Rockets get minor boost from Paul deal

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

June 28, 2017 07:44 PM
After trading for All-Star point guard Chris Paul, the Rockets’ odds to win the NBA championship improved from 30-1 to 15-1.
© USA Today Sports Images

It’s time for some moving and shaking in the NBA. Even with Chris Paul on the move to Houston, the Golden State Warriors are not yet shaking in fear.

Paul, an All-Star point guard, joins a backcourt with James Harden, another All-Star point guard. How is that supposed to work? The Rockets could add another Paul, and if they can find a way to get Paul George, it should work out just fine.

But the soap opera surrounding George links him to at least three other potential partners — Boston, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers — as the Indiana Pacers get set to rebuild and part ways with one of the league’s elite two-way players.

Oddsmakers at the South Point and Westgate sports books made the same adjustment Wednesday after Houston traded for Paul. The Rockets’ odds to win the NBA championship improved from 30-1 to 15-1.

“I like Chris Paul. He’s a great point guard and he makes everyone else better,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “It will be interesting to see how Paul and Harden fit. But anytime a trade like this happens, you tend to see momentum on the wagering front.”

The movement in the odds suggests the Rockets improved dramatically, but is that superstar hype or reality? Houston sent its best defensive guard, Patrick Beverley, 3-point threat Lou Williams, role players Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell and a 2018 first-round draft pick to the Clippers for Paul, who obviously plays the same position as Harden but wants to play with him.

It would have made more sense if the San Antonio Spurs struck a deal for Paul.

“I didn’t understand the move,” said Vinny Magliulo, VSiN oddsmaker and Gaughan Gaming sports book director. “Is Chris Paul going to get Harden to play better defense?

“Quietly, the team that did the best without making a move was Golden State because Paul didn’t go to the Spurs.”

Still, Sherman said he liked the gamble by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who is putting two of the NBA’s top playmakers in coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense. And another factor, Sherman said, is that Morey is looking to make another major move, whether it be for George, Carmelo Anthony or another star.

“A lot of teams are sitting on their hands and not trying to catch the Warriors,” Sherman said. “If the Rockets get Paul George, I don’t know how the NBA champion doesn’t come from Golden State, Cleveland or Houston. It could be those three teams against the field.”

The Warriors are minus-220 favorites (5-11 odds) to win the title in 2018, followed by the Cavaliers (3-1), Spurs (12-1), Celtics (15-1) and Rockets. No other team is better than 40-1, and the Clippers dropped from 40-1 to 100-1.

“I think there are other moves that will have to be made for the Rockets to surpass the Spurs,” Magliulo said.

Other moves are definitely coming. But the Rockets still rank fifth in the theoretical NBA power poll, so the Warriors will not be sweating unless the Cavaliers, Celtics or Spurs make significant upgrades.

One way to catch the Warriors is to weaken their roster. San Antonio is among several teams trying to pry Andre Iguodala away from Golden State.

Bye, George

The next big odds adjustment will come when the Pacers trade George, who could help the Celtics close the gap on the Cavaliers in the East. Or George could help the Cavaliers close the gap on the Warriors. Or he could provide a boost for the Rockets.

“George is one of the few players who can close the gap for teams that are close,” Sherman said. “The ante is going up. Indiana is getting better and better offers now. I can’t imagine a scenario where George reports to camp with the Pacers. I think he’s going to be dealt.”

The South Point lists Cleveland as a minus-140 favorite to win the East, but the price is much higher (minus-250) at the Westgate.

Boston is also in the running to land Gordon Hayward, a free agent from Utah.

The madness begins at midnight Friday, with NBA free agency tipping off July 1.

Wild West playoff possibilities

As the Pacers field improving offers for George, this question should be asked again: Why did the Chicago Bulls give away Jimmy Butler for so little? Minnesota stole Butler from the Bulls, who received role players in return. The Pacers probably will get difference-makers in a deal for George. This also should be asked again: Why did the Celtics not deal for Butler?

With the Clippers and possibly the Jazz descending in the West, the Timberwolves are rising with Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Sherman posted this prop last weekend: Will the Timberwolves make the playoffs?

Yes opened as the minus-260 favorite, and the line has been adjusted to minus-500.

“It would be a huge disappointment if a team with Butler, Towns and Wiggins doesn’t make the playoffs,” Sherman said.

Will the Lakers make the playoffs? No opened at minus-700, but a flurry of support for the Lakers forced Sherman to drop the line to minus-600.

If the Lakers can land George, the “No” price will drop to around minus-200, Sherman said.

The summer of LeBron

A year from now, LeBron James will be a free agent, and he could ditch Cleveland for the second time. He reportedly has eyes for L.A., where the Lakers will have $50 million or more in salary cap space, and the Clippers could be in the hunt, too. Jerry West recently left the Warriors to join the Clippers’ front office.

“The other wild card is Jerry West,” Magliulo said. “I’ve got to believe there are other moves going to be made by the Clippers.”

The Clippers have key decisions to make on Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. It has been reported Paul did not want to play with Griffin and Jordan, and Paul wanted to get away from coach Doc Rivers and his point guard son, Austin Rivers. Who knows what’s true? But it’s a fact that LeBron is a big fan of Paul.

“If LeBron goes to the Clippers,” Magliulo said, “I think Chris Paul winds up back there, too.”

That sounds like a hot topic for the debate shows on ESPN and Fox.

“I’m skeptical about the direction of the Clippers,” Sherman said.

This already has been an eventful summer in the NBA.

The Celtics traded the No. 1 pick to Philadelphia. The Lakers sent D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn and upgraded at point guard by drafting Lonzo Ball. The Timberwolves stole Butler. The Rockets traded for Paul.

Atlanta shipped Dwight Howard to Charlotte, but nobody cared. There will be intense interest in what happens to George, Hayward and Iguodala.

Front-office changes don’t move odds, but the Knicks parted ways with Phil Jackson, West moved south to the Clippers, and the Cavaliers dumped general manager David Griffin, who’s an ally of LeBron and a candidate to replace Jackson in New York.

Next summer will be about LeBron’s next big decision.

“I love the player movement,” Sherman said. “This time of year is fun in the NBA.”

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