Since acquiring Chris Paul in a trade from the New Orleans Hornets in December, the Los Angeles Clippers have gone from perennial losers to emerging contenders in the Western Conference.

It has turned out completely different for the Hornets, who acquired guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota's unprotected first-round pick from the Clippers in the Paul deal. After making the playoffs last season, the Hornets (20-43) are tied for last in the Western Conference with the Sacramento Kings.

Based on this season, it appears the Clippers got the better end of the trade with the Hornets — at least for the short term.

Motivated to make a deep playoff run, Paul has emerged as an MVP candidate in leading the Clippers (39-24) to the fourth-best record in the Western Conference. The Clippers finished 32-50 last season. They entered Saturday's games a half-game behind the Lakers for the third seed in the West.

Hornets Coach Monty Williams said the Clippers are in position to make a strong playoff push behind Paul.