Since the season ended, there has been one apple of Rockets fans' eyes that looks better than the rest: Ty Lawson.
The speedy Nuggets point guard seems very attainable in a trade, and the Rockets have a hole at point guard. James Harden has asked for a playmaker to play alongside him, and Lawson is nothing if not a playmaker. And I mean nothing: he shoots from deep worse than Patrick Beverley, and has a reputation as a minus defender.
Yesterday, Lawson was arrested for his second DUI in seven months, which was a violation of the probation for his first one that stipulated no alcohol consumption. I'm not a lawyer, but that's no bueno (maybe jail time?). This is a textbook red flag.
Lawson is hardly the only man to have multiple run-ins with the law and still be a productive NBA player. He dished out 9.6 assists per game last year, a career high and third in the NBA. He's annually been in the running for fastest player in the league. For years, he was the starting point guard on a playoff team. Last year, he had a career-high seven win shares. He's a good player.
But I no longer want him on the Rockets, for multiple reasons. Firstly: with James Harden at shooting guard, Dwight Howard at center and (likely) Donatas Motiejunas starting at power forward, the Rockets simply have to have a competent three-point shooter at point guard. That becomes even more essential when Corey Brewer replaces Harden in the lineup and there's even less shooting — ergo, spacing — in the lineup.
In Lawson's first two years in the league, he shot over 40 percent from deep, which is the line between a good and a great shooter. Since then, his percentage has dropped every year, from 36.6 percent in 2013 to 35.6 percent in 2014 to 34.1 percent last year. That could be a result of him taking far more off-the-dribble shots in the three years post-Carmelo Anthony, but that's a steep drop and a multi-year trend.
Last year, the Rockets were at their best when Jason Terry started at point guard. Of this, there can be no dispute. They went farther in the Western Conference playoffs than any Houston team since 1997, and even statistically, the Rockets were better on both offense and defense when Beverley sat, according to Basketball-Reference. Some of those defensive numbers can be attributed to the Rockets simply having a better bench most nights than their opponents, but the offensive numbers are kind of striking.
Beverley's three-point percentage has also dropped every year since he's been in the league, from 37.1 percent as a rookie to 35.6 percent last year. But guess what: that's still better than Lawson. Beverley's defensive rating the three years he's played: 105, 108, 106. The best defensive season by that metric Lawson has ever had is 108, back in 2012. Last year, it was 111.
Daryl Morey likes to say "we have a point guard" when asked what trades he's looking at. He's referencing Beverley obvious, but the best net rating of all three of the afore-mentioned guards last year? Jason Terry, at 112 ORtg and 106 DRtg.
Terry is a free agent, but there's been reported movement on the Rockets bringing him back. He'll be 38 this year, and no, I don't think he should be the Rockets' starting point guard either. I don't honestly know who it should be, but it should be someone who can shoot like Terry, not Beverley, and definitely not Lawson.
Unfortunately, there are no free agents like that on the market. It's not abundantly clear if there are any players on the trade market like that. But considering Lawson is getting paid $12.4 million this year and $13.2 million next year, he's not an ideal fit, he has obvious legal trouble and was an undisputed malcontent this year in Denver, even before he was arrested at close to 4 a.m. Sunday.
I know many of you are desperate for an upgrade at the point guard, and I want one, too. But I'd put the odds of Lawson donning a Rockets uniform at very slim. I hope it's none. The Rockets neither the headache nor the player he is today.