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Houston Rockets Trade for Ty Lawson: Success or Failure?

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While the Houston Rockets added depth to their weakest position by adding point guard Ty Lawson to their roster via a trade, many wonder whether Lawson and Rockets super-star James Harden can flourish in the backcourt together.

Those skeptical of the trade worry about how Lawson’s personal problems (he just received his second D.U.I. in six months) will affect the Rockets organization. However, there are those around the league who believe Lawson will also cause problems for the Rockets’ high-powered offense. The basis of their argument is that Harden and Lawson, both ball-dominant guards, will not be able to coexist.

During last season’s all-star weekend Harden jokingly called himself the Rockets’ point guard.

James Harden on Patrick Beverly's trouble passing in the skills event: "he doesn't pass back home either; that's why I'm the point guard."

— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) February 15, 2015

Though Harden was after laughs, his comment was not far from the truth. While on the court last season, Harden had the ball in his hands 17.4% of the time. Point guard Patrick Beverly had the ball in his hands 13.2% of the time. The Rockets addition of Lawson, who averaged the fourth most drives per game last season, will inevitably mean less time for the ball in Harden’s hands.

Critics of the trade believe that because Lawson will take away some of Harden’s touches the Rockets offense won’t be as strong. The problem with that reasoning is that it assumes that the Rockets desire the ball to be in Harden’s hands as often as it is. The fact of the matter is that Harden has the ball in his hands so often because he is the only player on the roster who has consistently proven that he can create his own shot, as well as shots for others.

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In the Western Conference finals, the Golden State Warriors exposed this weakness by outscoring Houston by 36 points when Harden was off of the floor. While Harden was on the floor, they threw every man they had at him, and though Harden sometimes rose to the occasion, in game five of the WCF Harden set the record for turnovers in a single playoff game with thirteen. 

There are no excuses for Harden’s game five performance, but he probably doesn’t commit thirteen turnovers if Lawson is next to him in the backcourt. As great as Harden was all season, there is no doubt he would have benefited from having the ball out of his hands more of the time. When Harden is swamped by double teams, or resting on the bench, he will be able to trust Lawson with some of the responsibility.

Lawson, on the other hand, will also benefit from playing next to Harden. Even if Harden’s touches remain the same, because Harden averages 7 assists per game, Lawson will find himself on the receiving end of a lot of Harden’s dishes. Because both players drive to the basket as much as anyone else in the league, the Rockets’ fast-paced style of play will thrive now more than ever.

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Lawson and Harden do a lot of the same things. For that reason, teams will not be able to focus on stopping just one of them. What the Rockets needed to acquire more than anything else this offseason was a playmaker who is able to take some of the pressure off of James Harden, and who is also able to sustain the offense when Harden goes out.

During exit interviews, when asked of speaking to general manager, Daryl Morey, about landing such a player in the offseason, Harden said, “Yeah, definitely, that’s one of the conversations that me and Daryl are going to have.”

Despite what others may say, Harden knows he needs Lawson. If the two can make it work, it just might be enough for the Rockets to take the next step.

Next: Does Lawson Make Rockets West Deepest Team?

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