Alright folks the Love and Hip Hop Reunion show we know as the NBA off-season continues to roll along and just days before the wigs really start to get snatched (the beginning of free agency) we have another blockbuster trade (if you can call the Jimmy Butler trade a blockbuster that is) with Chris Paul moving to H-Tine to join James Harden, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and…………..well that’s about it.
So the logistics of this trade raises numerous concerns on both sides but the most important thing to remember here is that this trade was made early in the off-season and each team has many moves to make before settling on a final roster. Don’t get me wrong, this trade is a HUGE deal and will greatly shape the identities of both teams as well as the second tier of the Western Conference as a whole. We just need to be a bit more careful about making early bang or bust prognostications when the rosters that we see are far from complete. But, there are viable concerns we can site right now. A move this major is going to raise more than a few of them.
The complete deal involves Houston sending Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, a protected first-round pick next year and cash considerations. Hilliard was acquired from Detroit and Liggins from Dallas for cash considerations just prior to making the deal. But DAMN that’s a lot of bodies to send out for one guy. There’s a lot to unpack here and that’s before factoring in that both of these teams are far from shaping their rosters. But in the current let’s take look at who’s smelling like roses and who’s roses really smell like dooooooo doo doo doo.
Winner: Chris Paul
This should come as no surprise to anyone. He got with the Clippers’ front office, told them what the deal was (either trade me or I’m just gonna sign with them anyway) then voila’ new destination had. And by doing this he maintains maximum flexibility by getting traded in the last year of his deal. So he can get a feel for the Rockets and if he likes it he can stay and get broke off but more importantly if he doesn’t he can bolt and get broke off somewhere else.
Although I’m super skeptical about the actual fit on the court I think D’Antoni is going to bend over backwards to find a way to fit him in or rather have everyone else (Harden included) fit around him. Either way Paul will probably be the most comfortable person during this transition although he will be asked to make changes of his own. However, seeing that he was set to sign with the Rockets even had the trade not happened I think he knew this coming in.
Loser: James Harden
Any other time a multiple time All-Star and future HOFer coming to your team would be a time for sheer elation and celebration. But when said HOFer not only plays your position (which Harden is pretty damned good at by the way) but is one of the only other guards that command the ball as much has you it’s understandable for that feeling to wane a bit. Harden has worked hard to shed his reputation as a selfless gunner and in turn he’s emerged as one of the most efficient players in the association (his 27.4 PER ranked him 5th in the league this season) so he’s more than earned the right to lead his own team.
Luckily for Harden he is excellent at playing off of the ball so it is possible to play both of them together in spurts. And unlike Doc Rivers, D’Antoni is comfortable at staggering minutes which will help in keeping a consistent scoring presence on the floor for most of the game. It’s going to take a lot of long nights in the lab to draft how this pairing should go on paper and even then there’s no clue how this will look on the court until they……well get on the court. But Harden is the one getting pushed aside here and it just plain sucks especially as he’s busted his a$$ to get where he is.
Winner: Blake Griffin
If I’m Blake Griffin I’m spinnin’ and grinnin’ right now. There’s little surprise that Blake and Chris didn’t have the best working relationship and that CP3 was the only thing standing in the way of him being able to claim this team as his own. The pieces coming in from the deal is also very intriguing. Beverly is a very solid point guard who is arguably a starting level guy, Lou Williams can get hot in bunches and if he makes a return to his Toronto level efficiency he can really be an asset for the Clips and Montrezl Harrell gives them their first true rim protecting backup big since they drafted Deandre Jordan in 2010. But more than anything, this gives Blake more flexibility in dealing with the Clips. There’s no doubt that the Clips had Blake in mind when negotiating their return on this trade. As he has exercised his early termination option this gives Blake a little more to chew on as he explores his options.
Loser: The Rivers Family
Look, it’s been a minute since the Rivers men have been on the right side of any basketball (and some non-basketball) debates. And for as talented and driven Chris Paul is he may be an even bigger a$$hole. But the mumbles about what drove CP to force the Clippers’ hand points to some pretty unbecoming and frankly believable behavior from both Doc and Daddy’s Boy.
Austin kinda has a habit of flapping his jaws about former teammates and Doc’s partiality for his son has made him has made them quite the despicable duo around the league. Yet even nepotism couldn’t land Austin a clear cut starting job in the trade as Patrick Beverly (unless he is packaged in another deal this summer) will most likely be the main guy on opening night.
For Doc this marks a clear transfer in power in the front office to newly acquired Jerry West. In the long term this may be something that extends his time with the Clippers but for someone to come in and make such an impactful trade right off the bat this has to hurt a bit. Then there is the chance that Blake walks this summer which will make his actual coaching job exponentially more difficult.
Too Early To Tell: Los Angeles Clippers
For Los Angeles it’s pretty obvious. They just lost a future HOF point guard who has lead them for the past six seasons. Sure they got quite the ransom for him but with so many new players the question of fit is a very real one. Along with the almost definite departure of JJ Redick the Clips may have as many as four new starters on opening night. But as they stand now the addition of Sam Dekker at the 3 may finally fill what has been a void for them for several years now and as mentioned above the addition of Harrell give them more heft at the rim.
Due to Redick’s probable departure they now have competition at the starting shooting guard spot. Unfortunately, it is between Jordan Crawford and Lou Williams. Don’t get me wrong they’re both fine scorers and are heat check guys that normally bolster any second unit. So much so that three of the last four sixth man awards have been claimed by the pair. However, there are reasons that they have never really cracked into anyone’s starting rotation. Both are devoid of defense and in extended minutes are prone to cool off and get out manned by better starting wings. Then there’s the question of their measurables. Crawford is 35 and Lou is 6’1″ (and without IT4-esque athleticism).
Although it may be less of a concern there’s the worry of Patrick Beverly making the transition to a starting point guard. Beverly is a fine guard and is more than capable of starting for many teams, including this one. But I can’t shake the feeling that the drop off in quality and style change will reflect harshly on P. Bev. Plus the uncertainty about what will be around him adds to the anxiety.
How this deal will age down the line is something that will effect how this move is ultimately viewed. The Clippers are taking a reboot over rebuild approach to this. Ownership is not willing to tank and you definitely don’t bring in Jerry West to lost 60 games a year for the next three seasons. So if the drop off in quality IS huge or Blake walks without having the opportunity to trade him or the other pieces just don;t mesh well (this is the Clippers we’re talking about) what then?
Too Early To Tell: Houston Rockets
For Houston the main concern centers around what in the hell they’re gonna put around this group. No doubt a death lineup of Paul – Harden – Gordon – Ariza – Capella sounds compelling AF but what are the moves Darryl “Dork Elvis” Morey plan on making to put a second unit around this team? After this move their only significant role / bench guys are Ryan Anderson and Nene. I’m sure Dork Elvis has a few dozen things up his sleeve, he always does. Besides, he is the architect of the runnin’, gunnin’ and most importantly massively improved team we saw this year. So by making this move he knew that his work isn’t done but how he finishes may prove to be more momentous than how he started.
Even this potentially monumental pairing comes with plenty of concern. As mentioned above these the combination of Paul and Harden gives them arguably two of the most ball dominant guards in the game. While talk of staggering minutes can sooth some of the ills of having both of these guys share duties when the chips are down you need your best players on the floor. This is where the rubber will meet the road. It will be much easier if Harden chooses to defer since he has plenty of experience playing the 2 and is great off the ball but what if he doesn’t want to? Plain and simple.
Then there’s the matter of Paul’s less than affable personality. How will an established team that made it further in the post-season than he did this year take to his unique brand of “leadership”? Will Paul step back and see truly look at his situation and rightfully assess what his role is here? The Rockets have to engage in such a complicated dance with Paul since on paper he’s holding all the cards here. Keeping Paul happy buys you a VERY expensive five years of him in what may be upwards of $205 million and Paul walking means that they just essentially gave their second unit and a pick for a one year rental.
Both the Rockets and the Clippers have assessed the risk and they know that it’s going to be hard to come out of this looking good. But in an NBA that is seeing the Warriors pull away from the rest of the league and fast the worst thing you can be is just okay. Either make yourself a roadblock or fall back and take cover until they run out of steam. It’s clear that these two want to put up a fight, it’s just unclear how much of one they can.