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Rockets Will Consummate Chris Paul Trade With Clippers Now

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Houston has made aggressive moves to acquire salary to trade for Paul before July 1st.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers
Houston has made aggressive moves to finish the Chris Paul trade as soon as possible.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

**This article was updated at 2 p.m. Central to reflect new trade terms from Woj**

Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has made aggressive moves to pair L.A. Clippers point guard Chris Paul with James Harden before the July 1st moratorium.

At the start of today Houston was under the cap, but to acquire Paul the Rockets aim to get over the cap to ease the trade and to earn valuable exceptions necessary to replenish a trade-depleted bench.

As it stands Houston will trade:

Patrick Beverley
Sam Dekker
Lou Williams
Montrezl Harrell
Kyle Wiltjer
DeAndre Liggins (from CLE)
Darrun Hillard (from DET)
Houston’s 2018 first round pick, top 3 protected
And $661K in cash to cover Paul’s trade bonus

Houston also acquired three minimum contract players to get them over the salary cap to ease the trade and acquire exceptions, which we detail below:

Ryan Kelly (from ATL)
Tim Quarterman (from POR)
Shawn Long (from PHI)

Lets answer the top question you have. What the hell is going on and who are half those people?

To make the trade work Houston needs to get over the salary cap and get to a magic number of $17,868,827 according to Mark Deeks:

To reach the magic number Houston has been sending cash considerations to several teams to acquire players on minimum contracts, $543,471 in the 2016 - 2017 season.

All of these players have non-guaranteed contracts for the 2017 - 2018 season. Meaning they can be traded to the Clippers as a half-a-million cap filler to make the trade work. Then L.A. can unceremoniously cut the players they receive.

To make the trade work from a salary and roster perspective Houston included Harrell and Wiltjer, who were not discussed in original trade outlines. Dropping Wiltjer in at the last minute likely avoids a roster hangup. Any NBA team can only hold 20 contracts at this time. Sending Kelly and Quarterman may have put LA over that threshold.

On the whole this is a Bond-villain level of shrewdness from Morey because starting July 1st non-guaranteed contracts will have no cap value in future trades under the new collective bargaining agreement. Using Liggins and Hillard to get this done is an exploitation, plain and simple. The rules will forbid him from doing exactly what he’s doing in a few days.

On top of this level of shrewdness Morey is finally using Houston’s allocation cash. Each year NBA teams are allowed to spend $3.5 million to make deals happen, this is how the Warriors have bought draft picks the last two seasons.

Les Alexander doesn’t pull the trigger on this money too often and Houston’s reluctance to use it earlier this season is paying off. In this instance it’s like saving your annual dining out budget for when the McRib returns each year.

Doubling the power of this move the total resets on July 1st and increases under the new collective bargaining agreement to $5.1 million. Meaning the $3.5 million is a dead asset if not used in the next few days.

Lastly the Rockets are going to benefit from all these moves by getting contract exceptions which will allow them to acquire veteran players interested in playing for contenders, your David West, Deron Williams types.

By trading instead of signing Paul with cap space and staying under the luxury tax Houston will get a mid-level exception and a bi-annual exception to sign free agents with.

Do Phil Jackson (pour one out) or Vlade Divac even know all these rules exist?

Praise Daryl Morey.