MIAMI – The Houston Rockets are on the verge of putting together another super team in the NBA, which could force the Miami Heat to think even bigger when free agency begins Saturday.
The Rockets have reached an agreement to acquire Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul according to multiple reports Wednesday. Houston – which will send three rotational players, a handful of players with non-guaranteed contracts and a draft pick to L.A. – will pair Paul, a nine-time All-Star, with MVP runner-up James Harden, in its backcourt.
The move could mean that power forward Blake Griffin will be looking to leave the Clippers, increasing the chances that Griffin could wind up in Miami if the Heat are willing to pay him a max contract.
Griffin already had informed the Clippers he would be declining his option for $20.1 million next season. He will be seeking a contract starting at around $29 million and the Heat will have at least $35 million to spend.
But the Heat may now set their bar even higher and attempt to add Griffin and small forward Gordon Hayward, two of the top players available, or sign one of them and attempt to bring back both James Johnson and Dion Waiters.
But to do so Miami would have to shed more contracts either through straight up trades or sign-and-trades. But it might take loading up to compete with Golden State, which won its second title in three years this month; Cleveland, possibly Boston which is looking to acquire Hayward and Paul George and now maybe Houston.
Heat guard Josh Richardson was asked Wednesday if he thinks the bar has been raised by the super teams.
“It’s definitely a wake-up call,” said Richardson, who appeared at the Heat’s Summer Camp at South Broward High School. “Teams are starting to get some great teams together. So, it definitely is like we’re going to have to come out and play well against these guys. These guys definitely have a lot of weapons across the court. It definitely catches your attention.”
The Heat still could be forced to bring back last year’s team, which needed a 30-11 second half to finish .500, with few additions, including first-round pick Bam Adebayo.
But is that enough?
Richardson thinks it would be.
“I think we have a team where everybody started or played well at the end of the year and we started to learn each other’s tendencies,” he said. “If we do keep this team together then I’m confident against anybody.”
Paul, who had told the Clippers he was planning to decline the player option in his contract, now will forgo free agency to join a team that finished with the third best record in the NBA (55-27) and lost in the Western Conference semifinals in six games to the San Antonio Spurs.