Davey Bales: B+
Lob City is now a piece of the past, but losing Chris Paul was not the death blow that many fans, myself included, feared it so easily could have been. Given their lack of leverage, the Clippers maneuvered remarkably well to acquire pieces from the Houston Rockets that will help keep them relevant in this post Core Four era. New point guard Patrick Beverly has already endeared himself to Clippers faithful as a hard-nosed point guard (and superb Twitter follow), and he should fit nicely into a starting unit that will be turning the creator reins over to Blake Griffin. Sam Dekker, just two years removed from being a first-round pick, should provide versatile wing depth and still has plenty of room for improvement after losing nearly his entire rookie season to injury. Another part of the youth movement, Montrezl Harrell, will serve as an explosive, high-energy big and should see consistent minutes off the pine from the outset. The last two notable pieces of the trade, Lou Williams and a protected 2018 first round pick, enabled the Clippers to go out and finally get the small forward that they've desperately needed for what feels like an eternity. Sweet Lou made Jamal Crawford's skillset redundant and presence expendable, and the Rockets first round pick was enough of a sweetener for the Atlanta Hawks to take on Jamal's contract, facilitating the Clippers trade for long-coveted Denver Nugget Danilo Gallinari. By my count, the final haul includes two clearly above average starters and two competent bench players with plenty of upside, all for a player who made it clear that he was going to walk regardless.
All that said, any trade that involves shipping out an all-time great is a tough one to swallow. Chris Paul has been an absolute joy to watch in a Clippers uniform and root for on a nightly basis. His mastery on both ends of the court gave us the greatest stretch of Clippers basketball by a long shot, and though playoff success eluded them, there's no denying how important Paul was to this franchise. All things considered, this trade was a truly exceptional job by the front office, but I just can't bring myself to go any higher than a B+ when it came at the cost of the Point God.
Kenneth Armstrong: B+
It has been suggested that this situation went down the way it did (as a sign and trade) because Chris Paul wanted to help the Clippers on his way out. True or not, the Clipper did much better with the sign and trade than I could have imagined in a Chris Paul departure scenario. I am still not quite sure how all of the new pieces will fit together with the remaining Clippers roster from last year, but Patrick Beverley seems to be all the way bought in to the idea of playing in LA. Furthermore, Montrezl Harrell provides the excitement of acquiring a young player, while still not being quite as much of an unknown as most 23 year old players are. I was happy that the Clippers could get a first round pick out of the deal -- but, since it's already gone, the prospect of using the draft to rebuild has quickly flattened. My grade might be higher if we were able to actually draft someone with it, although I understand it was useful in other offseason moves in the short run.
The Clipper did not have much leverage in this situation, given that Chris Paul didn't have to do a sign and trade. It was very different than the Kyrie Irving situation, in which a player wants to leave but the team does not have to respect their wishes. Perhaps I am naive or just a weak negotiator, but it seems like the Rockets had to give up just about all we could ask for to get the deal done.
Max Jeffrey: A-
If I had simply been assigning a grade to letting Chris Paul, arguably the most talented player to ever wear a Clippers uniform, walk in free agency, it might have been an F. Losing a player of Paul's caliber is incredibly difficult because his skill set is just so rare.
But given that the Clippers knew they were going to lose Paul, they landed a best-case scenario with the haul they received from the Houston Rockets. The return included Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and a 2018 first-round pick (which would later become necessary to acquire Danilo Gallinari). The Clippers have perpetually had difficulty addressing their roster depth and the need for more youth, all while properly navigating the salary cap. In one massive trade, the Clippers managed to address all of those issues.
Most importantly, though, the trade allowed the Clippers to begin formulating a new identity. While they lost one of the best true point guards of all time, they established the framework for a team that will be forced to play with a new level of offensive accountability. The Clippers got younger and now have the tools to play with a greater defensive intensity. While they certainly took a step backwards, the Clippers have a bright future and fans should be very excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.
Erik Olsgaard: B
I don't grade on a curve. If I did---if I graded the Clippers based on what other teams have gotten when they've traded away players like Chris Paul---the Clippers would have a solid A. But unfortunately, any time you come out of a trade and end up losing a Point God, you lose a full letter-grade (it's in the class syllabus, feel free to check).
Any time you trade away a superstar and don't get a superstar in return, the next best thing is to go for depth, which is exactly what the Clippers did. They received a replacement point guard in Patrick Beverley, a solid starter and one of the best defenders in the NBA. They received a versatile scorer in Lou Williams, who is quite literally a younger Jamal Crawford statistically. They received a first round pick, which they would later combine with Crawford to get Danilo Gallinari (a move that only works after getting Lou Williams). And they received some young talented assets, with Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell being the key pieces in this regard---this last part is especially refreshing and very unlike the Clippers' front office that we've come to know these past few years.
You can never truly stop the pain, but IF you're forced to trade away an all-time great like Chris Paul (and the Clippers were indeed forced when Paul told them that he wanted to join the Rockets) THIS how you do it. That'll do, Jerry. That'll do.
Robert Flom: B
Chris Paul, the best player in Clippers’ history, is gone. He changed the way people thought about the Clippers, and he was the cornerstone of a team that Clippers’ fans could actually take pride in. While not perfect by any means, he is still a top 10 player in the NBA by my reckoning, and losing a player of that caliber is always nearly impossible to recover from. That said, the Clippers received a massive haul for Paul, one especially impressive considering CP was already on his way out. Patrick Beverley is one of the most underrated players in the NBA—a bulldog defender who has the shooting and playmaking abilities to man either guard position. Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker are solid rotation-level players, and are young enough to improve further. Lou Williams is a capable veteran, a terrific bench scorer who should help keep the Clippers afloat when the starters are resting. His presence and the 1st round pick also included in the deal enabled the Jamal Crawford trade, which therefore allowed for the signing of Danilo Gallinari. That adds up to two starters and three key role players, four of whom are on cheap deals.
The reasons this grade isn’t higher are threefold. First, the Clippers still lost Chris Paul, by far the best player involved in the transaction. Second, while Dekker and Harrell are nice players, neither seems to possess much in the way of upside—while they are young, I don’t believe either projects as a starter down the road. Finally, although Lou Williams is a very good 6th man, he’s only signed for one year, and will be costly next summer, making him more of a rental than a long-term piece. If the Clippers can flip him for even further assets, however, this deal will look even better in hindsight. It will be weird watching the Clippers play without Chris Paul, but I’m excited for what the newcomers will bring, and think the Clippers did about as well could be expected given the circumstances.