With NBA free agency set to begin on July 1, teams all over the league are trying to best position themselves to improve their teams. After a few moves on draft night, another big splash is being reported.
Paul has been rumored to be on the move for weeks, and he had the option to leave in free agency. Upon telling the Clippers he planned to leave, they made this trade to get some return for their star guard. The dominoes from this trade will likely lead to a Blake Griffin departure and a full on Clippers’ rebuild. J.J. Redick will also be a free agent and DeAndre Jordan could also be on the move in the next few days. Lob City could be coming to an end.
For the Clippers:
Even though it means they have to begin a rebuild, this trade makes a ton of sense for the Clippers. Since Paul informed the Clippers that he was going to leave in free-agency, he gave them the chance to get some return on him. The sum of their return does not equate to Paul’s value, but it is better than nothing.
Williams offers plenty of backcourt scoring and could serve as a J.J. Redick replacement for the Clippers. He also could be moved to a contender for more picks and youth. Dekker is a solid wing player and should get a chance to play with the Clippers after injuries limited his time in Houston. Patrick Beverley is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA and will be an important piece in the Clippers rebuild. The Clippers should have plenty of money to go after free agents as well, and some smart signings could keep them relevant.
For the Rockets:
For the Rockets, this trade makes some basketball sense but not entirely basketball business sense. The Rockets get a top player in the league and have a top backcourt tandem in the league. This is a big splash that could take them to the next level in the West. But was it necessary? Paul said he was planning on signing with the Rockets anyway, so why bother trading for him. The deal may save the Rockets some money in the short term because they do not have to extend Paul just yet. The tweet below shows that the trade deal saves the Rockets close to $11 million.
The Rockets will need to use that money wisely because they could be in for some financial and personnel issues in the coming years. Even if Paul seems cheap this year, his salary will jump that $11 million next year if he is extended since he will still be eligible for a super-max deal. The Rockets will then be paying upwards of $65 million on just their backcourt. That is over 60 percent of the cap on just two players. Throw in Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon and that’s another close to $35 million in 2018. That’s almost the entire salary cap on not even a full starting lineup. Yikes.
I do not think this trade puts the Rockets over top in the West, and it exposes one of their major issues. When the Rockets lost in the playoffs it was because their stars and starters were not producing. As this happened the Rockets had few options to turn to off the bench to help make a shot or get a stop. This problem is worse now that three rotation players are headed to the Clippers. The Eric Gordon is the only backup guard, Trevor Ariza is the only small forward
The roster is very top heavy. Eric Gordon is the only backup guard, Trevor Ariza is the only small forward, and the frontcourt is a question mark behind Ryan Anderson and Clint Capela. The Rockets have the firepower to keep up with anybody. But just like the Cavaliers learned, you need some bench production to stem the tide when stars rest. The Rockets will no doubt try to address their bench deficiencies but will be tight on money when trying to do so.
The Trade Breakdown
Rockets get: PG Chris Paul
Clippers get: PG Patrick Beverly, SF Sam Dekker, SG Lou Williams, 2018 First Round Pick, other players to match salaries
Projected Lineups 2017-2018:
PG- Chris Paul/ ?
SG- James Harden / Eric Gordon
SF- Trevor Ariza/ ?
PF- Ryan Anderson/?
C- Clint Capela/ ?
PG- Patrick Beverley/ Austin Rivers
SG- Lou Williams/ Jamal Crawford
SF- Wesley Johnson/ Sam Dekker
PF- ?/ Brice Johnson
C- DeAndre Jordan/ Diamond Stone?