So much for it being quiet around the NBA until free agency opens this weekend. On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Clippers broke up their core by sending nine-time All-Star Chris Paul, arguably the best all-around point guard of his era, to the Houston Rockets for the underwhelming return of guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, forward Sam Dekker and a 2018 Top-3 protected first-round pick.
This trade should jump the Rockets from their opening offseason line of +2500 to win the 2018 NBA title at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, while dropping the Clippers to longshot status. Houston now has the best backcourt in the league in Paul and James Harden, the 2016-17 NBA MVP runner-up. Paul decided to pass up free agency and opt-in to the final year of his contract to make this trade happen.
At least the Clippers got something for Paul, who could have walked in free agency.
It’s a no-brainer trade for Rockets GM Daryl Morey, but an interesting dynamic on the team because Paul and Harden are both such ball-dominant guards. Harden led the league in assists last year. One would assume, though, that the keys to Houston’s up-tempo offense under Coach Mike D’Antoni will go to Paul at least most of the time. That could make Harden even more dangerous of a scorer.
Paul has never made it past the second round of the playoffs so you can understand his reasoning for leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table by not signing a huge extension with the Clippers. Los Angeles could still lose free-agent Blake Griffin for nothing.
The Rockets are much more interesting, but still not a legitimate threat to Golden State. Right now, the NBA is a Warriors league and everyone else is essentially playing for second. The Warriors are clear -175 favorites to become the first team to threepeat since the Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant Lakers in 2000-02. If the Warriors stay healthy, they should be betting favorites for every single game next season.
There will be odds movement for other teams after free agency. That opens Saturday and players can officially sign July 6, although news is going to leak out well before that.
Technically, Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are both free agents, but they are going to re-sign. Durant reportedly is willing to take about $4 million less than the maximum to help the Dubs re-sign their other two big free agents, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Even if Golden State were to lose both Iguodala and Livingston, it will remain the overwhelming 2018 championship favorite.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are +375 second-favorites at online gambling sites. Their odds would shorten if they can land Pacers All-Star Paul George in a trade, and the Cavs are trying to do so. It would cost Cleveland at least Kevin Love and a third team would be involved as Indiana doesn’t want Love for George.
Boston and San Antonio, which each lost in the 2017 conference finals, are both +1200 for next season on the NBA championship odds. Those two are expected to be active in free agency. The Celtics are targeting the Clippers’ Griffin and Jazz’s Gordon Hayward; Hayward played for Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler. Boston also is interested in trading for
George. San Antonio was clearing cap space in hopes of singing Paul. It may now turn toward George or free-agent point guard Kyle Lowry.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were the big winners of the 2017 NBA Draft not because of who they selected but by trading for Chicago Bulls All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler. The Wolves have a very intriguing trio of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Butler — and they have shifted from +10000 to +5000 on the 2018 title odds at the sportsbooks.