When Daryl Morey said the Rockets had “something up their sleeve,” most of the world snickered and assumed it was Morey’s arm.
Turns out it was Chris Paul.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski — the best in the business — the Rockets are getting Paul from the Clippers for Patrick Beverly, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and a 2018 first-rounder.
When healthy, Paul is one of the best in the league. He is a player who truly makes others around him better and is one of the best pure passers in basketball. Teaming with James Harden should give the Rockets one of the best backcourts in basketball. And in reality, the Rockets gave up very little. Paul takes Beverly’s minutes and then some; Dekker and Harrell have yet to prove they can be NBA players. Williams was nice off the bench, but the Rockets still have Eric Gordon in that role. The No. 1 pick should be in the high 20s and have little value. From a Clippers perpective, at least they got something, since Paul had indicated he was going to sign with the Rockets in free agency.
Paul should thrive in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. It is without a doubt a terrific move by the Rockets.
Vegas certainly likes the deal. One site dropped the Rockets odds to win the title down to 16-1 from 25-1.
It does not come without concerns. Paul has been injury prone and staying healthy will be a big key to this deal. He is also a ball dominant guard, much like Harden. Can the two co-exist? Harden had a near-MVP season running the point. Will he be able to adjust to handling the ball less? Will he be as effective in that role? What other pieces will the Rockets be able to add to make this work? Valid questions all.
But those aside, this is a bold, low-risk, high-reward move. It does not put the Rockets on par with the Warriors — to be fair, no team is — but it might push them past San Antonio for second best in the West, and another solid move or two might solidify that. The Rockets don’t have cap room to add another A-player, but they might be able to clear enough space by moving contracts such as Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza. That would free up close to $27 million in cap space, although Paul’s deal will eat into a big chunk of that. His cap hit is 26 million; the traded assets added up to roughly 14 million, so more moves will need to be made. The Rockets are just over $3 million above the cap with Anderson and Ariza on the books, so one or both will likely be shipped out. The other rumored names — Blake Griffin, Paul George, Paul Millsap, even Carmelo Anthony — might be too much to expect, and another blockbuster acquisition might be easier said than done, but then so was acquiring Paul. (Spotrac has the salary cap/roster breakdown here).
No two ways about it, this is a good day to be a Rockets fan. Paul is one of my favorite players in the league to watch, and he will add an element of excitement. It might not work. But if it does…
Morey did indeed have something up his sleeve, and it was one hell of a player.