The Houston Rockets landed Chris Paul, and pairing him with James Harden makes their offense even scarier.

When Woj dropped this bomb, I swear the Earth stopped spinning. It came at 11:37 AM Eastern time, and it was oddly early for a trade of that magnitude. The initial report was vague — Chris Paul was going to opt into his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers just to be traded. I had to double take. His subsequent tweet said how Paul and Harden were “determined to play together,” and this is a leading factor as to why this backcourt will be so deadly. The package that the Clippers got was tremendous and included Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Wiltjer and a first-round pick.

Additionally, Paul’s trade kicker added $661K to the deal. The sheer amount of bodies shed by Houston would be a cause for concern, but only Beverley and Williams had significant roles on the team. Dekker and Harrell contributed, but not to the extent of the others. Hillard and Liggins didn’t even suit up for the Rockets, and Wiltjer appeared in just 14 games. The acquisition of Paul, though, is more than enough to offset what was given up.

Mar 16, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) fouls Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) in the second half at Toyota Center. The Clippers won 122-106. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) fouls Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) in the second half at Toyota Center. The Clippers won 122-106. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Beverley is the biggest piece the Rockets are parting with, but he’s Goku and Paul is Super Saiyan Goku. His duties with Houston were simple: play lockdown defense, bury threes and handle some of the point guard duties. Because of Paul’s wanting to play under Mike D’Antoni, I can’t see him being pushy about changing the offense. If that were the case, it wouldn’t happen anyway because Harden orchestrates that controlled madness better than anyone. That means CP3 is going to have the same duties as Beverley — and he’s better than him in all facets.

Acting as the Rockets’ point guard is last on Beverley’s list and, primarily, he’s a three-and-D guy. In 30.7 minutes a night, he connected on 38.2 percent of his triples and averaged 1.5 steals with a defensive box plus/minus of plus-1.5. The icing on the cake was the 4.2 assists, which is a career-best. Paul knows first-hand how bothersome Beverley is on the defensive end. He’s the same way but with quicker hands and better anticipation. For the seventh year in a row, Paul graced the top-five in steals per game with 2.0. We’ve grown accustomed to that level of excellence, but the reinvention of CP3’s offense left us all puzzled.

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This season, he shot 41.1 percent from the three to go along with his 18.1 points and 9.2 assists. Those numbers are lower than previous seasons, but Doc Rivers played the All-Star guard fewer minutes than ever, and those stats become 20.7 and 10.6 when extrapolated to per 36. It’s no secret that Paul is an offensive upgrade from Beverley in every sense. Playing alongside Harden is going to be a joy to watch, and it’s because he’s going to be the most lethal (and versatile) three-and-D guy ever.

It’s going to be tough before it gets entertaining, but Paul will be hitting triples and locking down opposing point guards right out of the gate. He’ll also be getting all of Beverley’s shots. Last year, per Synergy, 32.6 percent of his looks were spot-up jumpers, and Beverley landed in the 80th percentile with 1.12 points per possession; he also had an effective field goal percentage of 59.5. Paul didn’t come anywhere close to that frequency (9.0 percent), but we expect that of someone who has to manage the offense every single trip. When he did get those looks, he was similar to Beverley: 77th percentile, 1.10 PPP and a 58.3 effective field goal clip.

The opportunities extend beyond that, though. Any spot up can quickly turn into isolation, and it’s almost a guaranteed bucket at that point. The Point God fell into the 94th percentile in isos, and Ryan Anderson was the only Rocket who was higher (99th). Paul’s effectiveness stems from his multi-faceted offense. Not only can he nail threes at a high rate, but he also has one of the best mid-range pull-ups in the NBA and defenders have to respect his supernatural ball handling ability.

That trifecta combined with lights-out shooters is hell for a defense to handle. Now, imagine coaches going from game planning for Beverley driving and kicking to Harden, Anderson or Eric Gordon and now a future Hall of Famer who’s still in his prime? It’s just silly.

However, that’s not going to happen each time down. Harden is still the guy, but there’s a chance his efficiency improves significantly because he doesn’t have to bear such a heavy load as often — especially in the postseason. He scored 2,356 points this year, and Basketball Reference estimated that he generated an additional 2,179 off of assists. Last year, that was just 1,458. That’s an incredible uptick, and it’s something that Mike D’Antoni thought Harden could handle.

I see why some would think that the Rockets now have an issue at point guard. No matter how you slice it, each member of the duo is ball dominant. According to Synergy, Harden was second in touches a night (99.2) and tied for first in time of possession (8.9); Paul was eighth (86.2) and fifth (7.2), respectively. Harden was picked to have this role, whereas Paul was forced into it the day he got drafted. Starting at Wake Forest, CP3 has been the traditional floor general but never had the sidekick to alleviate those duties. When D’Antoni approached Harden to command this offense, that was a choice. If the Beard didn’t want to, the Rockets might have gone and looked for a traditional point guard.

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Maybe the off-ball role refreshes Paul. He’ll remain an elite player, but the duties are going to be different. Houston now has an elite playmaker next to an elite playmaker. Although Paul isn’t the typical guy that D’Antoni works into his system, I don’t see why it can’t work. The Rockets offense is putting the ball in Harden’s hands and having him make plays. Sometimes he’ll kick it to Paul. Other times, it’ll be Paul who’s tasked with running the offense, and now teams have to worry about Harden working away from the ball.

The scariest thing is the Rockets now having two players who can make shots down the stretch of games. Paul gets a bad rep for not advancing deep into the postseason, but it’s not entirely his fault. Some of the blame goes to injury (and the rest goes to the Golden State Warriors), but Paul has shown up whenever he advanced beyond the regular season. Even though Harden’s play style doesn’t look like it requires a lot of energy, any high usage player is going to burn out, and it’s clear why his playoff splits between Houston and Oklahoma City are opposites.

I’m excited to see how this plays out. I hope it works magnificently. Paul gives Houston a legitimate complement to Harden, and it’ll be relatively easy to assimilate him into the offense. They’re still one piece behind Golden State, but this deal brings them much closer.

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