Houston Rockets Receive: Chris Paul
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, 2018 First Round Pick (top 3 protected
The Rockets picked up one of the best floor generals in NBA history and is pairing him with one of the most offensive minded coaches of all-time. Doing this with another superstar who can create and shooters all around will create one of the most statistically dominant offenses of ever. The Warriors will still be a more lethal offense and I would prefer playing the Rockets over the Warriors, but statistically, this Rockets team will be absurd. James Harden had one of the best statistical seasons ever this past year and a lot of that had to do with him playing point guard and generating offense for others. Despite that, he is still a scorer at heart. James also looked exhausted by the end of the playoffs. Just as we see with LeBron and how he needs someone to generate for others to avoid exhaustion, Harden had the same scenario. In the playoffs, Harden looked like he was playing one on five while on offense and ended up in a lot of bad shots because of it. Paul and Harden will be able to find a way to lean on each other to stay fresh throughout the year.
D’Antoni will have to make some adjustments but these two players clearly wanted to play together. It had been reported that Houston was going to make a run at Paul, but there were salary cap issues in the way. By CP3 opting in, he is giving up roughly 10 million this year, so this was a sacrifice for him. By trading for him instead of signing him, the Rockets are able to have less of a cap hit from Paul this year while also getting his Bird Rights. This also seems like it will not be the last move of the summer for Houston. The Rockets have to shed some salary to be even able to make this trade legal, so there has to be at least one more. Conventional thinking is that the Rockets will go after Paul George. It would be extremely difficult at this point to clear the cap space to make a significant move in free agency so whatever it is will have to come by trade. Would Eric Gordon, Montrezl Harrell and draft picks be enough to get Paul George from Indiana? George has to be the next logical piece for Morey to go after. He is the one star on the market that is available for what Houston can offer. Maybe they go after Andre Drummond and play one in and four out, but is Drummond even enough of an upgrade over Capela that it would make it worth the trade. I expect them to go all out on George and we should see this unfold in the next week.
As far as on the court, let’s imagine a lineup of Paul, Harden, Gordon, Ariza, Anderson; there is likely to be some more moves but this is what we can go off of for now. Either Paul or Harden can start with the ball, run a screen with really anyone else, and go to the hoop. These are two of the best in the NBA at getting to the hoop and running the pick and roll. If the defense collapses on him, they can kick it out to the perimeter and immediately rerun the same thing or swing the ball around the outside for an open three. Harden and Paul can both average 10 assists per game and it would be shocking at all. This offense is going to be so exciting to watch and if they got hot for four games, no one is beating it. Sub out Capela for Anderson and this is not a bad defensive lineup at all.
The ideal scenario for the Clippers would have been Chris Paul coming back, but if he was going to leave anyway, this is the best situation you could hope for. If Paul was willing to give up money to go to Houston, which means he really wanted out and probably was leaving anyway. To get three players who are all on below-market deals, plus a first round pick is huge for them. That is not Chris Paul value, but it is a lot better than what the Thunder got for Kevin Durant. Beverley gives the Clippers the same defense that Paul provided. Though not even in the same universe on offense, it is still something. Williams gives them a volume scorer in a similar mold to what they already have in Jamal Crawford. Dekker gives them a young prospect with more potential than they have had in years at a position of weakness. The Clippers have traded so many of their picks that anything they could get draft capital wise would be valuable.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Blake Griffin in the next week or two. Blake could look this as this is now his team and he wants to come back as the superstar and regardless of if they are competing for championships, he is getting paid and is the offensive focal point. If he comes back with this roster, averaging close to a triple-double would be a possibility. He could also look at this as his chance to escape and go to a winning team in a new environment. He would still get paid comparably, but it would be a four-year contract instead of five and with his injury history, Griffin may not risk that. The Clippers could also look for a sign and trade if they are hitting reset. These are rare nowadays in the NBA. Even if it was a trade to the Celtics and they only took back one player to help the Celtics clear the necessary cap space, getting anything in return if he was leaving would be valuable.
The other option is if the Clippers are going to go after Paul George now. George has reportedly been set on the Lakers, but he grew up a Clippers fan so if this was his way back to L.A., he may be open to it. The Clippers picked up trade pieces in the Chris Paul trade that they could immediately send out again in a trade for George. This would probably be dependent on Griffin coming back. If Griffin walks for nothing, it will be a tough decision. They could go after George, who is by no means a guarantee, and they would stay a middling team with George and Jordan leading the team. They could also decide that it is better to just reset and move Jordan for what they can get in return. They could also move their remaining pieces such as Beverley, Williams, Crawford, Rivers and whomever else they can for younger assets. None of the players I just listed are young enough to hang around for a rebuild and be ready to contribute when that roster is five years from now. If the Clippers can move current pieces for draft picks, bottom out this in 2018 and 2019, when they own their own first round pick and owe their first to Boston, lottery protected, they may be able to add some key pieces that will turn this rebuild around.
There are so many different directions the Clippers can go right now and we will have a much better idea once Griffin makes he decision in the coming weeks. Although losing Paul hurts, anything in return is a win.