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Throughout NBA history, a slew of “what if” situations have surfaced. What if Michael Jordan had never left basketball to pursue a career in baseball? What if Derrick Rose had never had to cope with an injury? What if Shaquille O’Neal decided to remain with the Lakers? All of these are common concerns among basketball fans.
One of the most intriguing “what ifs” involves renowned point guard Chris Paul and Lakers icon Kobe Bryant: What if the NBA had never rejected the deal that would have brought CP3 to LA?
Paul recently spoke about that iconic incident, and he believes Bryant would have shown his underappreciated talent if they had played together.
Chris Paul was almost acquired by the Lakers in a trade.
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers were fresh off losing in the Western Conference Semifinals after reaching three straight NBA Finals and winning back-to-back championships the prior seasons during the 2011 NBA offseason/lockout. With Bryant approaching the end of his career, the Lakers were undoubtedly looking for a way to return to the summit, and one of the greatest point guards in the NBA, Chris Paul, was said to be interested in leaving his club.
The Lakers then made it happen by agreeing to a three-team trade with the Hornets and Houston Rockets to acquire their new star. According to Yahoo Sports, it would have sent Lamar Odom to New Orleans, Paul Gasol to Houston, and Paul to Los Angeles. Houston would have also sent additional players and a draft selection to New Orleans.
The Hornets were owned by the NBA at the time, and former commissioner David Stern, who had final say on personnel matters, rejected the deal. During the same summer, Paul was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers.
There was a lot that went into the veto, and we’ll go into it in another piece, but what if the agreement had really passed? Bryant may have shown an underappreciated talent.
CP3 was looking forward to Kobe Bryant demonstrating an underappreciated talent.
On Feb. 17, 2008, Kobe Bryant (left) and Chris Paul joke on the bench during the 2008 NBA All-Star Game. Getty Images/Ronald Martinez
On fubo Sports, Paul recently spoke with former NBA player Gilbert Arenas about the controversial rejected trade.
In August, Paul remarked, “It would have been great; it would have been a lot of fun.” “… People didn’t know Kob could shoot the ball as good as he did at the time, thus I was probably most eager to play with him. He looks like a spot-up shooter. And I’d have had chances to tear people down at times, but he’ll still iso you and kill you. But there’s another side to his game that I don’t believe he’s ever had an opportunity to demonstrate, and that’s his ability to catch and shoot.”
During his tenure in the NBA, Bryant was never regarded as a terrific shooter. In his career, he only shot 32.9 percent from 3-point range. He did, however, improve as he grew older.
Bryant averaged 2.6 long-range tries per game between 1996-97 and 2003-04, hitting 33.1 percent of them. No, his percentage wasn’t much higher (33.7 percent) from 2004-05 to 2012-13, but he shot almost twice as many threes, averaging 5.0 attempts per game.
Bryant’s position as a ball-dominant player meant he didn’t have many opportunities to shoot spot-up jumpers, but it would have been fascinating to see if he could have shown that ability while playing alongside Paul.
Paul also said that he would one day relate the tale of how that rejected deal came to be, but for now, we must ponder how wonderful he and Bryant might have been together.
What if Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant had joined the Lakers as teammates?
So, what if the transaction had gone through? What kind of team would the Lakers have been?
We don’t know who else would have been on that squad, so it’s difficult to tell for sure. Losing Pau Gasol would have been a major setback for LA, but Paul also claimed that Dwight Howard was on the verge of joining them at the moment. The next season, in 2012-13, Howard joined the Lakers.
A Big Three of Paul, Bryant, and Howard, on the other hand, would have been dominating, comfortably challenging the Miami Heat for NBA dominance.
Take a look at their individual statistics from the 2011-12 season.
- Chris Paul averages 19.8 points per game, 9.1 assists, and 2.5 steals.
- Kobe Bryant averages 27.9 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists.
- Dwight Howard averages 20.6 points per game, 14.5 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks.
All three players are NBA legends: Paul, Bryant, and Howard. They would have been unbeatable if they had joined forces and combined Paul’s ability to facilitate, Bryant’s midrange and perimeter skills, and Howard’s post play.
But, because to that infamous veto, we’ll always wonder, “What if?”
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
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