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Today’s Fastbreak Roundtable: What’s Up With Ty Lawson?

Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets point guard Ty Lawson has gotten off to a wretched start this season, and Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski says Lawson is being shopped. Today’s Fastbreak Managing Editor Jason Patt, Assistant Editor Kelly Scaletta and Rockets Contributor Dave Leonardis got together to talk about Lawson and the Rockets.

Jason: So the Ty Lawson experiment in Houston has been a disaster, and now he’s reportedly on the trade block. But let’s back up to when the trade first happened, which was right after his second DUI charge. Did you think it was a good idea at the time? I had my doubts, but I thought it could work and that it was a good move.

Kelly: Yeah, it’s a lot of hindsight is 20/20 type thinking here. For starters, the Rockets didn’t lose very much to get him, and he waived his option for next summer. So, the worst-case scenario: they free up some decent cap space. Depending on what happens with Donatas Motiejunas, Terrence Jones and the allegedly unhappy Dwight Howard, who has a player option, the Rockets could have room to add one or two max or close to max players.

Lawson’s been a disaster, but part of the reason the trade worked is that even if he turned out to be a disaster, it was an easy one to recover from.

Dave: At the time, it made a ton of sense. The Rockets had a hole at point guard and needed someone who could lighten the load on James Harden because Harden had to do so much last season. Plus, Lawson had experience playing in Denver with guys like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, so he knew what to expect pairing with another ball-dominant star who needs the ball to be effective. At his best, Lawson is a Stephon Marbury-type: a score-first point guard who can get others involved when he wants.

Also, as Kelly said, Houston didn’t give up much to get him and it’ll cost even less to get rid of him. That being said, I never envisioned it being this bad. Defensively, he makes Harden look like Doug Christie. Offensively, he just hasn’t found a groove. Now, he’s a one-year rental in the midst of his worst season as a pro and is headed for a two-game suspension.

Jason: Good points about the cost to get him not being all that much, and the fact that they were able to get next season non-guaranteed was huge. It was a risk given his off-court issues, but not one that would really hurt if things went down the drain, which as mentioned, they have.

Dave, you began to touch on some of Lawson’s on-court problems. Just what the heck has gone wrong? I haven’t watched his play closely this season, but I’ve seen the stats and I watched him in the Lakers game on Thursday. What. A. Disaster. The Rockets’ second unit, “led” by Lawson, was an absolute mess. When Harden was off the floor, the Rockets just couldn’t get anything going.

This wasn’t ALL the fault of Lawson, because his teammates botched some decent passes, but for the most part he was lost and he didn’t score a single point. I remember specifically one play where Lawson had a clear path to the basket, but instead dropped a pass off to a covered Dwight Howard, who botched contested shot. It was tough to watch.

Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

Dave: I think, much like the Rockets as a whole, Lawson is struggling to find an identity. He hasn’t had a lot of time working with his new team because injuries have forced guys in and out of the lineup, and he’s only been on the roster a few months. Just a few games into the season, the Rockets make a coaching change, so chemistry is a huge problem.

Plus, you have James Harden taking a career-high 20.3 shots per game, which makes it hard for Lawson to find a groove when they play together. On the second unit, there’s not a ton of talent, so Ty’s forcing things on the offensive end in an effort to get himself going, and the results have been putrid.

Now, when you add that to the fact the Rockets have a net rating of -6.5 when Lawson is on the floor, you get a player who’s practically unusable. When you’re a 27-year-old point guard and your new team would rather trot out Marcus Thornton (who was barely in the league last year) and Jason Terry (who was drafted before the start of the new millennium), it says a lot about how you’re performing.

Kelly: All this raises the question: Who will trade for him, if anyone?

Jason: We kind of discussed this in our trade season roundtable, and I mentioned the Sixers as a possibility considering the hiring of Jerry Colangelo and now Mike D’Antoni. Philly wants to play uptempo, and Lawson is an uptempo point guard. But as discussed then, I really can’t see Philly trying to make that type of move at this time, even if they want to “legitimize” themselves by winning a few more games.

The Jazz were another team mentioned, as they could really use a point guard. What other teams could REALLY use a point guard?

Kelly: The Bulls *Cries a little*

Dave: Yeah, I was getting ready to say Chicago could use some help at point guard with Derrick Rose’s durability concerns. Another team is Brooklyn, who are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference and could use an infusion of talent. Given that Dwight Howard has also been the subject of trade rumors, maybe Houston can try to pry Brook Lopez (who can’t be moved until mid-January) from the Nets or even Joe Johnson to give the backcourt the playmaker that Lawson was supposed to be?

Another option is doing what OKC did with Reggie Jackson last year where you hold on to Lawson until an opportunity opens up.

Kelly: That’s not fair. Brooklyn could use a _________! Pretty much they need an entirely new team.

Joe Johnson would be interesting, though, without Dwight getting back to Dwight levels of play, there’s no way that Houston matches last year. With the way that San Antonio and Golden State are playing right now, that seems a thin enough possibility as is. That being the case, I might be looking more towards the future than the present if I were Daryl Morey.

Dave: I don’t think there’s a player available on the market that gets Houston to the Golden State/San Antonio or even Oklahoma City level. Not even Boogie Cousins. Harden has once again given up on defense. Howard is not the player he once was. Trevor Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas have been hurting. Terrence Jones, who may be the third-best player on this roster, is on the trading block. Lawson, as we’ve discussed, has been the NBA equivalent of Gigli. You’ve already fired Kevin McHale and I don’t have faith in J.B. Bickerstaff being able to salvage this season.

So, while I’m sure it goes against Morey’s nature, I agree with Kelly. It might be time to go back to the drawing board. You see what you can get for guys like Howard and Lawson, continue building around Harden and go get ’em next year. Yes, it’s early to throw in the towel, but I’ve seen nothing from this team to make me think they can hang with the big dogs in the West. If this defense is giving up 107 points a night now, I can’t fathom what happens to them in a seven-game series against the Warriors when Stephen Curry has his apron and chef hat on.

Jason: Morey really is in a weird spot. A year removed from the Western Conference Finals with basically the same core, and now he has to think about looking to the future and maybe “blowing it up.” It’s brutal, but he does really have to think about it. I’m guessing he doesn’t make a panic trade (moving Lawson isn’t really a panic move) and they try to give it a bit more time to see how things go over the next month or so, and if things don’t get tangibly better, then maybe he looks to really shake things up.

Dave: It’s less about Morey and the Rockets and more about the Western Conference though. At the very top, you have a Warriors team in the midst of a transcendent season, the tail end of an epic Spurs dynasty and a Thunder team with two of the five best players in the league. That’s hard for any GM to compete with, and when you throw in everything that’s gone wrong so far, it’s just not in the cards for Houston this year.

That’s not indicative of the job Morey’s done. He made some solid moves. They just didn’t work out.

Kelly: The decision might have been made for him. It’s blown up already. Sadly, it happened while he was holding it, like some ill-fated chemistry experiment.

Jason: A fair point. You just wonder if he’ll be stubborn and try to avoid that drastic call for as long as possible.

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