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Rockets Trade for Lawson- Analysis and Reaction

Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey finally made his move late Sunday night, a move many fans have been clamoring for. The team obtained a huge point guard upgrade in a 4-for-1 deal, acquiring Ty Lawson from the Denver Nuggets.

Before the trade, supporters began to sway on their opinion of the analytics-driven GM for not looking to bolster the Point Guard spot. But as “Dork Elvis” is so well known for, he was simply lying in the weeds waiting to strike. Morey snatched up his third star at the perfect moment with Lawson’s value taking a nosedive after another DUI charge. And the best part of the deal is what little it took to make happen.

In a sampler platter of sorts, Houston sent away Nick Johnson, Joey Dorsey, Pablo Prigioni, and Kostas Papanikolaou as well as a lottery-protected first round pick in 2016 for the service of Lawson and an unprotected second rounder in 2017. The combination of players typically found themselves on the end of Coach Kevin McHale’s bench and won’t be missed with their now-vacant spots opening up room for better prospects and proven vets such as Montrezl Harrell and possibly a Chuck Hayes signing (Chuckwagon!).

Ty Lawson Pass

Courtesy of DenverPost.com


As far as Lawson goes, James Harden gets the running mate and playmaker he openly spoke about at the end of the Rockets 2015 Conference Final run. A team that so desperately needed a second creator found one of the best in the league. Taking into account points scored and points created, the longtime Nuggets PG ranked 7th in the league last year, alongside his 6.0 offensive win shares (14th in the NBA). Any Rockets fan that’s watched more than one game in the Harden era has seen the offensive collapse when he rests on the bench. Neither the starting lineup nor second unit has had a guy that can create offense both for himself and others. Guys like Corey Brewer and Terrence Jones are excellent on the break but you don’t want either one of them to be the primary focus of an offense. Lawson assumes the role of secondary creator and his last two seasons’ stat lines show he’s more than capable of handling such duties:

2013-14 (Per Game):      17.6 Points, 8.8 Assists, 3.5 Rebounds, and 36% 3pt%

2014-15:                            15.2 Points, 9.7 Assists, 3.1 Rebounds, and 34% 3pt%


Ty will be the influx of shot creation this team lacks. His 9.7 assists/game last year put him 3rd in the league behind just Chris Paul and John Wall. And his 43% assist percentage ranked him 4th in the NBA. Not to mention the fact that his ability to log heavy minutes shouldn’t be a worry as he has ranked 17th and 11th in minutes/game, respectively, in 2014 and ’15.

While his 3pt % isn’t what fans want to see, there’s no reason he can’t get back up to his career mark of 40% as he’s no longer the focal point of the offense. He can rack up the assists with Harden on the wings, and won’t be double teamed in a lineup featuring James Harden and Dwight Howard. And as for how he fits with Dwight, Lawson has thrived in the pick and roll with guys like Kenneth Faried as he should the Rockets big men. Last year the Nuggets ran pick and rolls with Lawson as the ball handler on 40.3% of their possessions and he converted at a 0.88 points per possessions, putting him in the top 20% in the entire league. With the best supporting cast he’s ever had, one can only assume this number goes up as does his value as the ball handler.

But not everything is sunshine and roses. The one way this trade ends up a bust is the only reason Morey could pull off such a coup in the first place: Ty Lawson and drinking do not mix well. Twice has the point guard been arrested since the beginning of the year on DUI charges, and if the Rockets don’t do something quick to fix this problem, he may find himself out of the league and without value to the team.  The organization has already secured the guidance of John Lucas, a former Rocket who successfully made it past his substance abuse problems and even started programs to help fellow athletes with such issues. This could be a huge step in the path to a healthy life for Lawson, and in turn continuing his successful path as a player in the NBA.


Courtesy of Northwestern.edu

This time next season the headline on Lawson here at Texas Sports Review will either read “Morey Pulls off Highway Robbery Again” or “Troubled Lawson A Bad Bet for Rockets”. There’s very little middle ground when it comes to a blockbuster deal like this one. But as Rockets fan, we know Morey doesn’t make too many mistakes, and I get the feeling this ends up feeling more like getting a top 10 PG for nothing, rather than a disaster waiting to happen.


-Bradley Maddox @MaddoxOnSports

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