With training camp just around the corner, many teams will be making roster decisions in the weeks to come about who to keep, who to move on from and how playing time will be divvied up. Some of those decisions will be easier than others, and some choices will have a bigger impact on teams’ successes or failures.
The Rockets, after trading for Ty Lawson in the offseason, have a pretty big decision to make about who will start for them at point guard. Both Lawson and Patrick Beverley, last year’s starter, will be looking to earn the starting spot. The two will be playing for the job over the next month, and competition in camp is sure to get heated between the two of them, especially considering Beverley’s penchant for being an aggravating defender. That tough defense is why Beverley should get the starting job in Houston.
The West is very deep at the point-guard position. With Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Damian Lillard all playing in the West, slowing down opposing point guards is something the Rockets will need to do this season if they want to get out of the West. James Harden may have improved his defense last season, but he’s still a much better scorer than he is as a defender. Beverley’s defense helps fill in the holes and allows Harden to focus on the offensive side of the ball, where the Rockets need him to generate much of the offense.
Lawson is a very talented player who should be able to help add scoring in the Rockets’ backcourt, and his presence will help lighten the load for Harden when they share the court. However, with Houston’s offensive game plan so heavily centered on Harden’s ability to generate scoring, Lawson could be more effective being the primary ball handler for the second unit and wreaking havoc against opposing benches.
This isn’t to say Lawson should only play 10 minutes or so a night, because he and Harden should still see a good amount of floor time together. But Houston could desperately use another strong offensive player off the bench when Harden isn’t in the game. If there’s one thing Lawson did for Denver over the years, it was produce offense, and that’s something the Rockets need a lot more of when Harden’s off the floor than when he’s in the game.
Obviously Houston is going to give more playing time to the better player, but Beverley and Lawson bring two separate skills to the table, and Beverley’s skill is needed more in the starting lineup than Lawson’s. Beverley could start the games with Lawson coming off the bench early, with both playing a considerable amount of minutes anyway.
For me, this all comes down to the time when Harden’s on the bench. In those minutes, I’d always want Lawson on the floor to run the offense and generate scoring from the second unit. That’s a lot harder to manage when Lawson and Harden are starting the game together and coming in on the same rotation cycles. Bringing Lawson off the bench makes it easier to have consistent offensive production throughout the game, and keeping Beverley as the starter maintains good offense/defense balance in your starting lineup.