Chris Paul has been a steady inclusion to the Golden State Warriors this season, with the veteran point-guard sitting second in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio and second on the team in cumulative plus-minus.
While the 38-year-old has been fine and is far from the Warriors' biggest issue, one can't help but to ponder whether the franchise could get more from his $30.8 million salary. Paul is a backup guard after all, while the 13-14 Golden State could do with more talent and depth in the frontcourt.
Could the Golden State Warriors flip Chris Paul and his contract to the Charlotte Hornets in a straight-swap for Gordon Hayward?
Most potential Paul trades would require the Warriors to add young or future assets in order to make it happen. That's a prospect Mike Dunleavy Jr. and the front office would be wrestling with right now, particularly given Jonathan Kuminga and Brandin Podziemski are currently in the starting lineup, Trayce Jackson-Davis has proven a revelation, while Moses Moody is also a staple of the rotation.
But what if the Warriors could move Paul without giving up more assets? That would limit the caliber of talent they could get in return, yet in Gordon Hayward they could still get someone who better fills their needs.
The 6'7" forward is on an expiring $31.5 million contract -- most would assess that he and Paul are each overpaid this season, making their value somewhat comparable. Hayward's currently plying his trade with the Charlotte Hornets, a franchise that continues to struggle with a 7-18 record and sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference.
Recently outlining the most relevant trade targets ahead of the February 8 deadline, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic suggested the Warriors and the Philadelphia 76ers as the best fits for the 2017 All-Star.
"..."If the team isn't in the postseason picture by Feb. 8, moving Hayward should be on the table. I don't think he'd end up returning a first-rounder due to his high salary, but teams will have some interest in acquiring a well-rounded offensive player like him who can play both on and off the ball," Vecenie wrote."
Hayward is averaging 15.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 22 games this season, shooting 46.6% from the floor and 36.2% from three-point range. While he may not fit the bill as a second star next to Stephen Curry, his ability to make plays on and off the ball would be a good fit for a team needing an extra offensive element.
Would the Hornets do a straight Paul-for-Hayward swap? There'd be little motivation for them to actually complete that trade, so perhaps they may need a slight incentive. Even so, it's a realistic possibility should the Warriors wish to pursue it, though it probably isn't one that will shift their fortunes drastically as the season progresses.