On multiple occasions, the Warriors nearly tore down the potential dynasty that reshaped the NBA. It’s public knowledge that the Warriors were the best team in the NBA from 2015-2019, but that stretch of dominance nearly didn’t happen because the players making up that roster might have been on other teams. The Warriors nearly traded Klay Thompson to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love, but the real kicker was that Thompson was almost packaged with the 2015 and 2016 MVP Steph Curry.
In 2011, the Warriors attempted to trade both Curry and Thompson for Chris Paul, who was on the trade market with the New Orleans Hornets (name at the time). According to the report, Hornets GM Dell Demps was receptive, but there was one catch in Paul’s desire to play in Oakland.
What if this trade had gone down?
The Trade Details
Golden State Warriors Receive: Chris Paul
New Orleans Hornets Receive: Steph Curry, 2011 No. 11 Overall Pick (Klay Thompson)
The Warriors went to the playoffs just once from 1994-1995 through the 2011-2012 campaign. There were questions about Curry’s overall health, while Thompson was just a rookie out of Washington State. Paul had grown tired of wasting All-Star years and he wanted to join a title team. While Golden State was nothing far from that, this is a business at the end of the day. New Orleans looked at the young potential in both Curry and Thompson and saw a future.
However, Paul didn’t see a future for himself wearing a Warriors jersey. Because he didn’t see a future, it resulted in two massive implications. The Warriors grew to a dynasty, while the New Orleans had to sit back and wonder what if?
Chris Paul Nixed The Trade Himself
According to the report, Paul wanted out of New Orleans, which is why the team nearly pulled off the legendary trade with the Los Angeles Lakers that got denied by commissioner David Stern.
... the Warriors attempted to trade Steph Curry and Klay Thompson for Chris Paul in 2011. It was far from the only time Curry was shopped, but in this instance, the deal was very close to completion. Myers made the offer and Hornets GM Dell Demps was receptive. The catch was Chris Paul, who wanted out of New Orleans but had no intention of playing for the woebegone Warriors. Paul told the Warriors they could do this trade, but he wouldn't be staying when his contract was up at season's end.
The Hornets weren't the only organization to narrowly lose out on the deal of a lifetime. According to one GM, "The Warriors were blind lucky that they were unsuccessful in trading Steph and Klay together for the stars they offered them together for," he said. "There were many, many people they tried to get and failed."
Paul told the Warriors that he also was receptive to the idea. The problem was that he wasn’t going to stay in Oakland when the contract was up at season’s end. In later years, Paul confirmed that he didn’t want to stay with the Warriors.
It meant that the Warriors would have one try and win at the highest level. With the talent on the roster, Paul would have gone from one borderline playoff team to another. Instead, the Warriors were lucky to keep their stars given what transpired in the later years.
Hornets Projected Lineup If Trade Happened
PG: Steph Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Marco Belinelli
PF: Trevor Ariza
C: Emeka Okafor
This lineup would have been competitive on paper, but we have to remember that Curry faced injuries that limited him to 26 games in 2011-2012. Assuming that Curry was hurt again, the Pelicans would not have been a playoff team with this roster but might have been in the lottery to draft Anthony Davis, which they eventually did in 2012. Along with Curry, Emeka Okafor played in only 26 games.
Also, Thompson was a rookie that didn’t truly develop until a few years down the road. Thompson’s second season is where we started to see real development. Thompson averaged 16.6 points and shot 40.1% from the three-point range in his second year. Both Marco Belinelli and Trevor Ariza were complementary pieces but were no stars. The future outlook for New Orleans would have been bright if Curry, Thompson, and Davis were all on the same team though.
Warriors Projected Lineup If Trade Happened
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Dorell Wright
PF: David Lee
C: Andris Biedrins
Ellis was coming off a season where he averaged 24.1 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.1 steals. Had Paul joined the team, it would have been a competitive backcourt in Golden State. Instead, Curry got hurt and the Warriors traded Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks. At the time, Ellis was averaging 21.9 points and 6.0 assists.
As for David Lee, he was coming off his first season with the Warriors where he averaged 16.5 points and 9.8 rebounds. Lee finished the 2011-2012 season with 20.1 points and 9.6 rebounds. Essentially, Paul would have left New Orleans and David West for a player of around the same caliber in talent.
Had this trade gone down, the ripple effects would have been staggering. The Warriors would have never become the Warriors. Steph Curry won two MVPs, the Warriors made five straight trips to the NBA Finals, Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the Warriors, and then eventually joined the Nets. If the Warriors never became the Warriors, we are potentially talking about New Orleans owning a dynasty, while Durant might have one or two championships with OKC.
With that said, Curry only played in 26 games in the 2011-2012 season due to recurring ankle injuries. At one point, it was talked about as career-threatening. If Curry was hurt, the Pelicans might have been bad enough to get the No. 1 draft pick. After all, Thompson was only a rookie and still needed development. In the 2012 draft, the Pelicans did land the No. 1 draft pick and used it on future star Anthony Davis.
With Curry, Thompson, and Davis, that big three would have formed the dynasty that the Warriors had from 2015-2019. New Orleans has never won a championship, let alone made the NBA Finals. Had Paul not mentioned he was leaving the team after one year, this would have been a game-changer.
Instead, the Pelicans traded Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al Farouq-Aminu, and a first-round draft pick. The Clippers never made it past the second round, choking on playoff leads multiple times. Paul made the Clippers relevant, helping the team win franchise records for games, and left the franchise as the all-time leader in assists and steals. However, “lob city” wasn’t enough to make a Conference Finals, which hampered Paul’s overall legacy.
As for New Orleans, the team landed the No. 1 overall pick in 2012 and drafted Davis, who was a star with the team from 2012 to 2019. Like Paul, Davis couldn’t lead the team out of the second round of the playoffs. He grew tired of losing seasons and was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won a championship in his first season. In the end, the Warriors came out on top for not making the trade, while New Orleans lives on in one of the biggest “what if” scenarios.