NBA Trade Grades: Rockets land Chris Paul from Clippers

NBA Trade Grades

April 10, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) moves the ball against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets have agreed to a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers that will send Chris Paul to Clutch City. Here are NBA Trade Grades for both sides.

2017 NBA free agency hasn’t arrived yet, but there have already been plenty of big names changing hands.

Leading up to the draft, the Boston Celtics traded down from the No. 1 overall pick to continue stockpiling assets. Then the Los Angeles Lakers sent a former No. 2 overall pick to the Brooklyn Nets in the D’Angelo Russell deal that was basically a Timofey Mozgov salary dump.

Then the Atlanta Hawks dumped poor Dwight Howard. Then the Chicago Bulls lost their minds on draft night, shipping superstar Jimmy Butler off to Minnesota for a paltry return.

As The Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday morning, the NBA world wouldn’t even have to wait until July 1 for the fifth blockbuster deal of the summer.

According to Woj, the Houston Rockets have agreed to a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers for Chris Paul, sending Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker and a 2018 first round pick in return.

Rockets get PG – Chris Paul

Clippers get PG – Patrick Beverley
SG – Lou Williams
PF – Sam Dekker
2018 1st round pick

Though Paul was expected to exercise his early termination option and join unrestricted free agency this summer, Wojnarowski reports he will be opting in for the final year of his contract, worth $24.3 million.

This will cost him $11 million next season, but it allows the Rockets to trade for one of the five greatest point guards of all-time, pairing him with an MVP finalist in a star-studded backcourt.

Houston also avoids messier sign-and-trade scenarios, doesn’t have to worry about paying extra for CP3 this summer and now has his Bird Rights to work with next summer in free agency. Instead of paying out a max contract that would’ve started at $34 million, the Rockets maintain their flexibility to continue making moves this summer.

The Clippers, meanwhile, got a decent return for a player who could’ve left for nothing, most likely prompting a rebuild rather than overspending on a core that could not realistically challenge the heavy-hitters in the West anymore.

According to USA TODAY‘s Sam Amick, the 2018 first-rounder heading L.A.’s way is top-three protected.

To sort it out how both sides fared in this unexpected deal, here’s a look at their NBA Trade Grades.

NBA Trade Grades

November 21, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) reacts with forward Blake Griffin (32) against the Toronto Raptors during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Clippers

It truly is the end of an era for the Clippers, who are losing one of the best point guards in NBA history and arguably the greatest player in their own franchise’s history. Because of this underlying takeaway, it’s hard to say this was a “winning” move for Lob City.

However, the Clippers could have very easily lost Chris Paul for nothing this summer had he exercised his early termination option and signed elsewhere. In this scenario, at least he gave them the forewarning so they could get something in return.

As ESPN‘s Ramona Shelburne points out, the Clippers are already feeling the influence of new front office executive Jerry West. Why run it back with a core that’s clearly peaked already, especially when it would have cost more than $200 million to re-sign CP3 — before re-signing Griffin to a max deal, no less?

There’s little question the 2017-18 Clippers will suck. Losing CP3 hurts their case for re-signing Blake Griffin, even if the two weren’t particularly close. Los Angeles can offer him the most money, but teams like the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat could offer him the chance to move East and play for legitimate playoff teams.

There’s also the question of whether Doc Rivers will want to stick around for a rebuild. That’s not exactly his style, even if there currently aren’t any notable head coaching vacancies around the league.

The ripple effects of this trade could set the Clippers back for quite awhile.

As far as what the Clippers actually got, Patrick Beverley is an excellent defender and an underrated three-point shooter (38.2 percent last season, 37.5 percent for his career). It will be interesting to see how he handles lead guard duties as a facilitator, since James Harden filled that role in Houston. Beverley’s $5 million salary for 2018-19 is not fully guaranteed.

Sixth Man of the Year finalist Lou Williams averaged 18.6 points per game on .444/.385/.884 shooting splits for the other L.A. franchise last year, and can take Jamal Crawford‘s spot as a sixth man who’s actually still effective. His contract comes off the books next summer.

Sam Dekker is a nice young piece to add to the group, averaging 6.5 points and 3.7 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game in what was essentially his rookie season last year. Though he’s already 23 years old, Dekker showed plenty of effort, positional versatility and potential in Houston.

Throwing a 2018 first-rounder into the pile, even if it’s (laughably) top-three protected, makes for a decent haul for a player that could have left for nothing. According to The Vertical‘s Bobby Marks, the Clippers could have more than $70 million in cap space next summer, when LeBron James and Paul George — two superstars rumored to be L.A.-bound — will be free agents.

Beverley and Lou Will may not have a place on the roster beyond the upcoming season, and Dekker hardly projects to be a star talent. Houston’s 2018 first-rounder likely won’t be very valuable, especially since they may have just improved the team that already boasted the NBA’s third-best record last season.

There’s no denying this is a risky (albeit necessary) transition for a franchise that hadn’t seen success like this before CP3’s arrival.

Combine that with the loss of one of the best point guards in the league and the potential impact it will have on Blake Griffin’s free agency, and it’s hard to give the Clippers a grade any higher than this.

They got a nice return for a guy who could’ve left for nothing, sure, but make no mistake about it: This trade still sets the franchise back quite a few years and closes the door on the most prosperous era of basketball in Los Angeles Clippers franchise history.

Grade: B

NBA Trade Grades

April 10, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) moves the ball against Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets

Daryl Morey strikes again.

Landing Chris Paul in free agency would have been a coup by itself, but with the Point God opting into the final year of his contract, the Rockets were able to save precious cap space, trade for one of the best facilitators and game managers the NBA has ever seen and still have the assets to pull off more moves for star talent.

According to Wojnarowski, Paul and Harden were intrigued by the prospect of playing together and sharing ball-handling duties, working together to find a way to make this deal happen. ESPN‘s Zach Lowe added that Paul’s close friendship with Trevor Ariza was another potential factor in his decision to team up with the Rockets.

Whatever the case, all the Rockets had to give up to create one of the league’s best backcourts was Beverley (a great defender/three-point shooter who will be replaced by a similarly great defender/three-point shooter, only with more playmaking); Lou Will (a sixth man who was a luxury, but non-essential behind Eric Gordon); Dekker (a nice young piece, but more than worth it for CP3); and a 2018 first-rounder (which is somehow top-three protected).

To be fair, there are concerns about how this backcourt pairing will work. Harden and Paul are two of the NBA’s most ball-dominant players, which makes sense since they’re also two of the game’s elite playmakers and facilitators.

Harden led the league in assists at 11.2 per game last year, while CP3 finished fourth at 9.2 per game. After watching the Beard take on full-time point guard duties and put together the best season of his career that was more than deserving of MVP honors, it’s a bit odd to see the Rockets trade for another ball-dominant point guard.

That being said, there’s too much playmaking and otherworldly basketball IQ here for this to NOT work. There will be an adjustment period, but this move may have just bumped Houston past the San Antonio Spurs as the greatest threat to the Golden State Warriors out West.

The best part is the Rockets probably aren’t done making moves. They were able to keep Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon out of this deal, making them potential trade chips if they want to either swing a trade for Paul George, or try to free up cap space for star free agents like Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin or Paul Millsap.

Clutch City fans shouldn’t get too far ahead of themselves, but even if this is all the Rockets pull off this summer, they acquired CP3’s Bird Rights since he opted in for the final year of his contract. That means that if this backcourt works out, it could work out for awhile, since Houston could offer him a five-year, $200 million-plus deal in free agency next summer.

According to NBA cap guru Nate Duncan, Paul could also choose to sign a four-year, $150 million extension ahead of time if he takes his full 15 percent trade kicker bonus. The Rockets also maintain flexibility for other free agency moves this summer, including their $8.4 million mid-level exception:

The last time the Houston Rockets paired a supposed star playmaker with Harden in the backcourt, Houston’s season went up in flames. But Chris Paul is no Ty Lawson, and he doesn’t carry that kind of off-court baggage with him either.

Morey has once again proved himself as one of the NBA’s riskiest gamblers, but it could pay off in a big way — especially since the Rockets probably aren’t done this summer.

Grade: A-

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