Chris Paul will become one of the most-coveted free agents this summer and you can bet on it the Houston Rockets will be the ones knocking very loudly at his door.
The Rockets still have work to do in terms of clearing sufficient salary-cap space to make a representative offer for Paul, but sources told ESPN that Houston star James Harden has been advocating hard in favor of the Paul pursuit and has made his interest in teaming with the Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard known directly to Paul.
Sources say Houston also remains at the heart of the trade hunt to acquire Paul George from the Indiana Pacers, despite the fact George is only under contract through next season and is known to be angling to sign with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in July 2018.
ESPN first reported last week that the Rockets were aggressively trying to trade away veterans such as Patrick Beverley, Ryan Anderson and Lou Williams to create the needed financial flexibility to go after the likes of Paul, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Atlanta’s Paul Millsap and the Clippers’ Blake Griffin in free agency.
The fastest way for the Rockets to dramatically increase their cap space is to find a trade taker for Anderson, who is on the books for $19.6 million next season and is owed $61.3 million through the 2019-20 season. Sources say Houston has been focused on trying to find a team with cap space to take on Anderson — such as Sacramento — in hopes of potentially creating up to $28.5 million in room under the cap.
Sources say the Utah Jazz, meanwhile, are among the teams that have expressed interest in Beverley, which bears monitoring this week because Utah has $16 million in cap room that expires Friday at midnight with which to take on salary to potentially upgrade its roster.
ESPN reported earlier this month that Paul will give serious consideration to the San Antonio Spurs in free agency, despite the fact that only the Clippers can offer him a five-year contract that tops $200 million — more than $50 million richer than what the Spurs or Rockets could offer over four years.
The Clippers, sources say, see both San Antonio and Houston as teams capable of convincing Paul to leave Los Angeles, where he has established deep roots in his time with the Clippers.