On June 28, the Los Angeles Clippers dealt Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Sam Dekker, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, and a protected 2018 first-round pick. In essence, Chris Paul is opting into the last year of his deal to play for the Rockets.
Now that the Houston Rockets have eclipsed the San Antonio Spurs in terms of star power and shooting ability, it’s time to see what is next for the rest of the West.
San Antonio was originally trying to make a push to clear cap space to sign Chris Paul. This was forcing Pau Gasol to agree to a cheaper deal to make a push for Paul. Now that Paul is off of the table, the Spurs have to figure out another way to get on the Rockets’ and Warriors’ levels.
Another big name point guard is Kyle Lowry. He would give Coach Popovich a great option in terms of ball handling and outside shooting. Other good options for San Antonio are former Clippers, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick. Griffin would create a downright scary front-court, pairing with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. J.J. Redick would also provide for a great scoring ability if Danny Green is traded, or has another bad year.
As of now, the Rockets are the second-best team in the West. If San Antonio is unable to make a big signing, we may be witnessing the decline of the Spurs’ dynasty. Golden State is on a level of their own, and without great moves by the Spurs, it will be hard for any team other than Houston to prevent a repeat, or even more from the Warriors.
It will take a concerted effort from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Spurs, or Utah Jazz to make a legitimate run to knock off these two Goliaths in Golden State and Houston. The Clippers and Thunder are too occupied on their payroll and show no room for immediate improvement.
If San Antonio gets a good free agent or two, and if Minnesota’s big 3 plays well together, and if the Jazz keep Gordon Hayward and get another good starter, the Warriors and Rockets have a good challenge on their hands to get to the Finals. However, even if these options are likely, the Warriors and Rockets reign supreme out West.
There are a lot of “ifs” thrown out there this time of year. Although it is fun to throw those “ifs” out there, the long and short of it is the Warriors, more so than the Rockets, still have a stranglehold over 29 other professional teams. Even if the Boston Celtics get Hayward or the Cleveland Cavaliers get Carmelo Anthony, or the Washington Wizards land Paul George, those teams are still under the Warriors when it comes to title odds.
It is amazing how large the ripple effect of Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors is. All the fans who called Durant weak for building a super-team want their own team to build one now. This is out of how jealous they are that Durant actually found a way to make it work. This new culture of the NBA is a product of Kevin Durant and Kevin Durant alone.
There are no buyout rumors for Dwyane Wade or Carmelo Anthony without the Warriors’ super-team. Chris Paul is not in Houston without the Warriors, either. Paul George is not rumored to go to any contending team without the Warriors evident control of the rest of the league.
This move by Houston shows the Western Conference and the entire NBA that it is better late than never to try and contend. Now that the Rockets, Warriors, and Cavaliers have scary good super-teams, get ready for a slew of big transactions for teams to get way better come free agency on July 1st.