Should The Houston Rockets Start Ty Lawson or Patrick Beverley?
By Joshua Van Horn
Before a Rockets event on Tuesday to unveil three new jerseys, Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale told the Houston Chronicle that it is not guaranteed that Ty Lawson will start over Patrick Beverley at the point guard position.
“They’ll determine that,” McHale told the Chronicle. “We’ll find out. Can we play them together? Maybe. We’ll put them out there. We had 28 days of camp. We’ll decide who will get the lion’s share of the minutes. One will and one will be a backup.”
Since trading for Lawson, Rockets fans have been split on whether or not Lawson or Beverley should be the starting point guard. That being said, for the most part, everyone acknowledges that Lawson is the more complete player. Lawson’s stats back this up.
Last season Lawson averaged nearly 15 points and 11 assists per game, on 44% shooting. Beverley averaged about 10 points and 3 assists, on 38% shooting. Perhaps the most important stat at the point guard position is assist/turnover ratio. Lawson, last season, ranked second in the league in assist/turnover ratio at 3.9, where Beverley ranked 55th at 2.3. It is clear that Lawson is above and beyond the better offensive player.
On the defensive end, however, Beverley is hailed as the better man. Because individual defensive success is difficult to measure, people often use the eyeball test to determine how good a player is on that side of the ball. Beverley, known for his hustle and toughness, is largely considered an elite defensive player because he is persistent in his pest-like defense, swarming his defender at all times.
Valley of the Suns
While there is great value in Beverley’s energy and tenacity, is he actually the defensive juggernaut that people make him out to be? As I have already stated, measuring defense statistically can be tricky. If you do choose to look at defensive stats, however, the numbers show that Beverley’s defense may not be much better than Lawson’s. According to ESPN‘s real defensive plus-minus stat Beverley ranks 26th among point guards, and Lawson ranks 67th. In defensive win shares Beverley averages 1.8, and Lawson averages 1.0.
While the first stat can make it seem like Beverley is twice as good as Lawson on defense, what is important to note is that according to that statistic Beverley does not rank among the best defensive point guards in the NBA. Looking at their defensive win shares, Beverley’s production is greater than Lawson’s, but still only half as good as an established defensive point guard like Chris Paul.
I’ll be the first to admit that defensive statistics may not do justice to actual defensive impact. Still, according to the numbers, Beverley’s status as a defender seems to be a bit exaggerated. All things considered, it is because of his defense that people believe he should start over Lawson.
The rationale is that the Rockets already have enough offensive power in the starting lineup, and could use more defense in the starting backcourt, which Beverley could provide. Lawson, coming off the bench, would act as an offensive spark for the second unit while Harden gets some rest.
While I understand why someone would prefer a more complete player to come off the bench, and while I’m ready to admit that the strategy has had it’s success– Harden in Oklahoma City, Ginoboli in San Antonio– I have to ask where one should draw the line? If Lawson had the offensive capabilities of Steph Curry, but lacked the defensive potential of Patrick Beverley, would it still be reasonable to start Beverley?
I understand that Lawson is no Curry, but I think comparing Lawson to Curry is similar to comparing Beverley to Lawson. Lawson is without question a better point guard than Patrick Beverley, and I believe the differences in their offensive production outweighs the differences in their defensive production.
Trouble for the NBA me and @TyLawson3
— Patrick Beverley (@patbev21) July 20, 2015
All in all, I’m in agreement with Patrick Beverley. The Rockets have a good problem. They have two solid point guards who are able to help the team in different ways. Based off of the success of his all-around game, Lawson should get the start. The coaching staff will then have to manage his minutes correctly, and make sure that either Lawson or Harden are always on the floor to run the offense. With preseason only a few weeks aways, we will see how things go.
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Next: Is Lawson a Top 10 Point Guard?
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