June 28, 2017
Chris Paul shocked the NBA world on Wednesday morning, informing the Clippers that he would be signing with the Houston Rockets when free agency begins. That prompted an agreement where Paul opted into the final year of his contract, allowing the Clippers to trade him to Houston.
In return, the Clippers received guards Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, forwards Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, and a 2018 1st round pick. The pick is top 3 protected. The Clippers will also received three other players with non-guaranteed contracts in order to make the trade work under the salary cap: DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, and Kyle Wiltjer.
The trade ends a six-year run for Paul with the Clippers, who was arguably the best player in the history of the franchise. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in assists, second in steals, fourth in free-throw percentage and sixth in points.
Paul was eligible for a 5-year $205 million contract. However, according to one team executive, the team was not interested in offering the full 5-year term, and also not interested in granting him a no-trade clause. Paul would have made $46 million in the final year of that contract at 38 years old, which was not attractive to the team.
Other team sources indicated that Paul’s relationship had grown extremely rocky with head coach Doc Rivers. The tension was reportedly over Rivers’ perceived unwillingness to include his son Austin, in a trade for Carmelo Anthony back in February. Paul and others had also perceived Coach Rivers as unwilling to criticize his son while issuing criticism of other players. Austin Rivers took to Twitter later Wednesday to deny that these stories were true.
Sources also indicated that there was tension between Paul and Blake Griffin, and that both had grown tired of playing with each other. Griffin, along with J.J. Redick, are schedule to be unrestricted free agents as of this Saturday. The Clippers however, remain confident that Griffin will re-sign with them for the 5 years and $175 million they plan on offering him.
By agreeing to opt into the final year of his contract, Paul will make just over $22 million next season, and he’ll be eligible for that 5-year $205 million next summer, if he were to re-sign with the Rockets. Paul will also form a dynamic backcourt in Houston, with MVP runner up James Harden. Houston also continues to push for a Paul George trade, and would be interested in acquiring Carmelo Anthony if he were to be bought out by the Knicks.
The trade enabled the Clippers to get something in return for Paul, who would have otherwise departed for nothing in unrestricted free agency.
Beverly is one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders, and on a team friendly contract that pays him $5.5 million next season, with a team option for the following season. Dekker, 23, is an athletic player with decent three-point range. Williams is one of the NBA’s best sixth men, and Harrell is a high-energy player who will be entering only his third season in the league.
Even if the Clippers were to re-sign Griffin, they could still potentially have about $70 million in cap space in the summer of 2018, with an excellent free agent class available.
During his six seasons in LA, Paul averaged 18.8 points, 9.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals while committing only 2.3 turnovers per game. He was named to three All-NBA first teams, two All-NBA second teams and six All-Defensive first teams.
He took to Twitter to thank the Clippers and their fans. He wrote “Unbelievable amount of emotions right now — I don’t even know what to say. Lots of love and tears. I’m so blessed and thankful for the ability to play this game, this is the part that no one can prepare you for.”
The Clippers also waived retiring forward Paul Pierce on Wednesday to adhere to the NBA’s roster limit of 20 during the offseason.