Since LeBrongate is now over and done with, I hope we can start actually talking about basketball again. Houston Rockets basketball, to be specific.
Now that we all know that Chris Bosh had every intention of going with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to Miami from the beginning, all the idiots saying that Daryl Morey can't close on a big free agent needs to just hang up the phone and quit embarrassing themselves on local radio.
But the biggest question I have as a Rockets fan is where does the team go from here? It appears to the casual Rockets fan that the team put all their eggs in the Chris Bosh basket this offseason. Truth is that they had to know their chances were next to none on it happening. So I imagine a guy as smart as Daryl Morey had a backup plan of action. He was even quoted the same day Chris Bosh declared he would be going to Miami as saying "When you talk about a trade, our priorities are the same. We’re looking for a real top-end player to pair with Yao Ming." As much as I liked the idea of Tyson Chandler backing up Yao starting this November, he isn't exactly what I would call a "top-end player." Look, the team is really good right now as is. They can easily compete with anyone in the league in any given game. But they are still a star away from contending for a title. That much is certain.
The thing that most of the "sky is falling" fans who don't realize just how deep this Houston team is that those assets we've been hearing so much about didn't go anywhere. We still have them. And, as Tom and myself pointed out last night, they're actually improving. Expiring contracts and high draft considerations, as well as some really good young talent make Houston a player in a possible blockbuster trade. Whether it be prior to the start of this season or at the deadline in February.
Everyone is talking about Carmelo Anthony and his impending free agency in 2011. Personally, I think he either signs an extension with Denver or goes to New York next year as a free agent. The guy is a terrific player, but I wouldn't trade for him and risk losing him as a year rental or less. Not at what it would cost to get him.
No, mine and many others choice is to go after disgruntled star point guard Chris Paul. Now, before I get too deep into this, I just want to point out that I love Aaron Brooks. I think he is a terrific player and possibly the heart of this current team. And I wouldn't let him go for just any player. But for Chris Paul, I would personally drive to Aaron's house and help him pack for New Orleans if he needed an extra hand.
The biggest question is if it is possible. Well, almost anything is possible when a player becomes unhappy with the direction his current team is heading in. People are already talking about Paul becoming the next Garnett, where he was just wasting away in Minnesota. The team is rumored to be about ready to have a fire sale in New Orleans, so he is believed to be available. No matter what Hornets president Hugh Weber says. The biggest pitfall would be the idea of New Orleans trading him within the division, only to watch him lay the smack down on them six times per year over the next few seasons. But, if Houston can offer the best package for their franchise going forward, I have to believe that wouldn't stop them from signing off on the deal.
It was rumored that Portland almost got Paul in a trade for a package of Andre Miller, Joel Przybilla, Nicolas Batum, Jerryd Bayless and the 22nd pick to New Orleans for Paul and Emeka Okafor. Expirings, young player and draft considerations. Think Houston could top that offer? I do.
It is a foregone conclusion that any team making a deal for Paul would have to take back Emeka Okafor and his bloated contract as part of the deal. And it is a really bad deal that still has four years left on it. But one has to believe that you could do worse with a bad contract than Okafor. He would immediately become the best backup Center in the league and is decent insurance for Yao if he goes down again. Les Alexander has also been rumored to give Daryl Morey the permission to take back a bad contract if it meant getting the missing piece to the team. So I don't see Les saying no to that deal.
So, what would it take? It would have to start with Aaron Brooks, of course. Then you would throw in the expirings of Jeffries and Battier. Then, this is where it gets tricky. The salaries of Paul and Okafor easily still exceed that by about $10 Million. They're going to want some young talent and Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger would probably be at the top of their list. Now, I'm no capologist, but making this work would be tricky without completely gutting the roster. But with that base package and the Knicks draft considerations, I think The Wizard could get it done. It really comes down to if Chris Paul is on the Rockets radar and if New Orleans is really willing to trade him. I don't see why he wouldn't be on Houston's radar to be honest. But with teams like the Nets, Blazers and the Magic all contacting New Orleans about a possible trade, they'll have stiff competition in any attempt. But Houston still ranks pretty highly at offering the best package.
I'd say a deal for Paul is unlikely, but it certainly isn't impossible.