Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Chris Paul
The two-year partnership between Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston appears to be at its end. On Tuesday, Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill reported that the relationship between the two star guards is "unsalvageable," and that Paul had asked Rockets management for a trade.
Despite Paul's credentials as a future Hall of Famer and arguably the best point guard of his generation, finding a palatable trade for him will be a tall task for Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Paul is 34 years old and has long-standing concerns about his health and durability. He's also due $124 million over the final three seasons of his contract, including a staggering $44.2 million in the 2021-22 season, when he will be 36 years old.
In his role on the board of the players' union, Paul helped to negotiate an over-38 max contract provision that essentially only benefits himself and his close friend, LeBron James. Now, that same provision will make it extremely difficult for the Rockets to find a viable trade for an expensive, past-his-prime version of Paul.
The best the Rockets can hope for in this situation, in all likelihood, would be a swap of bad contracts with another team looking to get off some long-term money. It's unrealistic to expect Paul to be able to fetch an attractive package of picks or young players, but there are a few teams who could be in position to roll the dice on a Paul trade while giving the Rockets a different mix of players to put around Harden.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Paul for Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague
Minnesota Timberwolves get: Chris Paul
Houston Rockets get: Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague
This would be a swap of bad contracts in hopes that a fresh start would rejuvenate all of the players involved.
Wiggins has been largely disappointing throughout his five-year career, and he has four years remaining on the max extension he signed in October 2017. Putting him next to Harden, in a situation where he'd have less responsibility as a primary creator on offense, would give him a new lease on life in the NBA.
Teague's expiring contract will help the Rockets clear some money off their books after 2019-20 while giving them a proven short-term solution at point guard.
With Derrick Rose likely priced out of a return and Tyus Jones entering restricted free agency, the Timberwolves need help at point guard. New president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas spent more than a decade in the Rockets' front office and was involved in the decision to trade for Paul in the first place.
Given their preexisting relationship, Rosas could sell Paul on the young Timberwolves as a landing spot for the final years of his career.
Miami Heat: Paul and Clint Capela for Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic
Miami Heat get: Chris Paul, Clint Capela
Houston Rockets get: Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic
Paul is close friends with Dwyane Wade, who retired at the end of the season but still has strong ties to Miami Heat. He would fit into the culture of hard work established throughout the organization by team president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra.
Including Capela, whom the Rockets seem ready to move on from, would give the Heat a strong rim protector and finisher who has proved to work well with Paul.
Whiteside has been open about his frustration with his role in Miami and would assuredly welcome a change of scenery in Houston. Both he and Dragic are entering the final year of their contracts, which will help the Rockets as they look to clear long-term salary to continue to build around Harden for the rest of his prime.
In the meantime, both players will allow the Rockets to remain competitive next season.
Washington Wizards: Paul for John Wall and a 1st-Round Pick
Washington Wizards get: Chris Paul
Houston Rockets get: John Wall, a future first-round pick
This is a straight swap of All-Star point guards in toxic situations with huge contracts and health concerns.
Wall's deal is just as onerous as Paul's (more than $170 million over the next four seasons), and he'll spend much of the 2019-20 season rehabbing a torn Achilles. That short-term sunk cost and the extra year on Wall's contract is why Washington would have to include a first-round pick.
Once Wall gets healthy, Houston would be betting that he and Harden can fit together better than Harden and Paul did.
The Wizards, meanwhile, would get out from under Paul's contract one year earlier than they would with Wall's. They'd get more short-term production out of a (relatively) healthy Paul next to Bradley Beal as they look to get back to the playoffs after a disastrous 2018-19 season ravaged by injuries and dysfunction.
San Antonio Spurs: Paul for DeMar DeRozan and Patty Mills
San Antonio Spurs get: Chris Paul
Houston Rockets get: DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills
Chris Paul and San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich feel like a match made in heaven. Paul would have an ideal pick-and-pop partner in LaMarcus Aldridge, too.
As presently constructed, the Spurs are never going to be more than they are right now—a playoff team without any real hope of contending—so taking a gamble on Paul's final years might make sense.
The fit between Harden and DeRozan is questionable, as both are ball-dominant scorers. However, Harden has burned out in recent years down the stretch as he's had to shoulder too much of Houston's scoring load.
DeRozan would at least give the Rockets another go-to scorer. He could also be moved in another trade down the line.
Utah Jazz: Paul for Derrick Favors, Dante Exum and Kyle Korver
Utah Jazz get: Chris Paul
Houston Rockets get: Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Kyle Korver
The Jazz may be in the market for a veteran point guard to replace Ricky Rubio, who is likely to leave in free agency. They had discussions with the Memphis Grizzlies at February's trade deadline about Mike Conley, and those talks could pick up again in the coming days.
If they fall through, Utah could look to Paul as an option. He'd have some scoring help in Donovan Mitchell and a great finishing and rim-protecting big in Rudy Gobert.
This deal would give the Rockets options and flexibility. Favors' $16.9 million salary for 2019-20 is nonguaranteed, while Korver's deal is only partially guaranteed. Houston could keep either player or flip them as expiring contracts. Either way, this trade would help the Rockets create cap room beyond next season.
Exum has injury problems, but he could be a reclamation project in the backcourt.