- Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Staff Writer
You have to feel for Hornets fans.
After an excruciating tug-of-war that lasted for months, they just watched the heart, soul and face of their franchise over the past half-decade pack his bags for Los Angeles. Chris Paul alone put New Orleans within reach of the title year after year, despite the ugly turmoil that took place upstairs in the front office. After nearly taking down the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs, Paul and the Hornets have finally parted ways.
That's what every New Orleans fan has to wonder after David Stern shipped the perennial MVP candidate to the Clippers for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota's 2012 first-round pick. It's a hard pill to swallow, but a necessary one, given the likely alternative of Paul walking away for nothing after the season.
What happens now is a franchise rebuild. While no fan wants to see their team voluntarily shift into low gear, the Hornets are actually positioning themselves for a quick U-turn back to playoff contention. Rebuilding is a painful process, but the Hornets have initiated the cycle that almost every franchise will inevitably undergo at some point in its lifetime.
Given the fruitful haul from Los Angeles, it's worth asking:
Among rebuilding teams, do the Hornets now have the most promising foundation? Or, to put it another way, who's the next Oklahoma City Thunder?
First, I have to establish some rules on what is a rebuilding franchise and what isn't. Warning: It's not easy. Although it's tempting to label the New Jersey Nets as a rebuilding organization, I have a tough time signing off on it when they already have a top-10 player with a top-10 price tag in Deron Williams. You could make an argument either way, but for these purposes I left them off the list, along with the Golden State Warriors, who gave the near-max deal to David Lee last season.
Young stud? John Wall | Cap situation? Great. | Likely 2012 lottery picks? One (Own)
1dAlok Pattani, ESPN Stats & Information
1dDan Le Batard
1dOhm Youngmisuk and Ian Begley