The Chris Paul Trade Sends Two Franchises in Opposite Directions

Yes, again.

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Image via nba.com

The Houston rumors never seemed entirely legit, and it seemed as though the pull to the Clippers was too strong. But Chris Paul blindsided the NBA yesterday by orchestrating a sign and trade deal that landed him on the Rockets. I’ll let Mac take this one:

CP3 Is a Sweetheart

He may not have landed in Houston just by signing as a free agent due to the Rockets’ cap space situation. But he could have went a number of places and left LA in the dust. Woj tweeted and then deleted (classic) that Paul informed the team he would be leaving, which allowed them to make a deal to get something in return. Paul didn’t have to do that. It’s like breaking up with your live-in girlfriend and even though you don’t have to get a divorce you still give her 50% of your stuff. That was real nice of him.

Of course his opt-in sets him up for a much bigger payday next summer so maybe his intentions weren’t entirely philanthropic. But I’m sure Los Angeles appreciates it nonetheless.

The Clippers Situation

There are a number of dominoes still teetering here. The main one being Blake Griffin, who opted out of his contract and is an unrestricted free agent just like Paul could have been. With Paul gone and J.J. Redick also departing it’s tough to see Griffin returning to a mediocre team at best. It’s all about the money, though, and the Clippers can offer Griffin that fifth year. If they’re willing to offer it, he’d be almost foolish to decline.

The dream scenario for Los Angeles would be wrangling their way into sign and trades for their other two stars as well. That’s unlikely, however. Other teams with cap space will be looking to poach and won’t have any incentive to send out anything in return. Do Griffin or Redick love the Clippers so much they’ll insist on a sign and trade? If they do, they’d probably just stay.

So if they both ship out (get it, Clippers, eh? Sorry) what’s left? Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams in his LA sequel, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell come aboard (again, sorry) along with a protected 2018 first round pick. Add in Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers and it looks basically like a boatload (I’m not even sorry anymore) of shooters strewn around DeAndre Jordan. Honestly, that doesn’t look that bad.

They could function almost as a Rockets Lite. They don’t have that kind of playmaker at point (don’t tell Rivers I said that) but there are still multiple guards capable of initiating a pick and roll with Jordan. Plop a few shooters who can move the ball around whoever that pair may be and you’ve potentially got something. Doc Rivers hasn’t coached a less-than-elite team in over a decade. We’ll have to see what he comes up with for players that are good instead of great. And how well it works.

If Griffin does end up staying I think we’ll find he and DJ don’t work as well absent a third star. Without him, next season would be somewhat of a test run to see how much of load Jordan can carry and what the team sees in their new additions in the long term. Tens of millions of dollars vanished with Paul and Redick and possibly Griffin. Perhaps they start shopping Jordan again during the season. Next summer they’ll have cap space galore if Griffin and/or Jordan leave. No doubt they’ll try to entice LeBron James or Paul George or both or any other combination of superstars that every team wants these days. It’s what you need to beat the Warriors, after all.

I wouldn’t bet on LA being much of a draw for the biggest names. There is potential for a surprisingly successful season that shows the Clips as a team one wing scorer short of contention. It probably won’t look that rosy a year from now, but their only option is to try. They’re in a much better position already than the worst case scenario that could just as easily have happened.

The Rockets Situation

Well, they definitely went for it. If nothing else, you have to respect this management equivalent of a half court buzzer beater. It’s a reasonable amount of crazy without too many consequences if it doesn’t connect. “We had to try something” is what I would be saying if I was Daryl Morey.

And they do. It’s the same for the Clippers or Rockets or anyone else: catch up to the Warriors. Does this move do that? Well, no. But it is a big, important step. Houston now has two guards capable of leading the team with the ball or functioning alongside the other without it. It may be a bit awkward deciding who closes games, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a solution comes up organically inside Mike D’Antoni’s system. And through convoluted salary cap rules I only somewhat understand, the trade gave Houston multiple trade and cap exceptions to round out the roster with veterans or role players.

They’ve also been linked through twitter rumors to both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. If Anthony is bought out in New York, Morey could easily sell him on a Half-Banana Boat reunion with Paul. George would involve packaging even more assets obtained over the next few weeks to make an offer to Indiana. It seems unlikely, but hey this trade did too. The addition of an All-Star wing could put a scare into Golden State. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though.

For now, there are serious questions of how Paul’s plodding, calculated playing style will work with D’Antoni’s Seven Seconds or Less Houston Remix. He’s certainly capable of playing faster. How long will the adjustment period be? If he’s on the court without Harden, will he want to slow the game down? Will D’Antoni let him? And what of CP3’s nasty habit of shooting mid range jumpers?

The quality of ball movement and efficient shooting the two guards can bring should cover up any holes the team will have, at least at first. Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon are all still here to rain threes. Clint Capela will continue rim running on pick and rolls, now with two All-Star guards to connect with. On defense, Paul can take the role Beverly played in the past. I don’t think this deal improves Houston’s D, but losing Lou Williams isn’t going to hurt on that end. There’s a lot to like.

It’s definitely going to be interesting, and probably going to be fun. There’s going to be flopping and incessant foul-drawing and pleading with officials. That may wear on us after a while. But we got that from the last half-decade of the Clippers, too. And just like them, when Houston hits full gear they’re going to be a blast. Harden and Paul both have MVP-caliber talent and supreme basketball intelligence. The good is going to outweigh the bad. It’s just not enough for a championship. Yet.

Trade Fodder

A special salute is necessary to those anonymous NBA players doing the thankless job of getting traded multiple times in quick succession to salary-match trades. Five players were acquired by Houston this morning. Three were traded to Los Angeles this afternoon. Those three deserve the Luke Ridnour Award for Excellence in Trade Fodder. Here they are:

Darrun Hilliard

DeAndre Liggins

Kyle Wiltjer

Their contributions to the NBA will not be forgotten by me. The presentation of the Luke Ridnour Award is still pending for the other two acquisitions, Ryan Kelly and Shawn Long. Should they be traded away in short order, their trade fodder achievements will be recognized as well. Godspeed, gentlemen.

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As a tall human, Alex Schubauer was destined to love basketball. He believes the NBA is the greatest sports league in the world, so that's what he writes about. He also enjoys The X-Files, the National Treasure movies, blink-182 and Kanye West.

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