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Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin have notified the team that they will opt out of their contracts and not pick up their player options, thus becoming free agents on Saturday, July 1st. While the Clippers themselves never got past the second round of the NBA playoffs with these two players, the impact of these two players becoming free agents stretches far beyond the well-being of the Clippers as a franchise. In fact, it could actually change the complexion of the entire league.
The NBA has been known for its predictability as of late, with the superteam Golden State Warriors of the Western Conference meeting the Cleveland Cavaliers of the Eastern Conference in the past three NBA Finals matchups, with the Warriors winning the championship twice. But what if the NBA had more legitimate threats to win the championship, even if it means sacrificing half decent teams?
That is just what Chris Paul and Blake Griffin could do. The Clippers have been a well-above average team for sure, but they’ve never been true title contenders, and without those two players, they may not even be a playoff team. But instead of the Clippers being simply above average, Paul and Griffin have the potential to give one team a legitimate chance at matching up with the Warriors, a team that no one can seem to beat anymore, if they go to the same team.
Even though the Warriors have lost just one game, Game 4 of the NBA Finals, since February when Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were all in the rotation, Paul and Griffin going to this particular team could totally change the league. Those two players going to this particular team isn’t a far-fetched idea either. In fact, this team is all set to pursue not only Paul and Griffin, but Atlanta Hawks’ power forward Paul Millsap and Toronto Raptors’ point guard Kyle Lowry among others as well. The team? The Houston Rockets, a team that is already among the NBA’s best.
Even without Paul and Griffin, the Rockets finished one seed and four games higher in the standings than the Clippers did. They had the #2 scoring offense in the league behind only the Warriors with 10 players averaging 9.1 points per game or more despite only one of those players, MVP finalist shooting guard James Harden, averaging more than 16.2 points per game with an average of 29.1.
Paul and Griffin averaged 18.1 and 21.6 points per game, respectively, so they could essentially turn a team that Harden has carried on his back into a “Big Three” that is loaded with depth, including two of the three Sixth Man of the Year award finalists even now with shooting guards Eric Gordon and Lou Williams. You’d be looking at not only one of the best starting rotations in the NBA, but one of the league’s deepest teams that quite possibly contains all three Sixth Man of the Year award finalists.
If that team wouldn’t give the Warriors a run for their money, I’m not quite sure what team could. If Chris Paul and Blake Griffin stay together and sign with the Houston Rockets, the currently predictable NBA could become a decent bit more unpredictable.