The latest Woj bomb is certain to send ripple effects throughout the NBA. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Los Angeles Clippers are trading superstar point guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets.
After Chris Paul agreed to opt-in on contract, Clippers are trading All-Star guard to the Houston Rockets, league sources tell @TheVertical— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 28, 2017
My first thought was, how does Paul fit in Houston? The Rockets launched into a new stratosphere last season by turning the keys of their uptempo offense over to James Harden. His transition to point guard was a significant factor in Harden becoming an MVP candidate and Mike D’Antoni being named NBA Coach of the Year. Why bring in a ball-dominant point guard who wants to control the tempo while methodically picking defenses apart? The star-studded backcourt is certainly talented enough to work, yet it may result in the offense taking on a different look next season at the expense of Harden.
My second thought, naturally, was how can this benefit the Boston Celtics?
Boston has no direct involvement in the trade, although the fallout felt in Los Angeles is something the Celtics front office will certainly be monitoring.
The big question facing the Clippers now is whether losing Paul enhances their chances of re-signing free agent forward Blake Griffin or if it seals his exit. I can only speculate, with no direct insight into the mind of Griffin, but I would lean toward believing the latter scenario.
It’s possible that Griffin will stick around to reclaim the undisputed face-of-the-franchise role for the first time since his rookie season. Los Angeles can also offer him the most money, so we can’t rule out that swaying Griffin’s decision.
However, even before CP3 walked out the door, rumors were swirling that Griffin was eyeing the opportunity to jump to another contender. He’s never played in a Conference Finals, and many were starting to believe that the Clippers had reached their ceiling. If Griffin makes it a priority to sign with a franchise with a shot at competing for a title, then there’s little chance of him enduring the pains of a rebuild in Los Angeles.
It just so happens that the Celtics, fresh off a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, can clear max cap space to bring in a star of Griffin’s caliber.
Celtics fans have been enamored with the recent rumors surrounding the possibility of signing free agent Gordon Hayward, followed by a trade for Indiana Pacers star Paul George. That may indeed be Boston’s top priority, but if they strike out with Hayward then Griffin immediately becomes an appealing backup plan who can easily slide into that same scenario in place of the Jazz forward.
One could even make the argument that Griffin would be a better fit than Hayward. He would certainly aid more in covering Boston’s glaring weakness on the boards. Griffin also seems the more likely candidate to settle for less than a max deal given his injury history. If they can convince him to sign for less than four years, then the deal carries less risk for the Celtics, while if he takes a bit less money then it makes the tricky salary cap maneuvering that much easier.
I detailed a couple of weeks ago how signing Griffin could work for the Celtics. The only difference now is that Paul heading to Houston potentially increases the odds that Griffin will follow him out the door in search of a new stable of All-Stars to join.
Another twist is that Hayward could see another super team building in Houston and decide that he’s better off bolting to the East. If he’s the top priority for the Celtics, the Chris Paul trade could indirectly push him toward Boston.
It’s too soon to know for sure how the Clippers-Rockets deal will effect the Celtics, but it will certainly increase the rampant speculation as we charge toward an exciting free agency period with the potential to alter the landscape of the franchise.