A couple of weeks before the 2019 trade deadline, Anthony Davis’ agent Rich Paul announced that Davis was no longer happy in New Orleans and publicly announced that he wanted to be traded. His preferred destination is Los Angeles, and he stated that if he were traded anywhere else, he would not resign next year and would go to LA anyways as a free agent. This meant no middle or lower tier team could trade for Davis as the only way to really change his mind about resigning is to prove you have title chances with Davis on the roster. In theory, this was a great strategy by Davis because it deterred most teams from making an offer for Davis, and kept it true to only contenders. The Lakers have made multiple offers, the Celtics have announced interest in trading for him, and the Knicks publicly announced on Draft Lottery day that if they got the first pick, they would include it in a package for Davis.
There is a team that hasn’t made an offer for Davis yet, and hasn’t announced interest, but you know that if the opportunity comes up, they’ll want to take a chance. This team is the Houston Rockets.
Houston is coming off of a disappointing second round exit dealt to them by the Golden State Warriors. This loss was especially hard for them because they lost to a Warriors team that had no Kevin Durant. While it’s no reason to completely demolish the team and rebuild, it is proof that some changes need to be made to the current roster. I believe that guard duos aren’t the easiest way to be a good team. It’s been proven that it can work with Portland (Lillard and McCollum), and Golden State (Steph and Klay), but that doesn’t mean that it will always work. Chris paul, while still a high level player that can give you 15 and 8 on a nightly basis, is showing signs of declining, as his career averages are 18 points and almost 10 assists per game. But, this can be heavily attributed to James Harden, who’s ISO style of play is detrimental to the statistics of point guards that he is on the same team as.
Chris Paul’s style of play just doesn’t fit well in Houston, as he never had a heavy reliance on the 3-pointer in his career. If you look at advanced stats, Paul’s 3-point attempt rate (the percentage of shots he takes that are 3’s) during his 2 seasons with Houston, is at an average of 48.4%. This means that almost half of the shots he has taken in Houston have been a 3-pointer. Before Houston, his average over 12 seasons was 23.43%, so not even a quarter of his shots were 3’s. If you look at assist percentages of both Harden and Paul, Harden actually has a slight edge over Paul (Harden was at 39.5% in 2019 while Paul was at 39.3%). It’s great to have two passers like that on your team, but it shows you’re still going to get a lot of assists if you only have one of those two players.
The reason I bring these stats up is to prove that Houston doesn’t need Chris Paul as much as they think that they do. I stated before in a previous article that a lot of great teams had a great guard, a great forward, and a great center. Houston has 2 great guards, and a great center, but average forwards.
The trade that I propose is the Rockets receive Anthony Davis and Frank Jackson in exchange for Chris Paul, PJ Tucker, Houston’s 2020 and 2021 first round picks, and Houston’s 2023 second round pick. This deal does put New Orleans over the luxury tax threshold, but that can be fixed by trading Solomon hill for Thabo Sefolosha, who have nearly identical stat lines for the 2019 season, but Thabo is about $7 million cheaper. If you want to, you can also throw in a Jrue Holiday to clear up some more salary space, as well as get one or two more picks, but I would prefer to keep him.
What Does This Trade Do?
This trade works for both sides in many different ways, but I’m gonna focus on the Rockets for a little bit before New Orleans. If this trade were to happen, the Rockets would be rolling out a starting 5 of Rivers, Harden, Gordon, Davis, and Capela. They would also have Frank Jackson and Danuel House on the bench. I ran a trade very similar to this in the ESPN NBA trade machine, and the win projections had the Rockets at +11, which would have put Houston at 64 wins this year, and would have secured them the #1 seed in the playoffs by 7 games (not accounting for opponents losses). With this trade, Davis gets what he wants and is traded to a team that is contending, and the Rockets are able to form the guard, forward, center trio that I keep mentioning. Houston would also have two threats to score on the alley-oop that they love so much, as well as Harden’s ability to drop 40 every night. Davis also brings a true power forward, which Tucker is not, who is also able to shoot three. Granted, I love PJ Tucker. I think he is a great role player, but he’s not Anthony Davis. There is a main issue with the Rockets though, and that is their bench. The Rockets need to part ways with Nene Hilario and Kenneth Faried, as the combined 4 million dollars in salary could be used to sign a backup center/power forward that sees more than 7 minutes on the floor, and this trade would give them motivation to do so.
Now, for New Orleans. The trade brings in a point guard that, without an ISO player in Harden, can get you 10+ assists on a nightly basis and is a double-double threat. You also get PJ Tucker, who won’t light up the scoreboard, but can still get you about 10 points and 5-8 rebounds as well as giving you 30-35 minutes a night. You get two first rounders and a second rounder, as well. Those three picks, if you draft right, can turn into some great value outside of the lottery. This trade also gives the Pelicans the biggest chance to win now as they wouldn’t have to wait for their return in the trade to develop like they would if they dealt with the Lakers. They already have the right to draft Zion, so if the Pelicans do indeed draft him, they could roll out a starting 5 of Paul, Holiday, Zion, Tucker, and Randle. They would also have Elfrid Payton, Jahlil Okafor, and Stanley Johnson on the bench. With the trade similar to this on the ESPN trade machine, it actually projected the Pelicans losing 8 more games, but the draft machine doesn’t include Zion since he isn’t drafted yet, and gets that algorithm solely based upon PER’s. So it’s not the most accurate as Paul actually had a lower PER with Harden as a teammate than without. This is a formidable team, and in a year or two could have a serious chance at making a run for a title.
I’m also going to look at this as an NBA fan, and see what it would do for us as people who watch the product. The Rockets would have a trio of pick-and-roll options and would have one of the best defenses in the league. They would be a constant scoring threat and, if the whole team caught fire, could set an NBA single-game scoring record in a regulation-length game. Also, just imagine the alley-oops that would happen from Harden to Davis. The Pelicans would have the most hyped prospect since LeBron James, the best point guard since John Stockton, and a player that I believe should be a finalist for most improved player (Julius Randle). They would also have Jrue Holiday who came out of nowhere to put up over 20 points a game this season. Defensively, they might struggle a bit, but they would have the offense to make it not too big of a liability. There is also the possibility for Lob City 2.0 with a Paul, Randle, and Zion trio. I know I keep on talking about alley-oops, but it’s one of my favorite plays in basketball so this group together would get me really excited. A huge story line would also be Chris Paul returning to the city of New Orleans, but this time, they actually have a competent GM and a solid core to surround Paul with.
Overall, Chris Paul needs out of Houston, as playing with another ball dominant guard in Harden is tainting his legacy. New Orleans needs to get rid of Davis as he is creating unnecessary tension in their locker room and front office. This, in my opinion, is the most exciting trade option for the Pelicans, and would breathe some fresh air into the Houston faithful. It would also give us two teams that would have the potential to take down the Warriors in the coming seasons and would be able to make the Western Conference interesting again, instead of just a line to get steamrolled by Golden State.