Yesterday, the Los Angeles Clippers agreed to send star guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets in exchange for guards Patrick Beverly and Luo Williams, along with Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, the non-guaranteed contracts of DeAndre Liggins, Darren Hilliard, Kyle Wiltjer, a top three protected first-round pick next year and cash considerations
By now, you have likely heard a dozen reasons why Paul is no longer a Clipper: They wouldn’t offer the guaranteed fifth contract year. Paul had lost faith in Doc Rivers. Paul didn’t want to play with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Paul didn’t want to play with Austin Rivers.
While there may be a shred of truth to all of these, the real reason Paul is out with the Clippers is he did not feel like he could win there.
Paul met with the Clippers earlier in the week and listened to their pitch and their plan for the future. Afterward, Paul informed the team that he was either opting out and walking to Houston as a free agent or he would opt-in, only if they agreed to trade him to Houston.
It was a blow for sure, mainly because the Clippers were prepared to bring Paul back. They would have done the fifth year if Paul really made that the sticking point, but in the end, after six years of not being able to compete and an environment that was less than ideal in Paul’s mind, a change was needed.
While there is plenty of blame to go around as to why the Clippers kept falling short, plenty of blame lands on Paul.
It’s no big secret that Paul can be tough to play with. What has made him so special as a player is how he can command and control his teammates. He can climb into them and get the results he wants, but at the end of the day, as he has gotten older and less impactful, his “my way” mindset had begun to rub teammates the wrong way. That’s never been a big secret. The often talked about rift between Paul and Griffin is nothing new. Griffin had grown to have a problem with the double standard Paul had for his teammates but not for himself.
It was a complicated relationship for sure. However, it was one the Clippers hoped to keep together even beyond Paul’s prime. With that ship now sailed, the Clippers intend to offer Griffin a full max contract and build the future around he and Jordan.
The incoming players will infuse the roster with depth and options, something the Clippers likely were not going to have with Paul in tow. There was also a sense that if Griffin does as many expect he will and re-sign, that a weight will come off the situation. The Clippers have long struggled to make their “big three” work consistently. Now, that no longer seems to be a problem.
The Clippers have won 51, 53, 56 and 57 games respectively over the last four seasons. Cracking the 50-win mark without Paul may be harder, but it does seem it might be less stressful, organizationally. All they need is for one of the new guys to break through a little and maybe it all works out for the best.
The Insiders Podcast
Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler and Senior NBA Writer Michael Scotto look back at the 2017 NBA Draft and look ahead to NBA Free Agency including Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday and more.
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#5 – Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks pulled off the first big trade of draft night by swapping the No. 3 and No. 5 picks. In the proposed deal, the Hawks will select Luka Doncic and trade him to the Mavericks, who will send Trae Young for Atlanta in return.
Luka Doncic is an interesting player. He’s got good size for a guard at 6-foot-8. He’s one of, if not the best playmakers in the draft. That skill alone should translate well to the NBA. He’s got the potential to develop into one of the league’s better passers. He also excels well in the fastbreak.
Scoring-wise, Doncic is a good shooter with range all the way out to the three-point line. He can also attack the rim and finish as well as draw contact and get himself to the line.
The areas that will definitely hinder him in the NBA are his defense and athleticism. It’s going to be tough for him to stay in front of NBA point guards. He also struggled overseas at times getting past his man on the way to the rim. Once he gets past his defender, he is able to finish. But it’s that first step that he’s going to struggle with.
In any case, he’s an intriguing prospect that should be fun to watch with his highlight reel passing.
#4 – Jaren Jackson Jr. – Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies selected Jaren Jackson Jr. with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
With the No. 4 pick in the draft, the Memphis Grizzlies select Power Forward/Center Jaren Jackson Jr. out of Michigan State.
Jackson measures in at 6-foot-11, 236 pounds. In a league that values three-point shooting and versatility now more than ever, players like Jackson are very rare to come by. The Michigan State alum was widely regarded as one of the safer picks in this year’s draft given that his skill set fits the modern NBA like a glove. Jackson proved to have a reliable three-point shot in the collegiate level, as he shot 39.6 percent from three, while also proving to be a defensive presence in the post, as he averaged 3.0 blocks a game.
What makes Jackson all the more appealing as a young prospect is his all-around IQ as a player. Jacksons’ ambidextrous abilities should serve him very well in the NBA. Jackson can finish with both of his hands in the post and he can block shots with both hands, which should make him an all-around menace on both ends of the floor. Jackson has also shown his feel for the game, as he’s shown to be a good cutter and can run the floor well for a big. The all-around skills that he brings to the table have drawn comparisons to premier bigs in the league such as Al Horford and Myles Turner.
Jackson should also have a high learning curve once he enters the NBA. Jackson will come into the league as one of its youngest players. He does need to add some mass, and his release isn’t very pretty, but luckily he’s going to a team that should provide a good mentor for him with all-star center Marc Gasol.
Rumors were swirling before the draft that Memphis was dangling the fourth overall pick along with Chandler Parsons, but ultimately stayed put. They had good reason to keep the pick since that they now have a prospect like Jackson on the team. No matter where the Grizzlies go from here, their future is in good hands with Jackson onboard.
#3 – Luka Doncic – Atlanta Hawks
With the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks selected Luka Doncic, small forward, Real Madrid.
It is being reported by The New York Times that the Hawks will send Doncic to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the No. 5 overall pick with the contingency being that guard Trae Young is still on the board. The Mavericks will also reportedly send the Hawks another first rounder in the future.
After missing the playoffs just once from 2001 to 2016, the Mavericks have failed to reach the postseason the past two campaigns. Dallas is attempting to reload while future Hall of Fame forward Dirk Nowitzki is still active. The team selected dynamic point guard Dennis Smith Jr. last season and signed swingman Harrison Barnes to a lucrative deal in 2016.
Doncic is arguably the most NBA ready prospect in the draft from day one with multiple years of professional experience playing overseas. Doncic has a very high basketball IQ, possesses solid passing vision and is able to create his own shot.
At 19, Doncic became the youngest MVP in Euroleague history this past season, leading Real Madrid to the championship where he was also named Euroleague Final Four MVP.
Doncic was named Final Four MVP after the game as well, per Euroleague. During the Euroleague season Doncic averaged 16.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 per game in 30 contests.
Doncic will join a young Hawks core of point guard Dennis Schroder and forward John Collins, two of the team’s first round draft picks from prior years.