The Houston Rockets had one of the best offenses in the NBA last season, thanks in large part to their reliance on MVP runner-up James Harden to make plays. Now, with the addition of Ty Lawson, the Rockets has another playmaker in the backcourt to take pressure off of “The Beard”.
Harden produced the best all-around season of his career, finishing second in scoring (27.4 points per game), third in total steals (154) and sixth in total assists (565). However, the 26-year-old also led the league in minutes played (2,981), ranked second in field-goal attempts (1,470) and posted the sixth-highest usage rate in the NBA (31.3 percent).
While the heavy workload didn’t seem to cause a decline in Harden’s stats from regular season to the playoffs, Lawson could tell the offensive weight had taken its toll and felt compelled to come lend a helping hand.
I was like ‘man get me over there.’ I’ll be that piece to (help) get over the hump. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air. I feel like last year watching the playoffs, they definitely need another playmaker, You could tell James got a little bit tired. He had to come down and score and make passes every time on the court. So I just want to relieve a little bit of pressure for him the best way I can.
The Rockets were able to produce the sixth-highest scoring offense in basketball last season, averaging 103.9 points per game, but creativity wasn’t one of the team’s strong points. According to NBA.com, Houston utilized Harden in isolation 26.8 percent of the time, the highest percentage of any player in iso. Harden also accrued 6,155 total touches, the sixth-most of any player in the NBA and the only non-point guard to rank in the top 10.
With Lawson in the fold now, the Rockets don’t have to put all of its eggs in Harden’s basket. Like Harden, Lawson is stout as both a scorer and facilitator. He’s furnished at least 15 points per game in each of the last four seasons and his 9.6 dimes per contest in 2014-15 was third-best in the league. Also, like Harden, Lawson loves to attack the basket at will. While Harden’s 833 drives to the hoop were third-most in the NBA, Lawson managed to top his new teammate by producing 59 more invasions in five fewer games. Additionally, Lawson is a career 36.9 percent three-point shooter, which will come in handy on a Rockets team that led the league in attempts from behind the arc last season.
The Rockets can also use Lawson in pick-and-roll situations, which is something the club didn’t do a lot of with Harden last season. Harden was the primary ball-handler on PnR plays just 28.9 percent of the time. To his credit, he produced 519 points in those scenarios, sixth-best in the pros. As a team, Houston scored 46 percent of the time with Harden running PnR.
By comparison, the Denver Nuggets put the ball in Lawson’s hands 40.3 percent of the time in pick-and-roll situations and the team came away with a bucket 41.4 percent of the time. That was with Lawson sharing the floor with guys like Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler and Jusuf Nurkic. Imagine what he could do alongside Harden, Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza.
Plus, who wouldn’t want more opportunities to see Lawson obliterate defenders with his sick handles like he did to Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich once upon a time?
Regardless of whether starts or comes off the bench, Lawson adds another dimension to an already-explosive offense. He gives the Rockets something Patrick Beverley and Jason Terry couldn’t: a dynamic do-it-all scoring option who can make life easier for Harden on the offensive end.