The Clippers sign-and-trade Chris Paul to the Rockets and receive Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, and a protected 2018 first-round pick.
The Loser: the CBA
The new CBA was the smoke screen. The extension of the under-36 mega max rule to under-38 by players union president Paul was just the long con. In an unexpected pre-free-agency blast of news that immediately overshadowed Phil Jackson’s firing, Paul basically coerced the Clippers into maximizing his value when they thought he would take the five-year, $200M deal that they could offer, informing them that he wanted to be a Rocket and forcing L.A. to turn around and get a return for him because he was leaving anyway. So much for teams keeping their own stars.
The Short-Term Winner: Chris Paul
Paul is opting into his contract with the Clippers and subsequently getting traded, which will cost him about $8 million next season and won’t prevent him from signing that super-max extension. Nothing the income-tax-free state of Texas can’t remedy. He gets to free himself from the clutches of a franchise that has not been able to progress deep into the playoffs and play with Harden, whom he was apparently hell-bent on sharing the backcourt with.
I will take this space to recite the mantra that "there is only ONE ball" and both Harden and Paul are ball-dominant guards, but there is no question that watching these two attempt to figure it out together will be fun. Plus, Rockets maestro Daryl Morey is not done dealing just yet. He wants to counter the Warriors now, not later.
The Long-Term Winner: Jerry West and the Clippers
This move has Jerry West’s fingerprints all over it. With the Warriors, West saw success by helping GM Bob Myers build through the drafts with smart scouting and good decision-making — something the Clippers have been allergic to.
There is no question in my mind that had West not joined the Clippers, Doc Rivers would try to re-sign Blake Griffin and CP3 and run it back for at least one more year, because, well, what’s the alternative? This is the alternative, and West just got a great haul for an aging superstar: a great defender (Patrick Beverley), a promising young prospect (Sam Dekker), an above-average scorer with a short contract (Lou Williams), and most importantly, a future first-rounder, though Morey somehow was able to place protections on it. It all adds up to a possible $70 million boost in cap space in the near term [coughLEBRONJAMEScough] for the chance to build a better future.
What does this mean for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan? We’ll wait and see, but this suggests a new Clippers team focused on getting younger as opposed to bringing back star power that hasn’t pushed them over the hill. Jordan might end up on the trading block, while maybe, just maybe, West and Doc will hand over the reins of the team to Blake and let him run point.