May 3, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) listens to fans heckle in the final minutes of their 115-105 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at FedEx Forum. The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 118-105. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Rumors: Could Chris Paul Leave the Clippers?

Feb 26, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Western Conference guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers (3) moves around Eastern Conference center Dwight Howard (12) of the Orlando Magic in the fourth quarter at the 2012 NBA All-Star Game at the Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Picture this: Chris Paul, Al Horford, and Dwight Howard all suiting up for the Atlanta Hawks. Proceed to get excited like this:

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Bradford Doolittle of ESPN wrote an Insider article on Monday about Chris Paul’s likely moves this offseason. Here is the excerpt from the story where he talks about the possibility of CP3 joining the Hawks.

The Hawks — who could have drafted Paul in 2005 when they selected Marvin Williams — have just three players with guaranteed contracts for next season: Al Horford, Lou Williams and John Jenkins. Obviously that’s not enough to entice Paul from the standpoint of maximizing title odds. However, Atlanta might have a slight geographical edge because Paul was born, raised and went to college in ACC country. Then if you recall the fact that Howard is an Atlanta native, suddenly things get more interesting. The idea of Paul and Howard joining forces has been floating around for some time, and in Atlanta, it could actually happen.

Chris Paul in Atlanta would be interesting to say the least. You know how bad Hawks management looks for that 2005 draft? Think about how bad they would look if the player they skipped over (and made statements that he would prefer to play in Atlanta) returned to the team via free agency. Chris Paul would bring a Southern swagger to Atlanta that would likely increase ticket sales. The same ticket sales that were good for 22nd in the entire league this season.

This would require some bold decision-making on the part of Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, and some financial collusion on the part of Paul and Howard. Ferry would need to renounce every free agent on his roster, a process which would include declining to make a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Jeff Teague. If he did that, Ferry could get his cap commitment down to about $26 million for the aforementioned trio, Atlanta’s two first-round picks and a number of minimum cap holds. If the cap comes in at, say, $60 million, then that would be $34 million for Howard and Paul to split. Not the max, but this scenario only works if the pair decides to follow in the path of Miami’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Atlanta would end up with a core of Howard, Paul and Horford, plus an elite bench scorer in Williams, a promising shooting specialist in Jenkins and two first-round rookies. Ferry would also have a full battery of cap exceptions — this would become a likely landing spot for Barnes — and with Howard and Paul on top of his talent pyramid, the Hawks would become a preferred destination for the top minimum-salary veterans. The Hawks haven’t been to the Finals since the 1950s, so why not think big? There are several teams that could maneuver enough to free up a salary slot for Paul, like Dallas, Houston or Boston. The Hawks are the only team, though, that can do so while also offering the possibility of an instant power trio.

This scenario of a big three with Jenkins, Lou, maybe Matt Barnes (there may or may not be a relation), and (hopefully) Zaza Pachulia is quite favorable, in my opinion. Don’t forget about Kyle Korver either! He has stated that he is open to coming back next season.

Maybe he’ll give Ferry a friendly discount.

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