The LA Clippers acquired Chris Paul via a trade in December of 2011 and will now trade the four-time NBA assists leader to the Houston Rockets in June of 2017.
What was Paul's effect on the Clippers?
Adding an elite point guard may not have translated to a desired level of success in the playoffs, as the Clippers never got past the second round, but Paul led the Clippers to five straight seasons of 50-plus victories. Yes, on the court, Paul helped the Clippers accumulate better regular season records than the cross-town Los Angeles Lakers in each of his five full seasons in the City of Angels.
So (take a breath): Beverley, Williams, Dekker, Harrell, Kelly, Liggins, Quarterman & 2018 first (small protection) to Clippers for CP3.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) June 28, 2017
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In addition, Paul's presence also helped the Clippers cement a sellout streak at Staples Center that started back in February of 2011. No player played a bigger role in bringing in new fans to watch the Clippers over the greatest half-decade in the franchise's history. As Paul heads to Houston, that streak is up to 278 straight sellouts.
In exchange for Paul, the Clippers received a small army of players with Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams and Sam Dekker highlighting the list, along with a first round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Without disrespecting any of the aforementioned pieces, one can safely state that Paul is a different class of player.
The 32-year-old ranks no. 10 on the all-time NBA assists lists with 8,251 career helpers and leads the category for all active player. Paul will likely reach the top three on the all-time assists list if he remains healthy.
So, why did this trade happen when it did?
Paul faced a deadline to either opt into the final year of his contract or become an unrestricted free agent. In conversations with the team, Paul reportedly revealed his desire to play with James Harden in Houston, and the team also reportedly shared that it would struggle to provide Paul with the maximum allowable in the final year of his contract, which would amount to nearly $50 million for a 37-year-old point guard. And so, the Clippers managed to work out a deal with Houston to trade the perennial all-star, rather than potentially lose their best player in free agency for nothing.
Clips, unwilling to give CP3 nearly $45M at age 37 in the last year of a near $200M max deal, cut losses & agreed to (pending) deal w/Rox.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) June 28, 2017
Chris Paul was seriously interested in Spurs, source says, but chance to play off ball & share PG duties w/James Harden was more attractive.— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) June 28, 2017
Ultimately, the Clippers received a package of assets to help with Paul's loss, but the future of the team relies heavily on the team's ability to re-sign free agent Blake Griffin. Without Griffin, the Clippers would likely be in danger of finishing below the Lakers in the standings for the first time since the 2010-11 season. Even with Griffin, the Clippers' streak of winning 50 games is in serious jeopardy, as Paul's exit marks the end of the "Lob City" era in Los Angeles.
However, it's not all doom and gloom for the Clippers. As Bobby Marks of the Vertical at Yahoo Sports points out, the Clippers could have $70 million in salary cap room in the summer of 2018, meaning the team could effectively start from scratch on a new plan for the future with Jerry West serving as a front office advisor and billionaire Steve Ballmer serving as a financier. Ideally, though, the team would like to retain Griffin as a center-piece of the new era, as the Oklahoma City native is entering the prime of his career at age 28.
Still, Wednesday's news of Paul's departure out of Los Angeles sent shockwaves throughtout the sports world and in Los Angeles, but the impact of the trade on the Clippers' future remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, though, Paul's exit will have a notable impact.