Chris Paul Agrees to Return to Rockets on 4-Year, $160M Max Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2018

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 07:  Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets brings the ball down the court in the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Toyota Center on April 7, 2018 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Chris Paul agreed to a four-year deal worth $160 million to remain with the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski

Paul confirmed he's headed back to Houston: 

Strictly in terms of his production, Paul's first year with the Rockets wasn't all that notable. He averaged 18.6 points and 7.9 assists, the latter of which marked the second-fewest of his career. He also shot 38.0 percent from three-point range, down from 41.1 percent in 2016-17.

Paul battled injuries as well, which limited him to 58 appearances. A knee injury kept him out for an extended period of time last October.

Then came the hamstring injury that kept him out of the last two games of the Western Conference Finals, denying the Rockets their best shot at upsetting the Golden State Warriors.

Overall, though, Paul far exceeded expectations in Houston.

Acquiring a ball-dominant point guard—and one who generally slows down the pace of the game—to partner with James Harden looked like a risky move. Instead, Paul seamlessly transitioned into Mike D'Antoni's offense.

According to NBA.com, the Rockets had a 116.6 offensive rating when he was on the court compared to a 108.5 offensive rating when he was on the bench. And excluding Brandan Wright, who played just 15 total minutes for Houston, Paul's 12.8 net rating was third-highest on the team.

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The partnership worked out pretty well for Paul, too. In his six years with the Los Angeles Clippers, he had never advanced past the second round of the NBA playoffs. This past year, the Rockets won more games than any other team (65) and reached the conference finals.

All of the signs pointed to Paul returning to Houston. He told the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen in April he hadn't started thinking about his future but that he "love[s] it" with the Rockets.

With Paul's new contract out of the way, two big questions remain for the Rockets.

First, they have to decide whether they'll re-sign restricted free-agent center Clint Capela, who is an excellent rim protector and efficient scorer inside.

Houston may have to let the 24-year-old walk this offseason, though, if it wants to make another significant addition to the roster. According to Spotrac, the team already has $78.8 million committed in 2018-19 before factoring in any new contracts or extensions.

By keeping Paul and Capela, the Rockets would make it extremely difficult—though not impossible—to enter the LeBron James sweepstakes, which is the second major question.

Houston obviously has a high ceiling by building around Paul and Harden. Another marquee star may still be required if the Rockets are going to overtake the Warriors.

James is the only realistic free agent who could dramatically change the Rockets' fortunes, so general manager Daryl Morey may have to get creative again if he wants to significantly upgrade the roster.

Houston doesn't have many valuable trade assets, and moving the contracts of Ryan Anderson ($20.4 million) and Eric Gordon ($13.5 million) will likely prove difficult.

At the least, re-signing Paul checks off one of the team's biggest offseason objectives.    

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