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Clippings: The fallout of the Paul George trade

The ramifications of that deal are felt around the league.

Los Angeles Clippers v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Last week, there was bombshell news in the NBA that Daryl Morey was resigning as general manager of the Houston Rockets. It was overshadowed in Clipperland by the news that Tyronn Lue was hired as the team’s new head coach, but Morey’s departure was a stunning turn of events.

Morey was one of the earliest practitioners of analytics in NBA front offices, and his impact in that regard is really interesting to consider (for more on that, check the links below), but what immediately came to my mind when the news dropped was the Chris Paul/Russell Westbrook trade.

The Rockets gave up Paul, two first-round picks, and two pick swaps for Westbrook during the 2019 offseason in a trade that was supposed to be a short-term win even if Houston would suffer the consequences down the line. It was a trade that was entirely incongruous with Morey’s reputation as a deal-maker from the moment it was agreed to, and it seems clear now that he didn’t want to deal with the aftermath.

Houston was only able to make that deal because Oklahoma City had already parted with one of its superstars earlier that summer: Paul George. George was sent to Los Angeles in a mega-deal after Kawhi Leonard made it be known that he only wanted to come to the Clippers in tandem with George, or someone of his caliber. The George trade put the Clippers on the clock, ultimately costing Doc Rivers his job in L.A. It also set in motion Westbrook’s move to the Rockets, which cost Mike D’Antoni his job, and now Morey. Even though both D’Antonio and Morey left of their own accord, it doesn’t seem like the Houston organization was itching to keep either.

Certainly, there were other factors that led to Morey’s departure. His relationship with the notoriously cash-poor governor of the Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, must have played a part as well. But if Houston still had Paul and a full war chest of future picks, Morey would have a harder time saying goodbye. But when George moved to the Clippers, and Westbrook became available, and then James Harden demanded to be reunited with his former teammate, the writing was on the wall.

The Clippers didn’t achieve what they wanted to internally in year one of the Leonard/George era, but they may have contributed to the undoing of one of their Western Conference rivals. The George trade may still have more repercussions in the years to come.

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