Well, all those debates about the NBA’s best backcourt can probably come to an end.
The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers have reportedly agreed to a massive league-altering move, with Chris Paul headed to Houston in exchange for Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Wiltjer, DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard and a first-round pick.
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to drop the bomb and eventually had the complete details of the swap:
CP3, who has been one of the league’s premier point guards for the last decade, joins James Harden, who made the move over to point guard last year and responded with a monster year, a first-team All-NBA nod and a second-place finish in MVP voting. Arguably two of the league’s three best point guards (they finished last year fifth and ninth in the league in PER, respectively) will now man the same backcourt, giving Houston an undeniably frightening starting lineup:
PG: Chris Paul, Isaiah Taylor, Tim Quarterman (via trade with Portland)
SG: James Harden, Eric Gordon
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: Ryan Anderson, Shawn Long (via trade with Philadelphia) Ryan Kelly (via trade with Atlanta)
C: Clint Capela, Chinanu Onuaku
Free Agents: Nene, Bobby Brown, Troy Williams
So, you take what was the NBA’s second-most efficient offense last year and you add arguably the best floor general in the Association to the mix.
It will be interesting to see how Paul and Harden co-exist, but having two ball-handlers and two point guards in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo, pace-and-space offense is, at the very least, an exciting proposition. While they’ll both need to sacrifice some touches (they were both Top 10 last year), the presence of Paul takes some pressure off Harden–who was already second in the NBA in scoring last year–while Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon should see even more open looks than they did last year when the Rockets set an NBA record for three-pointers made in a season.
Defensively, while Paul isn’t nearly as aggressive or annoying as Beverley, he has consistently averaged over 2.0 steals per game and has been named to nine All-Defensive NBA teams. And ultimately, with this kind of offensive firepower inside D’Antoni’s already difficult-to-contain system, the Rockets only need to be average defensively to be a 60-win team.
The Warriors still have to be considered the class of the West, but Houston is quickly narrowing the gap.