According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Houston GM Daryl Morey is "showing an aggressive desire to improve the roster with all players and picks available in talks".
Now, it's unlikely that James Harden is on the trade block, but after multiple failed attempts to get past the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs, it seems Morey has had enough and is willing to make some changes.
After hearing this news I've jumped right onto the online trade machines to see how things look, as I'm sure a lot of other people have too.
A very likely trade candidate is Chris Paul who joined the Rockets on a sign-and-trade from the Clippers who, in two seasons couldn't push the team over the line. But he still is an elite point guard in this league who can slot right into a new team and give them quality starting minutes (a bit like what he did with Houston).
Practically a walking 15 and 10 box score guy, Paul remains on the fringes of the leagues elite guards. He is in the top-six percentile in assist percentage and held opponents to just over eight points per 100 possessions less per Cleaning the Glass.
But trading for a 34 year old who's owed just over $124 million over the next three seasons is a bit iffy to say the least. Regardless, here are four potential trades that could work:
New York Knicks
It's no secret that the Knicks are going all in this off-season for top-tier free agents in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker to name a few. But imagine they miss out on one or more of these players? What next?
Never fear, there's a Chris Paul on the trade market who doesn't need to sign a contract and can be absorbed right into your cap space.
A potential trade would look something like Chris Paul for Lance Thomas, Frank Ntilikina (or Dennis Smith Jr.) and Mitchell Robinson. The Knicks also have quite a few first-round picks if they need to sweeten the deal.
It might be telling that the Knicks would be the party to sweeten the deal here, unlike the following trade packages, there isn't really a universe where Houston gets better after this deal. Sorry Frankie Smokes, it's a great nickname but you're not moving the needle for a title contender.
Verdict: doesn't happen. Yes, it works for New York especially if they whiff on Kyrie or Kemba, but Houston will be able to fetch better players for right now elsewhere.
The Suns have been starving for a point guard for most of Devin Booker's career. Failed experiments, even trying Booker at the lead guard position haven't paid off either. Trading for Paul would give them a solid option for the remainder of his contract and be a mentor type for Booker.
A trade including T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson plus some assortment of smaller contracts, if necessary, would work. Houston get a scoring wing who can, in theory, guard both forward positions and a prospect in Josh Jackson.
Houston could look for a third team for Josh Jackson and try find more present value as right now, Jackson wouldn't finish games or add anything of real value. A frontcourt pairing of Warren and P.J. Tucker would be lethal but maybe not beating-the-Warriors-lethal level.
Side note: a P.J. and T.J. combo would be fun for simply just the name. So, there's that...
Verdict: better than the Knicks offer, but still a no from Houston. No real reason for Phoenix to do the trade as it'd limit their flexibility in the near future.
Los Angeles Lakers
Banana Boat friends LeBron James and Chris Paul may finally meet up in the dysfunctional mess that is the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers clearly have bigger fish to fry like an Anthony Davis or Bradley Beal trade or literally any other free agent out there. But if they shoot and miss on all their top plans, a Chris Paul trade is possible for the purple and gold.
It would be some combination of Kyle Kuzma or Lonzo Ball with Josh Hart for Chris Paul. It would severely harm the Lakers free agency hopes and they would be locked in on a LeBron/ CP3 team but I guess it's something?
Houston does this because Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma is better than the previously mentioned packages? That doesn't sound like a reason for such an important and large-scale trade.
Okay, I've talked myself out of this one.
Verdict: it's a last minute move for the Lakers if they've missed everything else but still want a name and if you're the Rockets, you're better off standing pat. I'm afraid the Banana Boat team still won't happen. (Somewhere a tear falls down Melo's cheek)
Quite the opposite to New York, Miami doesn't have the luxury of all their future picks (their 2021 first-rounder is in the hands of the Clippers) and is well over the salary cap. Pretty awkward situation for a non-playoff team to be in.
Miami would make this trade because this roster hasn't cut it and they're somewhat locked in to it with all but two players under contract for at least another season and up to $70 million already on the books through to 2020-21.
Trading for Paul would give them a true star (however old that star is) and provide a way to get off some undesirable contracts themselves and it's their best chance at getting a star until 2020-21 due to their salary situation.
A potential trade would look something like Goran Dragic (he would need to opt into his $19.2 million player option first), James Johnson and Derrick Jones Jr. for Chris Paul. Again, picks can fit in here but I don't think this trade would need any.
Miami get off two big-money deals in Dragic and Johnson and essentially consolidate assets while Houston get a replacement guard and a switchable forward that would realistically be able to perform now.
Putting Paul on the Heat would (hopefully) give them a definite number one ball-handler next to Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters and presents Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside a better pick-and-roll ball handler and passer to work with.
Verdict: actually a really nice trade *pats myself on back*. A win-win for both sides as Houston gets to retool and takes another shot at the Warriors while Miami can add a big name, something they missed in recent attempts at free agents.