The NBA offseason craziness continues.
Chris Paul was supposed to be the most coveted free agent point guard of the summer, but instead he’s headed to the Houston Rockets in a blockbuster trade.
The deal between the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston is going to have implications on other teams, including the Utah Jazz.
The West just got a lot tougher
The Utah Jazz were considered a rising team in the Western Conference, capable of competing against anyone in the NBA. But in today’s climate, the Jazz clearly needed to add one more star or develop one of their own before really challenging the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs. Those two teams had targets on their backs. If a team could dethrone one of them, it was a serious indicator of growth.
Add the Houston Rockets to that elite company.
Assuming Chris Paul and James Harden mesh well, the Rockets are going to be a “superteam.” Both ball-dominant guards, Paul and Harden carried heavy loads for their respective teams. Harden was the only creator on the Rockets’ roster and was slotted at point guard under Mike D’Antoni, who won Coach of the Year for his efforts this season.
With Paul on the roster, Harden will be able to play off the ball. Defenders were able to load up on Harden, which limited the Rockets’ offense and made it predictable in the playoffs. Harden led the league in assists with 11.2 per game while Paul was fourth at 9.2. Harden was also second in scoring, averaging 29.1 points per game.
The offensive burden will be distributed between the two and Houston’s already dangerous offense — the Rockets led the league in 3-point shots made — is even more potent with Paul in the lineup.
And according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Rockets are trying to add a third star — possibly Paul George or Carmelo Anthony. Even if the Rockets can’t add either of them, they’re still going to compete for a top seed in the West, making the road that much more difficult for teams like the Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Point guard market gets slimmer
According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets sent guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams along with forward Sam Dekker and a 2018 first round pick to the Clippers in exchange for Paul.
The Jazz, who are looking to upgrade their roster before Gordon Hayward hits free agency next week, had interest in trading for Beverley.
Now that the defensive-minded point guard is off the market, the Jazz’s options at filling their hole at the position have become more limited.
George Hill is also set to become a free agent and will garner interest from a number of teams, including the San Antonio Spurs. Understanding that Hill’s value has grown after his excellent season in Utah, the Jazz have been looking at ways to get a point guard outside of free agency. They’ve also been rumored to have interest in Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio.
In an effort to clear cap space for a star, the Rockets dumped Beverley, but the Jazz didn’t act quickly enough. Having a starting-quality point guard could make the difference between the lottery and the playoffs. Right now, the Jazz are operating without one.