What, a Jimmy Butler trade and another that involved the No. 1 overall pick weren't enough?
A wild NBA offseason just keeps on rolling, and the latest superstar to get caught up is Chris Paul, who will be traded to the Rockets in the coming days, according to numerous media reports. The deal will center around Paul going to Houston, in exchange for a large package centered around Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker and a pick, along with other spare parts to make the salaries work.
Paul was expected to be a free agent -- and had reportedly already told the Clippers of his intention to turn down a player option for the 2017-18 season -- but will instead opt in for the final year of his deal prior to the trade going through. This move gives the Rockets arguably two of the four-best guards in the NBA, and a backcourt even the Warriors can't top. For a team that won 55 games last season, adding Paul could make the Rockets a real contender.
And, the deal obviously has huge Fantasy ramifications, with two of the 10-best Fantasy options in the league teaming up. Let's first look at what it means for the Rockets and their new star duo, before taking a look at a Clippers' team that is still very much in flux heading into free agency.
The Big Question: Can Paul and Harden coexist?
Every time multiple stars are brought together, we inevitably hear the same response: There's only one basketball. We heard it last summer with the Warriors, and two years before that with the Cavaliers. Criticisms were lobbed at the Heat's coupling of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, right until they won the first of their two titles.
So, sure enough, it's being said about the Paul/Harden pairing. And, it's not an entirely unfounded concern – at least in the world of Fantasy. Paul and Harden are both willing and able – not to mention supremely gifted – passers, so a "selfish" tag isn't going to stick on either for long. Both are also strong shooters, and have experience playing off the ball next to another ballhandler.
However, there is certainly going to be an adjustment period here, and it will be felt in their Fantasy production. Harden and Paul both finished as top-10 Fantasy players in Rotisserie leagues last season, and both were also in the top-seven in touches per game and average time of possession, per NBA.com/stats. There's only one ball, after all, so we should expect to see both take a step back in their statistical output.
Let's take a look at Sportsline's projections for both in 2017-18:
Harden loses a bit here, mostly due to the loss of usage. He gains a bit in efficiency, but ceding some of the lead ballhandling duties to Paul leads to a drop in both assists and points – and a nice boost in efficiency isn't enough to make up for it.
Paul loses quite a bit less here, as going from No. 16 in pace to No. 3 makes up for a lot of his lost usage. You're still looking at two top-10 players in projected Fantasy points per game, though it wouldn't be crazy to push Paul out of the top-12 in your rankings due to injury concerns; he missed 19 games last season and at least eight in four of the last five.
You're still looking at a pair of elite Fantasy options, and while the first few weeks might be a bit awkward as they feel each other out, talent tends to win out in these situations. Just ask Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Or LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.
And, this duo should make things that much easier for everyone else, which is pretty hard to believe given how many open shots Harden already created for the likes of Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, and Ryan Anderson. Ariza and Anderson's value should remain largely the same in the aftermath of this move, but Gordon could see a dip, as he often served as the team's secondary creator when Harden sat. Now, expect to see Paul on the floor for most of Harden's minutes on the bench, which will limit Gordon's value even further. He was a top-100 player in Roto for the season as a whole, but was outside of the top-125 after the acquisition of Williams; expect something similar this season.
The one real beneficiary of this move could be Clint Capela, who was a top-75 player in Roto during his breakout 2016-17 season. He averaged 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 64.3 percent, and could have a DeAndre Jordan-esque jump in efficiency catching lobs from both Paul and Harden. It also wouldn't be a surprise to see Capela continue to grow into a larger role, after he played just 23.9 minutes per game last season. With the potential to average a double-double, Capela might have another breakout left in him yet, though you'd like to see him improve his defensive production after he averaged just 1.2 blocks per game in 2016-17.
What's next for the Clippers?
Well, we'll find out in about three days, won't we? Paul wasn't the only moving piece for the Clippers, who found themselves in a pivotal offseason even before today. Blake Griffin, the team's other core piece, is a free agent, and that leaves everything in Clipperland up in the air.
This move does give them some nice depth to move forward in the post-Paul era, but that won't matter much if Griffin opts to take his talents to Boston or Miami. There is still a core of a functional team here, but it all depends on Griffin coming back. If he does, Griffin could be the team's primary offensive creator, and could be a big winner in the wake of this move. Time will tell on that.
Beverley should see a nice boost in his value, with two dynamic pick-and-roll partners to run with. He'll never been a team's lead ball-handler, but he should see a bump up from his 4.2 assists per game a year ago – and Beverley was already a top-60 Roto option on a per-game basis in 2016-17. It won't make much sense to reach for Beverley in the fifth or sixth round, because there will be other players in that range with more upside. But settling on Beverley as a No. 3 guard in the middle rounds is an easy call, especially if you gamble on someone with a higher ceiling earlier.
We'll have to see what Griffin does in the next week or two before knowing what else this move means for the Clippers. They entered the offseason needing to juggle multiple balls, and with the Paul trade, they are down to just figuring out the Griffin situation. We'll revisit them as soon as Griffin makes a decision, because everything is going to revolve around him, whether he stays or goes.