Stein cited league sources Tuesday noting Houston's position in the Paul sweepstakes. This comes after Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported Paul told the Los Angeles Clippers he will decline the player option on his deal and head to free agency, as expected.
Houston finished with the NBA's third-best record during the 2016-17 season largely because James Harden thrived in a ball-handling, playmaking role. While Paul's presence would cut down on Harden's time with the ball in his hands, Stein said the Beard has advocated for the addition and told him as much directly.
Paul and the Rockets are in similar situations and could use each other to take the next step.
The Wake Forest product has never advanced past the second round of the NBA playoffs and seemed stuck in the middle of the West with the Clippers. Houston is coming off a second-round exit to the San Antonio Spurs and is an impact piece or two away from becoming a true title contender.
Last week, Stein reported the Rockets were "aggressively" shopping Ryan Anderson, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams to provide the financial room to add an impact player in free agency. He listed Paul, Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin and Atlanta Hawks big man Paul Millsap as possible targets.
Houston set an NBA record with 1,181 made three-pointers this past season, and Paul is coming off a career-best 41.1 percent shooting clip from downtown. He would slide right into the Rockets' space-oriented offensive sets and give them another playmaker who could find open shooters by penetrating and drawing defensive attention, much like Harden did in 2016-17.
The Rockets and the rest of the NBA are looking for ways to catch up to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, and pairing Paul—an eight-time member of an All-NBA team—with two-time MVP runner-up Harden in the backcourt would be a major move in the right direction this offseason.