With Chris Paul in a multi-player deal that signals the end of Lob City in Los Angeles, the ramifications league wide are incredible. The Rockets just landed a future Hall-of-Famer, the Point God, one of the best to ever play the game, to pair with James Harden. Blake Griffin just lost his lob thrower and the guy who he has always shared a business-only relationship with. Doc Rivers lost his point guard, Mike D'Antoni just gained a lot of responsibility and Clint Capela just had Christmas come early. Here's a look at the winners and losers from the blockbuster trade of Chris Paul to the Rockets.
The choice for Paul going into free agency was supposed to be between the money (by staying with the Clippers) or leaving for a chance to win. As head of the NBPA, Paul had helped negotiate a clause in the new CBA to allow players to be signed for max contracts to an older age than previously allowed. That's what made it hard for so many to believe he'd leave. He'd be turning down too much. In one foul swoop, Paul managed to secure his cake and the right to eat it, too.
Paul joins a serious threat in the West, a team that many felt had a better chance than even San Antonio to challenge the Warriors, based on their 3-point barrage. He plays next to an MVP runner-up in James Harden, and while the fit is difficult for the two, it also carries with it an incredible opportunity.
Paul just turned 32. The end of his prime is approaching. And as that happens, he'll now get to transition to more of an off-the-ball role next to Harden, while making sure the offense runs as it's supposed to. Paul and Mike D'Antoni may clash (we'll get there), but his play will also thrive under D'Antoni.
Paul was tired of everything with the Clippers. Doc Rivers, having to constantly feel like he had to babysit the rest of the team (whether that's true or not), the team's stagnation and dysfunction. He gets a fresh start with high upside.
He'll get to play with joy for once, if he embraces it.
Under the old CBA, players couldn't sign max contracts that would play them past age 36. In the newest CBA, they changed it to 38. Paul will re-sign with the Rockets next summer for a max contract that carries him right through age ... 38.
There are a lot of wins for Paul in this deal.
Yeah, that's right, Griffin benefits. Here's how.
1. If he leaves, you can't blame him. They just traded Chris Paul and the cupboard outside of DeAndre Jordan is bare. Their championship window just closed. There can be no ill-will because Paul put him in an impossible position, and Rivers' mismanagement of the supporting cast contributed. He gets a get-out-of-fan-hate free card.
2. If he re-signs, he gets his run of the place, without Paul overbearing over him. The Clippers have little recourse but to sign Griffin to a max and build around him first and foremost. He gets the money, and the town to himself. He's the face of the franchise. That comes with burdens and struggles, but it's also an opportunity.
3. Paul never really embraced him. Griffin was so thrilled when he found out the Clippers were getting him. But Paul, older than Griffin, was more about winning than having fun, and adding that kind of veteran who was obsessively dedicated to winning was hard on Griffin. Paul's been a taskmaster, and there's a chance that without that kind of joyful drain, and with a little bit of injury luck for once, Griffin might actually flourish more.
4. Expectations lower. Griffin won't want this, but it does mean he won't be judged as harshly. There was always a tone in some circles that, while Chris Paul was also a failure for his inability to reach the conference finals, Griffin was the player holding him back the most. Now, you're no longer held to that standard. The team is supposed to help Griffin win, not the other way around, now.
Capela was fifth in the league with 163 dunks last season. His Rockets just added the guy who helped get DeAndre Jordan to the top spot with 90 more dunks (253). It's Lob (Clutch) City for Capela.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
They're back in the driver seat to be the best team in L.A. within the next three years if things go right. Add Paul George (if he doesn't get traded elsewhere), add another good veteran, see the young core grow and all of a sudden, they're the talk. They have always been L.A.'s top squad in the hearts of fans, but now they get to retake what they feel is rightfully theirs ... the spotlight.
The Finals are over, free agency doesn't start for a week and in the two-week interim, Jimmy Butler and Chris Paul have changed teams and there have been 150 other rumors. The NBA owns its offseason like no other sport and it helps create a special excitement when there are no highlights at all.
Maybe he should have taken that Magic job in the first place. Rivers loses out on the team's veteran core. Everything was built around Paul, even if DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin preceded him. Rivers never wanted a rebuild. He didn't want one in Orlando, he didn't want one in Boston (which is why he split for L.A.) and now it's followed him. Even if Griffin re-signs and you add some veteran talent, you're not in the same spot.
If Griffin leaves, he's facing a total rebuild and there's a real chance he walks away this summer or next. This is not what he signed up for. Meanwhile, Jerry West was just brought on, and if Rivers was behind that, great. But it still means that everyone involved basically felt the Clippers needed another guy in the room.
Rivers had one of the most talented cores we've ever seen in Lob City, and that came after one of the most talented cores we've ever seen in Boston ... and he has one NBA title to show for it. That's more than most coaches have, but it still says something that he was never able to make it work with this group.
Chris Paul threw 105 assists to Jordan last season, which accounted for 25 percent of all of Jordan's buckets. Chris Paul assists and putbacks accounted for 50 percent of his offense.
So, yeah, DJ takes a little bit of a hit here. There was always a chance he could get stranded behind if Griffin and Paul left as free agents. But without Paul, his game really suffers. Jordan can't create on his own. He has to have a point guard who can throw lobs.
Patrick Beverley can. He tossed 44 dimes to Clint Capela last year (compared to 174 assists from James Harden). But he's not Chris Paul.
Additionally, Paul's defensive pressure on the outside meant that if guys were getting funneled to him, more than likely it was because Paul was purposefully doing so. Beverley's a dogged, terrific defender. But he's more wild than Paul. This makes it tougher on Jordan defensively as well.
There's always a chance Jordan gets traded, but right now, he might lose the most out of anyone here.
Typically, I'd think he was a winner. He gets to play on a team that might have serious weapons if everyone's retained. But Beverley's likely going to have to fight with Austin Rivers over the starting spot, and that's not a great situation. Chris Paul was Chris Paul, so he was always going to start.
Beverley doesn't come in with that clout, despite how great he was last year for Houston in the regular season. Plus, the guy replacing a Hall of Fame player always has a rough time with expectations.
Beverley will be mad about this. He'll be mad the Rockets traded him, he'll feel disrespected, and he doesn't take a single play off. But the situation here, on the surface, isn't ideal for him.
I can hear your skepticism. "What? He gets Chris Paul!"
Yes, he does. But Mike D'Antoni doesn't carry with him the championship pedigree of say, Gregg Popovich. He's going to have to bend to what Paul wants, and D'Antoni's history with those kinds of players is not great.
D'Antoni struggled with Carmelo Anthony -- who by the way is a close friend of Paul's -- in New York. He struggled with Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant in L.A. He and Harden have thrived because of the freedom that they've given one another, and because Harden bought in, D'Antoni bent on some things to make Harden more comfortable.
Will Paul do the same? If he overrides D'Antoni, not just with pace, but other decisions, there's going to be tension, no matter how much D'Antoni denies it.
The Rockets were better last season defensively than they were given credit for. They play fast, but they defend pretty well. However, if D'Antoni doesn't give defense the emphasis Paul will feel it needs, there will be problems.
There are about 50 different ways Paul-D'Antoni can go haywire, and none of those scenarios end well for D'Antoni.
If Paul buys in? Great, amazing things could happen.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
The Spurs had put themselves in the room with Paul. They had convinced Pau Gasol to opt out, to give them some cap space, had held trade talks for LaMarcus Aldridge. They were within range. Missing out on Paul is a bit of a disappointment, as he would have given Kawhi Leonard the kind of weapon he's going to need to hang with Golden State over the next four years. Now they're going to have to come up with another answer.
They will. They always do. Their supporting cast wasn't even great this year and they won 60-plus games and made the conference finals. They're the Spurs. But missing out on Paul, only to see him go to a division rival, is tough.