The Houston Rockets just came off of a great regular season with a league best 65 wins. They cruised to the western conference finals, where they met the Golden State Warriors. They pushed the Warriors to a very tough 7 game series. Chris Paul was injured at the end of game 5, and many believe that they would have won had CP3 stayed healthy. This was their best team in a long time, and one they thought could beat the Warriors.
After failing to meet their goal, they hoped to try again next season. However, they had one major obstacle that can end a title run for many aspiring teams who got really close the season before: free agency. They had four major free agents: Chris Paul, Clint Capella, Trevor Ariza, and Luc Mbah a Moute.
After a great season for everyone on the team, these players wanted to get paid. Free agents leaving teams is very tough, because the team wants to keep everyone, but can’t afford to pay everyone. Each of these four players are perfect examples.
Chris Paul used to be the best point guard in the league. He’s older now, but still very good. He demanded a max deal immediately, which left the Rockets in a tough spot. On one hand, they want to keep CP3, but they don’t want to lose anyone else to keep him. Ultimately they gave him the max deal of 4 years $160 million. With James Harden also making over $30 million a year for the next five years, the Rockets didn’t have a lot of cap flexibility to keep everyone else.
Clint Capella just finished his rookie deal with a bang. He can’t be a superstar next to Harden and CP3, but he showed that he was a quality big, averaging 13.9 PPG, 10.8 RB, 1.9 BLK, with a 65.2 FG%. The team was much better with him on the court, meaning they desperately wanted to bring him back. He will almost certainly never be a super star for the Rockets. This means paying him over $15 million a year is really tough, because it really hurts the team’s cap, but they ultimately settled for 5 years $90 million.
With the Rockets committing an average of $58 million a year for the next four years on Paul and Capella, they couldn’t bring back Trevor Ariza or Luc Mbah a Moute. Ariza demanded $15 million a year, which is tough for the team because he’s a very valuable asset, but won’t live up to that contract. Ultimately he left for the Suns.
Lastly, Luc Mbah a Moute was a solid wing defender and another body they could throw at the deep Warriors. The Rockets decided not to resign him either, despite his affordable 1 year $4.3 million contract.
Many teams who are really close to winning a championship suffer through what the Rockets did, and it’s very tragic for the team. They lost two key pieces and might not be able to give the Warriors a run for their money again. It’s especially unfortunate that Chris Paul demanded such an outrageous deal, because he’s had several max deals throughout his career, and should have given his team a discount to allow them stay competitive.
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