The Rockets shook up the entire NBA when they made a Chris Paul trade nobody thought was possible Wednesday morning. Without cap space to sign him as a free agent, Houston’s front office went through some masterful salary cap gymnastics to bring him in for Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, and a number of deep rotational players acquired from small side deals with other teams.
The Rockets aren’t done just yet either, according to multiple reports which indicate that the Rockets are angling for a Paul, James Harden, and Paul George big three. One report from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon says the Rockets “think they are getting George or Carmelo Anthony,” but more on the latter later.
George has been linked to just about every team over the past few months, including the Celtics and Wizards, though he’s said he only wants to play for the Lakers. The decision won’t fully be his until next season though when he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent, and the Pacers are running out of time to find a trade for him.
But the threat of leaving for L.A. in the summer of 2018 has teams bidding low for him, and his value on the trade market is nearing its lowest.
So can Houston find a way to add George to its collection of superstar talents?
If the team found a way to construe a wildly put together series of small trades send seven players to L.A. to land Paul, maybe they can do the same with George.
Nobody knows yet what the frame of a deal for George would look like, but it would likely include Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza, future draft picks and possibly whatever young pieces the team has left.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said a deal would center around Gordon, who is an Indiana native.
Brian Windhorst says the Rockets aren't done yet. Will try and acquire Paul George. pic.twitter.com/1JNq0gsmZq— Salman Ali (@RedNationHoops) June 28, 2017
The team dealt Sam Dekker and a 2018 first-round pick for Paul, so Indiana may look for Clint Capela as a rebuild piece, and even he may not be enough though. The Rockets don’t have a ton of assets remaining.
The Celtics are their biggest threat. But will George agree to stay long-term there?
George’s commitment to the Celtics is likely pending on what Gordon Hayward intends to do this summer as an unrestricted free agent. Hayward’s signing puts them closer to contention in the East, while just moving assets for George likely doesn’t move the needle enough to convince him to stay. The first week of July will be telling, and will test Danny Ainge’s ability -- yet again — to finally part ways with the assets he’s stacked.
If George does open his mind to the idea of staying long-term in Boston, Houston can’t come close to any deal the Celtics can whip up. Stacked with picks and young pieces, there are a number of more appealing ways Indiana can start its rebuild, rather than moving for Houston’s established pieces.
Carmelo Anthony is another option for Houston.
Also mentioned by McMahon, the Rockets could switch gears and try to land Anthony. That could be by way of a trade, or, if he’s bought out by the Knicks, they can sign him as a free agent. It doesn’t seem likely as of now that the Knicks will buy out his contract, as many reports indicate that the team is still looking for a trade, but the ball is Anthony’s court as he holds a no-trade clause and they may have no choice.
If things do sort themselves out in New York and Anthony finds himself an unrestricted free agent, the Rockets will turn to another cap-balancing act to find room to sign him. They’d likely have to find someone to take on Ryan Anderson’s $60 million salary over the next three years, but with few deal sweeteners remaining, it’d be difficult to maneuver. But it’s something Houston would look into if George trades stall, or he lands somewhere else.
Chances of the Rockets pulling off a Paul George trade:
??/10 because who the heck saw this Chris Paul deal happening.