Looks like Chris Paul isn’t letting himself wallow in self-pity. After getting forced to sit out and watch the final two games of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors with a hamstring injury, Paul is reportedly trying to convince the best player on the planet to join the Houston Rockets this offseason. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, CP3 has “already begun his recruitment of [LeBron] James to Houston.”
If LeBron is open to the idea of coming to the Rockets, the organization will need to get incredibly creative with their payroll. As Paul and Clint Capela enter free agency this offseason, Houston will have $75.8 tied to just five players—James Harden ($30.4 million), Ryan Anderson ($20.4 million), Eric Gordon ($13.5 million), P.J. Tucker ($7.9 million) and Nene Hilario ($3.6 million)—according to Spotrac. If Capela and CP3 receive the contracts that they feel like they deserve from the Rockets, then there’s no way that the team can sign LeBron outright. Of course, there’s the possibility that either or both players can take a pay cut, however, with Capela entering his prime years and Paul nearing the twilight of his NBA career, it’s understandable that both of them want to score as lucrative of a deal as possible for their own respective reasons.
That leaves the Rockets with only one option: a sign-and-trade. While it may appear that the Cleveland Cavaliers would never agree to such a deal, there’s a slim chance that the team caves in order to stay somewhat competitive in a weakened Eastern Conference. If the Cavaliers are forced to decide between a team led by an oft-injured Kevin Love, or a roster that pairs Love with a few above average Rockets players, Cleveland may choose the latter. A package that includes Anderson, Gordon, and draft picks could be enough to entice the Cavs to pull the trigger. It’s still a long shot.
Even if the Rockets were able to find a way to get LeBron, Harden, and Paul on the same team, there’s still going to be some uncertainty about their chemistry. Pairing three star players together doesn’t ensure a Finals appearance, or even guarantee that you will get out of the first round. Just ask the 2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder. That Houston Big 3 would need to figure out, and more importantly, assume their respective roles. Getting someone like CP3 to become a No. 3 option, like Love or Chris Bosh, as Harden and LeBron distribute is a lot to ask considering Paul’s game has been predicated on pounding the rock for his entire career.
All of these questions about the issues that go into forming a dangerous Big 3 should give you a greater appreciation for what the Warriors have been able to pull off these last few years. Many teams have tried to follow the Golden State blueprint, and no one has gotten it right...yet.