Chris Paul is on a tear this season by proving he is arguably the best leader in the world for the young Phoenix Suns. Paul averaged 16.4 PPG and 8.9 APG during the regular season, entering the MVP race and taking the Suns to an incredible 51-21 record which was 2nd in the West. Paul also elevated the games of budding superstar Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, two players who will soon be among the best in the NBA.
As great as Booker is as a scorer and Ayton as an interior presence, it is Chris Paul who deserves the bulk of the credit. The point guard has taken his numbers to 19.3 PPG and 8.7 APG during the postseason and has overcome all doubters and at 36 years of age. Paul has a chance to win his first NBA championship and place himself among the top-5 point guards to have ever lived. Devin Booker is drawing comparisons to a young Kobe Bryant thanks to his scoring ability and clutch gene, while Lakers fans are shifting uncomfortably in their thoughts of what could have been. Because 10 years ago, a deal to send Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers was vetoed by the league.
Chris Paul is doing wonders with Devin Booker by his side, but what if he had a prime Kobe Bryant next to him? As great as Booker is, there is only one Kobe Bryant and it will be nearly impossible for him to ever come close. Now imagine a younger Chris Paul with the best shooting guard in the NBA in Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles? It is time to reminisce about what could have been and what would be the destinies of both Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant had the deal gone through.
David Stern Vetoed The Blockbuster Deal Of The Ages
On December 8, 2011; David Stern vetoed a blockbuster deal involving 3 teams that would have sent 25-year old superstar Chris Paul to Los Angeles to join Kobe Bryant in the backcourt. The deal also sent Lamar Odom to the Hornets and Pau Gasol to the Rockets, completely changing the outlook of the entire NBA. Of course, the Lakers were fresh off 2 championships in 2009 and 2010 while the Heat blew away their Finals berth a season prior.
The “problem” lied in the fact that the league was a majority owner of the then-New Orleans Hornets and decided that GM Dell Demps was not authorized to make the trade. Of course, Stern would step down as commissioner years later while Chris Paul would form “Lob City” with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Chris Paul With Kobe Bryant Creates A Dynasty
Chris Paul with Kobe Bryant would have formed the best duo in the NBA, even ahead of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami. Had David Stern never vetoed the trade, we were looking at a dynasty in Los Angeles. The Lakers have seen multiple dynasties with the Magic Johnson-Showtime Lakers and Shaq-Kobe eras, and this would have added to it. Paul was fresh off a season averaging 15.9 PPG, 9.8 APG, and a league-leading 2.4 SPG. He was clearly one of the most impactful players in the league and a superstar point guard already. In terms of playmaking and leadership on both ends of the floor, nobody did it like Chris Paul, and that included former 2-time MVP, Steve Nash.
Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant averaged 25.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 4.7 APG while playing all 82 games for the Lakers in the 2011 season. The Lakers were not the same team as 2 years prior and needed help. Derek Fisher, Andrew Bynum, Metta World Peace, and Josh McRoberts were not going to cut it.
Chris Paul would have immediately improved the lineup, and his leadership could have forced Andrew Bynum to wake up and reach his potential as the best big man in the game. In actuality, the Lakers had traded Andrew Bynum for 3-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard the following season. Legitimately, Howard with Paul and Bryant would have been a Big Three that usurped that of the Miami Heat. Of course, Phil Jackson was the coach and he had a knack for getting the best out of mega-ego players (Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O’Neal, and Michael Jordan anyone?). Chris Paul would have created a dynasty in Los Angeles that would have altered the legacies of two of the best players of their generations.
Paul Becomes A Top-3 Point Guard Ever, Kobe Becomes The GOAT
If the trade was never vetoed, the Los Angeles Lakers would have been on a crash course with the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. The season was cut short thanks to the lockout, which meant Paul and Bryant would have been ripe and ready to take the league by storm. Of course, Miami won the championship by defeating the young Oklahoma City Thunder, but the Lakers would have been an entirely different challenge.
Paul and Bryant offer more star power in the backcourt, while Andrew Bynum could have punished the smaller Heat inside. Even with Dwight Howard (had the Lakers traded for him the same season or the following season), the Lakers would have been even more deadly. Considering the Heat made the Finals 4 times to represent the East, it would not be far-fetched to assume the Lakers would have made at least 4 Finals appearances as well. They would have been more talented than the Spurs and certainly more experienced than the Thunder. The Lakers would have won at a minimum, 2 NBA championships during that span.
How does that affect the legacies of Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant? For one, Paul would have been a multiple-time NBA champion by the time he was 30 years old. That would have been enough to solidify himself as a top-3 point guard ever without having to deal with criticisms of never making an NBA Finals until 36 years of age. For Bryant, it is even more powerful.
Kobe Bryant would have officially stepped out of the shadow of Michael Jordan and would be widely recognized as not only the best shooting guard ever but the best player ever. And who could argue that? 7 championships at the minimum along with 4 Finals MVPs places him in elite company, and LeBron James would struggle to ever catch up. For Jordan, even though he held 10 scoring titles and 6 Finals MVPs; he would have fallen short at 7 rings.