The Houston Rockets’ acquisition of Ty Lawson changes the landscape of the Western Conference. The Rockets were already considered contenders last year when they overcame the odds, beating the Clippers in seven games after being down 3-1.
Although they beat out most of the West without a legitimate starting point guard, James Harden acted as their main source of distribution throughout the season. How will that affect the Rockets this upcoming season? Since Harden and Lawson both need the ball in their hands, will they adapt, or will the Rockets fall out of contention?
Ty Lawson will have to adapt his game to James Harden’s style, due to the process of natural selection. Lawson is a great facilitator on his own with 9.6 assists per game last season (3rd best), but with Harden’s ability to draw multiple defenders, plus his limitless court vision, he’s a magician with the ball in his hands.
Lawson will still bring the ball up the floor most of the time and set up Harden to score, which will work out right off the bat given Harden’s deadly shot. However, Lawson will have to become more of a spot up shooter for this offense to truly work.
Last year, Lawson averaged 1.8 field goal attempts a game off the catch (Catch and Shoot: Any jump shot outside of 10 feet where a player possessed the ball for 2 seconds or less and took no dribbles). He also was relatively inefficient off the catch, shooting at only 36%.
It should be noted that Lawson played on a stagnant Nuggets offense that had no legitimate floor generals other than himself, meaning there was no one who could draw defenders and get him clean shots. There is no question Lawson’s catch and shoot percentage will rise this year playing alongside Harden.
Opposing coaches are going to have a tough time figuring out how to defend this pick-your-poison Rockets offense. Coaches were confident having their point guards double Harden, because they could live with Patrick Beverley shooting open jump shots. They will not feel the same way about Lawson. Trevor Ariza will also benefit with even more clean looks as a result, and Dwight might throw down as many alley-oops as he did in Orlando.
The Western Conference will be a bloodbath. The Spurs are considerably better, the young Warriors are the defending champs, the Clippers improved their depth, the Thunder are healthy (we think), the Grizzlies always grit and grind their way to relevance, and there’s some dude with a unibrow and a 7’7″ wingspan working on his 3-point shot in New Orleans. The West is so deep that there is a thin line between the Rockets falling in the first round and Ty Lawson wearing a ring. Regardless of what happens, the Rockets became a much more fun team to watch.