The Ty Lawson deal is now official, with the league office approving Houston shipping out Nick Johnson, Kostas Papanikolaou, Joey Dorsey, Pablo Prigioni and a lottery protected first-round pick for the point guard and an unprotected 2017 second-round pick.
But, here's a fun new wrinkle: according to Zach Lowe, as part of the deal, Lawson has agreed to make the $13 million he's owed in 2016-2017 fully non-guaranteed. If he slips up this year, performs poorly or the Rockets decide to go in another direction, they can decline his option and he becomes a one-year rental. They would gain a bunch of flexibility to make moves both at the trade deadline and in the offseason if they really become desperate to unload him.
No one anticipates that happening for on-court reasons, however. The speedy guard, whether he starts or comes off the bench, will be a release valve on offense, taking the pressure off of James Harden, and making things easier for everyone else.
This little mini-wrinkle of the trade is just another illustration of why Daryl Morey is the best general manager in the league. When I spoke to him briefly at summer league, he was coy about his plans to acquire a point guard, but we talked about the Rockets' roster flexibility with Big Papa's contract, Prigioni's partially guaranteed contract and young, cheap players like Johnson. He said "we're always ready to pounce," and that's exactly what he did.
The Nuggets were desperate to trade Lawson to clear playing time and distractions for their stud rookie Emmanuel Mudiay. Morey has been targeting Lawson for months — as we all suspected and many of us hoped — and waited, and waited, and waited as the price continued to fall. After Lawson got his second DUI of 2015, suitors other than the Lakers reportedly dried up. Morey had his opening, and he managed to squeeze every bit of leverage out of the situation.
To the Nuggets' credit, Lawson's value was as low as it ever was going to get, and they basically had to deal him. They got a first-round pick that will almost definitely convey next year and a couple of young players we liked around here in Johnson and Papanikolaou, neither of whom were likely to play very much next year.
The price was right for Morey and the Rockets, but the risk was real. Here are the quotes he gave to reporters today after the deal was made official (via ESPN):
"I think when you're trying to get the best team out of 30, you got to take risk all over the place," Morey said. "Again, it's a playing risk, injury risk, character risk. We feel Ty is someone we wanted to add to our team."
"He's one of the best playmakers in the league," Morey said of Lawson. "If you look at the leaderboard for assists in the last few years, or since he's been in the league, he's near the top. I think as we saw, especially when [Harden] played a couple of teams last year, we struggle against teams that really load on James Harden, and we feel Ty will be a lot more difficult for teams to do that."
"We take those [DUI arrests] very seriously," Morey said. "He's had some very serious incidents in his past and in his recent past. We feel like he's part of the Rockets family now, and through our conversations with him, we feel confident he's getting the help he needs and he's taken that step."
That's someone who knows exactly what he's getting. Morey is a wizard and operating at a different level than almost every other executive in the NBA. He didn't need to make the Lawson deal to prove that, but it's just another page in the textbook one could write on how to run an NBA team, based only on Morey's deals.