The Rockets are among the teams in the sweepstakes for a Paul George trade, they are reportedly on track to take a meeting with Chris Paul, and all the while, apparently, they are looking to deal the team’s most beloved player.
According to the Sporting News, which was once one of the country’s most reputable publications but now requires a nearly Amico-sized grain of salt, the Rockets are shopping All-Defensive team guard Patrick Beverley to try to clear space for a major acquisition.
Beverley, who averaged 9.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists last season, has been open to a trade away from Houston leading into this offseason, the source said, and has consulted with the team about the possible move. The Rockets could get a deal done before Thursday’s draft.
Beverley had been asked about trade rumors before, and, given the boulder-sized chip on his shoulder, he did not say he would oppose a trade — he said it was “a special feeling” to be wanted by other teams — but said he prefers it in Houston and would like to sign an extension, for the right price.
The Rockets were a .500 team when Beverley was hurt to start the season, and their season took off when he came back as the team finished with the third-best record in the NBA. But their ignominious playoff exit and unique position with an MVP candidate player locked up means GM Daryl Morey is looking to make a big swing.
There are at least two franchise-changing talents, and four first names, in the discussion right now in Paul George and Chris Paul. While CP3 is a free agent, the Rockets would need to dump salary to sign him. Paul George, on the other hand, has one more year left on his contract, but has made his desires known about wanting to be in Los Angeles long-term.
Zach Lowe, the NBA’s most-respected writer and reporter, said on his podcast with Kevin Arnovitz this week that the Rockets are trying to trade for George, and offering a package that includes Eric Gordon and two first-round picks, which would get the job done. While Gordon is likely to take home Sixth Man of the Year hardware this year — and you’d have to feel for him to be traded away from the only winning situation he’s known in the NBA after just one year — and he’s an explosive offensive force and above-average defender, he is worlds behind George as a player, not to mention a year and a half older.
George has all the ingredients of the Rockets’ missing piece. Elite defender? Check. Ability to play the small-ball 4? Check. Can hit three-pointers in a catch-and-shoot? Check. Can create his own offense? Check. Raises his game in the playoffs? Super check.
The wrinkle Arnovitz tossed at Lowe: the Pacers have a lot of suitors, even for a one-year rental, and while Gordon and inevitable late first-round picks are valuable, they are not franchise-altering assets. What if Indiana GM Kevin Pritchard asked for Clint Capela?
From a pure talent standpoint, George > Gordon/Capela. But with Nene a year older, a free agent and coming off a leg injury, Capela is the only rim protector/pick-and-roll big the Rockets have, and he’s excellent at that. Losing him for a year of Paul George would be a mistake; even with the two superstars, there’s not enough of a team left to compete with Golden State. If the Rockets can get George to agree to an extension, somehow, it makes more sense. Houston has a couple of years to try to find a replacement big, and the onus isn’t squarely on winning in 2018.
Either way, the tea leaves appear to show that a Rockets team with Paul George is a Rockets team without Patrick Beverley. Consider Houston’s well-documented intensity concerns, Beverley feels like an essential piece. He played great in the playoffs, but, like many of his counterparts, shot poorly. But would the Rockets have even beaten the Thunder without him? It’s doubtful.
If the salaries work with Gordon for George alone, and the Pacers accept, the deal is a no-brainer and the Rockets can actually discuss whether they have the firepower to beat Golden State. If the starting lineup is Harden, Lou Williams, Paul George, Ryan Anderson and Clint Capela, and the bench is [insert backup point guard here], Trevor Ariza, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell and Zhou Qi (I guess?) that’s a team that still doesn’t feel close enough to take a game off Golden State in the playoffs.