The Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets just made a blockbuster trade to send Chris Paul to Houston, and although that makes them better on paper, they still have a long way to go to catch the Golden State Warriors.
Chris Paul is on his way to join James Harden in Houston after being traded to the Rockets. This now gives Houston two All-Stars to build around making them undeniably better. CP3 alongside Harden coming off his best year in the NBA will definitely elevate a franchise. But before we can label the Rockets a new super team, we have to ask ourselves if this move can really work out the way Houston needs it to.
For one, Paul and Harden are both dominant with the ball. CP3 tends to pound the rock while Harden, despite his ability to assist the ball last year, needs the ball in his hands to be effective. This means Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni will have to adjust his offense to make room for Paul because as of today their system is centered around Harden. Then we have to expect there to be some growing pains with Houston’s two All-Stars as the learn to play together and share the ball.
On top of offensive adjustments, the Rockets must rebuild defensively. This trade sends Sam Dekker, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Wiltjer, a top-three protected 2018 first-round pick and $661,000 to the Clippers in exchange for Paul. Although Paul is a franchise player and makes Houston the clear winner in the deal, the Rockets gave up their best defender in Beverley. He’s nowhere near the point guard Paul is, but his toughness and tenacity got under the skin of his opponents in a way very few can pull off. The Rockets will miss Beverley the most and his absence almost guarantees come playoff time the Rockets won’t have enough in them to take down the dubs. Not to mention that in terms of firepower Golden State still has four All-Stars to Houston’s two.
Ultimately Paul decided he had enough with the Clippers and informed them he would walk in free agency if they didn’t move him. Because he opted into his contract with Los Angeles and was traded, he’s still eligible for a max contract of $205 million over five years if he were to stay in Houston, and he can walk and sign elsewhere for $152 million over four years. Take into account the lack of income tax in Texas and Paul has set himself up for a sweet deal.
The only question now is will he win. The Clippers never reached their full potential and Paul still hasn’t been to a conference finals in his career. Now that he has a new home he’s looking to make a deep playoff run, but unless the Warriors are blown up or suffer catastrophic injury his ceiling with the Rockets will be the conference finals. So although this move doesn’t put Paul and Houston in a position to dethrone the champs, it does give him the best chance to appear in his first conference finals and leaves him multiple options in 2018, which will include teaming up with LeBron James in some capacity.