Will Chris Paul Trade to Houston Rockets Help Clippers In Long Term? Analyzing the Assets Heading to Staples Center

In the short term, losing Chris Paul is not going to feel good at all for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Paul opted in to the final year of his Clippers contract on Wednesday then headed to Houston to join James Harden before free agency for a combination that makes the Rockets a scary contender in the Western Conference, at least before a point has been scored in the new season.

But it's not dark clouds above Staples Center. The Clippers got a large, if mixed, return for Paul. Here's how those players, plus the 2018 first-round draft pick, could help it get over the pain.

Sam Dekker

The 23-year-old was the 18th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft out of Wisconsin. At 6 foot 9 and 230 pounds he has the size to be a dominant power forward in the league. Much of Dekker's rookie season was spent dealing with injuries, but he showed promise in his second season with a 30-point effort against the Memphis Grizzlies in January.

Patrick Beverley

The 28-year-old won't offer anything like Paul's offensive production, clearly. There's a chance that the Clippers could move him on straight away, with the Cavaliers reportedly interested in a backup for Kyrie Irving.

But Beverley, who made his first steps as a professional outside of the NBA with Dnipro in Ukraine, made the All-Defensive First Team with Paul in 2017. He's a nice piece to have around.

Lou Williams

Williams, the 45th pick overall in the 2005 draft, has had a roundabout career including two years with the Lakers between 2015 and 2017.

He led the Philadelphia 76ers in scoring in 2011-12, a season that demonstrated Williams's usefulness as he played most of it from the bench. For that feat, he was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

The Rockets gave up their 2017 first-round draft pick and Corey Brewer to acquire Williams from the Lakers in February in the middle of a career season for the guard. At the time, Williams was playing 24.2 minutes per game and averaging 18.6 points.

DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Wiltjer

Liggins, the 53rd overall pick in the 2011 draft, spent much of his career in the NBA Development League before signing with the Cavaliers in September 2016. The 29-year-old was only traded to the Rockets from the Dallas Mavericks on June 28 before he was flipped to the Clippers as part of the Paul trade. Hilliard has dealt with injuries since he was drafted 38th overall by the Detroit Pistons in 2015. Harrell, 23, showed his promise with 28 points against the Toronto Raptors on January 8. Wiltjer went undrafted in 2016 and spent most of last season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Houston's D-League affiliate.

The Clippers also get some unsigned players and maybe the most important part of the deal, a first-round pick protected from 1-3 until 2024. Unless Houston does something really wacky and tanks with Paul and Harden, the Clippers will likely have one low and one high first-round pick in the 2018 draft. Then they can try and get their guard of the future to replace Paul.

According to L.A. Times reporter Brad Turner, the Clippers believe the Paul trade gives them the space needed to try and re-sign another All-Star, Blake Griffin, in free agency.

Whether Griffin will be keen on staying at a team that looks like struggling in the short term is highly debatable.

In the longer term, the Clippers picked up some promising young talent, and can begin a rebuild with a solid 2018 draft. Paul was going to decline at some point in the not too distant future, anyway. Perhaps the pain will eventually be worth it.