In late June of the 2017 NBA season, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets agreed to a deal. This deal sent All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the rockets for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell and a 2018 first round draft pick. The Rockets were looking to add a piece to a contender and the Clippers were looking to move an unhappy All-Star. The Clippers successfully got a somewhat solid haul in return for a guard who was unhappy there in the first place.
The Rockets ended up finishing the season as the one seed in the West and ultimately had the best chance of anyone at knocking off the Warriors and winning the West. The Clippers ended up finishing in the basement and fast forward to the beginning of the 2018 season and things are night and day different with the result of the trade.
Welcome to the 2018 NBA basketball season and the Clippers are sitting atop the Western Conference at a 14-6 and the Rockets are in the 10th spot at 9-11. The Clippers are doing all this without any clear “Stars” by definition. They have beaten teams like Milwaukee, Golden State, Portland and the Rockets (twice). Montrezl Harrell is averaging 15.9 points and 7.3 rebounds in just over 25 minutes. Lou Williams is averaging 18.0 points, 4.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 26 minutes. Pat Beverley is averaging 6.7 points, 4.0 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in just over 25 minutes as well. The pick that was traded to the Clippers ended up being the 11th pick which ended up yielding Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is averaging 10.6 points and 3.4 assists in 27.7 minutes a game in his rookie campaign. The bulk of the Clippers’ success has been brought from the Houston Rockets. The four main pieces that we received from the Houston Rockets contribute to over 50 points a game on average. They are four of the Clippers seven top scorers on average.
The Rockets have been plagued by injury early in the season. Chris Paul and James Harden have both missed time. The biggest loss has been small forward Trevor Ariza who they lost this offseason. The Rockets are now out of sorts. They once had one of the deepest benches in basketball, now they are starting guys like Eric Gordon who are taking away from their bench contribution. Now, the bench is thin and isn’t contributing nearly as much as last season. The Rockets aren’t getting nearly as much from their role players and despite getting stellar performances from Harden and Paul, continue to lose games due to a lack of defense. Trevor Ariza was a solid part of their rotation. He was a knockdown shooter and one of their better defenders. The Rockets looked to the draft and to developing players to replace the pieces they traded away and let walk, but they have stumbled as a result.
The Rockets don’t have the ability to be a serious contender this year. When they are healthy they are a low-level playoff team. However, the Rockets don’t have the depth or the defensive ability and rebounding to be a serious threat to any of the top teams in the west. Last season, the Clippers got a good haul in return for Chris Paul and are now ahead in the process of their rebuild. In just one season it seems like this team has rebuilt themselves and can prove to be more of a playoff threat than the Houston Rockets. Had you asked last year after the trade who would be better in the 2018 season, no one would have said the Los Angeles Clippers, but we play the games for a reason, and the new look Clippers are here to stay.
Featured image from SI.com.
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