Nash, and Rajon Rondo due to the depth and breath of his skills. Pairing Paul, who only turned 25 last month, with franchise center Dwight Howard would easily give the Magic the best point guard/center combination in the league and make them championship contenders for years to come.
UPDATE: Magic GM Smith denies that he's spoken to the Hornets regarding Paul.
The only difficulty--and it's a considerable one--is finding a trade package that suits both teams. The Hornets have a variety of horrendous contracts they'd like to move, most notably that of starting center Emeka Okafor, who has four years and just over $53 million left on his. Unproductive swingman James Posey is owed $13.4 million over this season and next, which is another obligation the Hornets would like to avoid. Any deal centered on Paul would certainly require the Magic--or whichever team is lucky enough to land his services--to take back at least one of those deals. In addition, expect the ransom for Paul to be steep, requiring several future draft picks, a young prospect or two, and a highly paid fringe All-Star-type who can still contribute.
Indeed, acquiring Paul will be costly, and there's no guarantee that the Hornets will try too hard to move him; Amick deems any Paul deal "unlikely." Instead, they may prefer to trade his young backup, Darren Collison, instead. Yet if he's available, Magic GM Otis Smith must do his due diligence and try to find a deal that makes sense for New Orleans, even if it means accepting Okafor, Posey, or both in addition to Paul. Rarely does the league's best point guard hit the trade market, and rarely do the Magic have such a high-dollar trade chip (Vince Carter's deal pays him in excess of $17.5 million this season, but only $4 million is guaranteed next season, making it a sort-of expiring) as well.