HOUSTON – Chris Paul is heading to Houston to join James Harden, and the Rockets will soon have two All-Stars in the backcourt to lead their chase for a championship.
In the NBA’s second blockbuster trade in less than a week, the Rockets acquired Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday in exchange for former Gonzaga University star Kyle Wiltjer, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, a protected first-round pick next year and cash considerations. The Rockets acquired Hilliard from Detroit and Liggins from Dallas for cash considerations before adding them to the deal.
Wiltjer spent most of his rookie season last year in the D-league after going undrafted out of Gonzaga.
Wiltjer averaged 20.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for the 2015-16 Bulldogs while shooting 85.7 percent from the free-throw line.
He played for Kentucky for two seasons before transferring to GU for the 2014-15 season.
Wiltjer had a slow start to the 2016–17 season for the Rockets, appearing in just four of their first 25 games, but he scored a season-high seven points in a 132–98 win over the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 14.
Both the Clippers and Houston will look far different next season than they did in falling short in the playoffs again just six weeks ago. The roster overhauls come five days after Minnesota sent three players to Chicago for All-Star Jimmy Butler to kick things off with NBA free agency opening on Saturday.
The 32-year-old Paul will soon be playing for his third team after opting in for the last year of his contract so the Clippers could work on a deal.
The nine-time All-Star has averaged 18.7 points, 9.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals over his 12-year career, though he has been dogged with criticism in recent years for failing to help the Clippers get out of the second round of the playoffs. Los Angeles reached the postseason in each of Paul’s six seasons with the team, but the Clippers were eliminated in the first round three times and in the Western Conference semifinals three other times.
Perhaps the most crushing playoff series loss of his tenure with the Clippers came to the Rockets in 2015. Los Angeles had a 3-1 lead in the conference semifinals before Houston won the last three games of the series to send Paul and the Clippers home early yet again.
The Clippers were eliminated in the first round the past two seasons and Paul isn’t the only star who may be leaving. Blake Griffin informed the team last week that he is opting out of the last year of his contract to explore free agency. J.J. Redick is also a free agent.
In Houston, Paul joins a team that was eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinals last season. With Harden’s move to point guard last season, Paul’s role will probably be a bit different than it has been in Los Angeles.
But he will add another scoring dimension in replacing Beverley in the starting lineup. Beverley received NBA defensive first team honors last week, but averaged just 9.3 points in his five seasons with the Rockets. He’s the only Houston starter involved in the deal, with Williams and Dekker playing reserve roles last season.
Williams, the 2014-15 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, was traded to the Rockets from the Los Angeles Lakers in February. He averaged 14.9 points and three rebounds in 23 games for Houston after the trade.
Dekker, the 18th pick in the 2015 draft, missed all but three games as a rookie because of back surgery. The small forward was healthy this season and appeared in 77 games and averaged 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds. Harrell, a second-round pick in 2015, averaged 6.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in two seasons in Houston.
Houston also acquired Ryan Kelly from Atlanta and Tim Quarterman from Portland for cash considerations and Shawn Long from Philadelphia for a future second-round pick and cash considerations.
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