Fact or Fiction: Ty Lawson Makes Houston a Title Team
Let’s pretend that 2014 never happened for Lawson. The Nuggets were a mess and simply couldn’t wait for the season to end … and they weren’t shy about letting that be known. That’s not a favorable environment, I don’t care how talented you are.
Entering last season, there was no reason not to be excited about the growth of Lawson. His averaged nearly two more assists per game than in 2012-2013, continuing a career trend that featured nothing but upticks in assist totals. It would be irresponsible to simply look at assist count, as there are plenty of determining factors that go into that statistic, many of which have nothing to do with the player piling them up (pace of play, talent of surrounding talent, etc.). My belief in Lawson as a point guard that can start on a contender was reinforced by his continued spike in free throw attempts. Lawson’s blinding speed is undeniable, but his aggression was questioned when he came into the league out of North Carolina in 2009. In 2013-2014, he ranked 11th in all of basketball in FTA on a per game basis and tops among point guards. Yes, that means he shot more freebies than Russell Westbrook. He’s not that sort of athlete, but I’d listen to the argument of his speed being second to none, and it is difficult to effectively contain a player that you cannot catch up to.
Quick: name for me the potent Nugget big men that you are worried about scoring in bunches.
Exactly. Yet Denver managed to finish fourth in the league in paint points per game last season, in large part because Lawson was creating favorable situations when he attacked the rim. Well, the Rockets ranked second in paint points and that was with a banged up Dwight Howard and a ball dominate, player in James Harden often handling the point guard duties. No team averaged more points via the triple than the Rockets (nope, not even the Warriors) last year, so there will be no shortage of viable spacing as Lawson creates off the bounce.
The creation portion of Lawson’s game has never been in question and at 27-years-old, it is possible he has yet to hit his physical prime. This Rockets system is tailor made for a player like this, but wait, there’s more. Houston suffered a significant drop in fast break efficiency last season as a result of their reliance on Harden to handle the ball and facilitate the break. It’s safe to assume that the MVP runner up will be able to leak out and thus find himself in favorable spots more often this season with Lawson assuming the dribbling duties. Is “increased leak out-ability” the blue print for a championship contender? Maybe not, but it is how these Rockets play, so the fact that they will be better at their style is a positive step.
The question now is simple: can they win an NBA title?
No. No they can’t, but it’s not because they aren’t significantly better than they were yesterday. The Cavaliers are the only Eastern Conference team I’d prefer to the Rockets, but there is a good chance that that is the only Eastern Conference team that matters. From the Western Conference, I still prefer the Warriors (just think they are better at being the Rockets than the Rockets are), the Spurs (seems as if they are finally acknowledging the end of this current era, but not ready to stop winning 50-plus games), the Clippers (I don’t love Pierce or Smith, but they do add some depth to a team that I already thought had the talent to win the West), and the Thunder (the best duo in basketball has a better supporting cast than most realize). So yes, Ty Lawson is a positive move and I like the potential of this lineup should they go shift Patrick Beverly to shooting guard and go small with Harden at the three, but getting better is par for the course in the West.
Photo via Getty
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