Ty Lawson: James Harden’s New ‘Robin’?
*Photo via NY Post
Now that the Ty Lawson to the Houston Rockets hype has settled, let’s examine his role on the Rockets and what can be expected from him this upcoming season.
Lawson brings an offensive skillset to the Rockets that the team has severely lacked, outside of James Harden of course. His ability to push the tempo, shoot from deep and create for his teammates should take the Rockets offense to new heights down in ‘Clutch City’.
There have been questions as to whether Lawson will start and if he and Harden can coexist? If you pay attention to their games then you know those are respectable questions. Harden’s role in Houston has been somewhat of an elite scoring point guard; he dominates the ball the majority of the time and facilitates the team’s offense. Lawson is a point guard in every sense of the term, and similar to Harden in that he is accustomed to having the ball in his hands and facilitating an offense.
Considering that they are the only two on the Rockets roster that can really handle the ball and consistently create, this could very well be the perfect combination.
While on the floor together Lawson and Harden would be floor spacers for each other, not allowing defenses to cheat so easily. Lawson, who finished second last season behind only Chris Paul in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.9), will be responsible for primary ball handling duties, relieving Harden who finished last season with a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Rockets averaged 16.6 assists and 15 turnovers per game last year with Harden having primary ball-handling responsibility. That differential was the worse amongst all playoff teams last year. Was it his fault entirely? Of course not but it’s a fact none the less.
With Lawson and Harden on the court together you can expect Dwight Howard to feast on alley-oop opportunities at the rim. Also, with multiple creators the Rockets should find themselves with more easy looks at the basket as well as from deep.
*Photo via USA Today
Lawson will be expected to push the ball as much as possible and orchestrate an offense that for the past few seasons has relied on ‘The Bearded One’ to control the offense. Lawson gives the Rockets a much-needed secondary half-court option. Although Harden won’t have the ball in his hands as much, he will still get his share of isolations and pick-and-rolls to keep him happy.
The biggest and perhaps only weakness of playing Harden and Lawson together is defense. Though Harden has improved on that end (4.2 defensive win shares last season), neither are stalwart defenders so having them on the court together would make for a pretty weak frontline.
If coach Kevin McHale chooses to bring Lawson off the bench instead, this scenario would benefit the Rockets tremendously as well. With Patrick Beverley returning, the Rockets could keep their same starting five and resort to Lawson running the second unit. With Harden creating for the starters, and Lawson creating for the reserves, it could be dangerous for opposing teams.
According to a report from NBA.com, the Rockets were outscored by 36 points in the 41 minutes Harden sat against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals (WCF) in what was a near dead even series when he was on the court. When Harden sits is when Lawson’s responsibility will be most similar to what it was in Denver, score and facilitate to keep the team afloat. This would allow Harden to rest more and keep him fresh so that he is better able to close out games for the Rockets.
Today’s NBA is a perimeter oriented league and the past three champions are a testament to that (Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat). Lawson might be the piece that Houston has been missing to get over the hump in the Harden and Howard era.
He’s going to make life a lot easier for every player in a Rockets uniform, but none more important than Harden. If the Rockets are to win it all then Harden is going to have to be their MVP and Lawson will serve as Harden’s ‘sidekick’.
In the end if the Rocket’s win, I think you’ll hear Harden and Lawson more than you’ll hear Harden and Howard.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com