NBA PM: Assessing the Clippers, Rockets Trade

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The Los Angeles Clippers have agreed to trade All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports.

The Rockets will be sending Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell and a top-three protected 2018 first-round draft pick to the Clippers in the reported deal.

In order to facilitate the trade, the Rockets will also be sending the non-guaranteed contracts of DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer and Darrun Hilliard to the Clippers. Each of those players were acquired from several teams in exchange for cash on Wednesday.

The decision to trade Paul came after he agreed to opt in to the final year of his contract that will pay him $24,268,959. By trading him now, the Clippers will be able to recoup some assets for Paul rather than lose him for nothing. Had Paul opted out of his contract, he would have became an unrestricted free agent.

The Clippers were also likely motivated to trade Paul because it would have likely required signing him to a five-year, $205 million extension to retain him. Paul would have made roughly $45 million at age 37 in the final year of that contract. Now, the Clippers figure to build around DeAndre Jordan after acquiring Beverley, Williams, Dekker, Harrell and a first-round pick.

The non-guaranteed contracts of Liggins, Wiltjer and Hilliard are expected to be waived after completion of the trade.

Paul reportedly notified the Clippers Tuesday night that he would be opting out of his contract. Rather than risk losing him for nothing, Paul agreed to opt in to the final year of his contract so he could be traded and return the Clippers some assets moving forward.

After parting ways with Paul, the Clippers now figure to attempt to re-sign Blake Griffin to a contract extension. Some have speculated that trading Paul means the Clippers could move on from Griffin and begin to rebuild, but it has been reported that the Clippers will focus on retaining Griffin. As an unrestricted free agent, Griffin is free to sign with any team.

While it appears as though the Clippers are beginning to rebuild, the Rockets are positioning themselves as one of the top teams in the NBA. Paul reportedly had strong interest in playing next to All-Star guard James Harden, which helped facilitate the trade to Houston. The two have discussed the idea of joining together in the past and believe they would be able to make a potential partnership work. 

It was reported prior to the NBA Draft last week that the Rockets would be aggressively pursuing some of this summer’s top free agents, including Paul Millsap, Kyle Lowry, Griffin and Paul. They were said to have made Ryan Anderson, Beverley and Williams available to help clear the necessary salary cap required to sign a free agent to a max-deal. As it stands following the trade, the Rockets don’t figure to have much cap space available.

Now with Paul close to joining the team, the Rockets are reportedly looking to acquire Paul George or Carmelo Anthony. It appears likely that the Rockets would still incorporate Anderson in a potential trade for George or Anthony. The Rockets acquiring Anthony would be contingent upon Anthony waiving his no-trade clause.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has been extremely active in the past around the trade deadline and in free agency. Over the years, Morey has attempted to sign some of the league’s top free agents, like Anthony, Chris Bosh and others. Acquiring Paul from the Clippers and a player like George from the Pacers could be the pieces needed to put the Rockets in contention in the Western Conference.

The Rockets advanced to the Western Conference Semi Finals this year after posting a 55-27 record during the regular season.