The Houston Rockets may believe they have the pieces to contend for a championship this season. Even with their current list of injuries, the Rockets are still strong. But that doesn’t mean a deal can’t be done to solidify or strengthen their position. Any team with James Harden and Clint Capela has a chance, but the Rockets could go into the playoffs different without Chris Paul.
Paul, despite his Hall of Fame resume, has not been one of the players a team could count on come crunch time. The Rockets brought him over from Los Angeles last season in hopes he was the missing link. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. Paul managed to make it to the Western Conference Finals before giving way to another playoff injury. The results. The Rockets were beaten by the Warriors in seven games.
For Paul fans, this is nothing new. His time spent with the Clippers mirrored exactly what happened with the Rockets. Throughout the regular season, he’s money. But when it comes down to championship play, his body betrays him. On that reason alone, the Houston Rockets should look to move Chris Paul.
I know, getting rid of a player with his resume, and one who averages 15.6 pots and 8.0 assists per seems ludicrous, but look harder and it goes beyond his contributions. Paul is on the books this season for $35 million and another $79 million for the next two seasons. Is he worth that? No. Another thing to factor in besides his health and drop in production is his age. Paul will be 35 and that’s before his Player Option kicks in in 2021.
Now is the time to move him and the Rockets are prepared just in case Daryl Morey has to make that tough call.
With Paul out, the Rockets have found a way to right the ship this year. James Harden is versatile enough to play the PG position and so is Eric Gordon. To make the case stronger, the Rockets also signed Austin Rivers for spot duty. This season, Paul has played in 26 games. That’s half of what the Rockets have played already. He’s not reliable.
If the Rockets were to move him, he still holds some value. A team like the New Orleans Pelicans could use his services. With that, the Rockets could get valuable bench players or possibly even a good solid starter plus draft picks. But best of all, they could shed that huge salary and go for a player like Kawhi Leonard, Kristaps Porzingis or even DeMarcus Cousins next season. Their current core of players are young and will be cheaper than what they’re currently paying a player seeing the end of his time in the league.
While it’s about the now for the Rockets, it’s also about the future. This team is loaded enough to win. Paul’s presence does not guarantee a championship. Where they may struggle a bit is ball movement. Harden is a scorer. While he does average 8.0 assists per game, he’s also hoisting up 23.9 FGA’s as well. There needs to be a balance.
The Rockets are ranked 28th in assists. While Paul’s court vision can help, he’s not the only option. Gordon is a solid ball handler and so is Rivers. If Mike D’ Antoni envisions a dynamic offense he can dial it up a notch with a three-guard lineup of Rivers, Harden, and Gordon to pair with P.J. Tucker and Capela.
By moving Paul, the Rockets could walk away with a solid backup to Capela and then focus their attention on future draft picks. While moving a player like Gordon or Tucker will be more appealing to other teams, the Rockets should have their focus on what’s beyond 2019. Paul’s age and his contract could turn out to be like Gordon Hayward and his with the Boston Celtics.
The initial thought behind the signings was good but the results would have been the same if neither player was with their respective teams. Putting Chris Paul on the block may seem a bit rushed and panicky but it’s the best option the Rockets have for winning.