Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That’s exactly what the Denver Nuggets are saying. And upon being fooled twice by Ty Lawson, they responded by shipping him off to Houston in what appears to just be the team saying, “he’s your problem now.”
They didn’t a whole lot back in return. The Nuggets received Kostas Papanikolaou, Pablo Prigioni, Joey Dorsey, Nick Johnson and a protected 2016 first-round pick in exchange for Lawson and a 2017 second-round pick.
The Rockets have upgraded at the point-guard position, which has been their Achilles’ heel in the past. Patrick Beverley being hurt during the playoffs added to their lack of production at that spot, meaning the Rockets had Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni chasing the league MVP Stephen Curry around and trying to keep up with Chris Paul…yikes.
A healthy Beverley is a pest on the defensive end with his fearless attitude going up against the load of talent at that position, especially in the Western Conference. But offensively, he leaves a lot to be desired.
Lawson comes to Houston after averaging 15.4 points and 9.7 assists last year for Denver. The Rockets now have another scoring and facilitating threat, which is critical after Josh Smith left in free agency to Los Angeles. It’s not so much that Smith was reliably consistent, but he played pretty well for them last season after his disastrous stint in Detroit.
James Harden finished as the runner-up in the MVP voting and does a lot of damage acting as the primary ball handler, which somewhat mitigated the Rockets’ lack of good point-guard options in the past. But Lawson now gives them another option as a distributor with his ability to break down the defense.
The Rockets are one of the fastest teams in the league with an offensive attack predicated on high-volume three-point shooting, an area they led the entire league in with 32.7 attempts from behind the arc per game. Lawson will presumably fit right in as a guy who can push the pace, penetrate the lane and distribute.
And how effective would Lawson be as an off-ball threat? Well, according to NBA.com, 61.4 percent of the threes he made last season came via the assist. Whether it’s because of drive-and-kicks by Harden or passing out of double teams by Dwight Howard, Lawson should get plenty of those opportunities.
Lawson’s field goal and three-point percentage have been on a decline since his rookie season when he shot 51 and 41 percent, respectively. But if that guy is ever able to show up for the Rockets, that would catapult them into legitimate title contention. Not many people are going to Vegas and betting any money on these things coming to fruition, but you can never underestimate the impact of a change in scenery.
As of today, the Rockets are a better team than they were when the season ended. With the return of Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas from injuries and the acquisition of Lawson, they look like a much more formidable team. Howard missed 41 games last season. Ariza had a down year offensively, shooting just 40 percent from the field and 35 percent from downtown. But a healthy Howard, a more consistent Ariza and an inspired Lawson with Harden is dangerous.
It’ll be interesting to see how Lawson adapts to playing off the ball a bit more, but these are necessary adjustments NBA players need to make when winning is the ultimate prize.
Can Lawson put his troubled past behind him and make amends for how awful the marriage with Denver ended? He’s now been thrust into a winning culture in Houston, so hopefully for his sake that’ll do the trick. But his resume isn’t glamorous right now when you consider the sequence of past events. The Nuggets handed him the keys to their franchise and it backfired, and that fallout is a reason why teams weren’t lining up at GM Tim Connelly’s door inquiring about his services.
Equate it to a low-risk, high-reward move by the Rockets, especially with the removal of the guarantee from Lawson’s contract in 2016-17. If it pans out, everyone is happy and they keep him. But if not, they have the option of waiving him without any cap hit.
So consider this a tryout for Ty Lawson. It may work. It may not. But regardless of the outcome, it’s no harm, no foul.