3-on-3: How Will Lou Williams Affect Houston’s Playoff Chances?
By Ben Casey
Feb 25, 2017; TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Lou Williams (12) passes agains the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second half at Toyota Center. Houston Rockets won 142 to 130. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Now that the trade deadline is over, it’s time to assess how the Houston Rockets did with their transaction. Will Lou Williams help them make a playoff run this year?
Despite rumors that they wouldn’t be active at the trade deadline, the Houston Rockets pulled off a move to deepen their bench with another shooter. GM Daryl Morey is known for his tendency to make trades in February, and stayed true to his reputation this season.
In a savvy, win-now transaction, he acquired Lou Williams from the Los Angeles Lakers, got rid of Corey Brewer, and gave up his 2017 first round pick. If Morey’s Rockets weren’t in a win-now situation, it wouldn’t have been a good trade. But, the Rockets have a prime James Harden on the roster and aren’t thinking about the long-term right now.
Lou Williams is a past winner of the Sixth Man of the Year award, and adds even more firepower Houston’s already-great bench unit. He showcased his scoring in his very first outing in a Rockets uniform, putting 27 points on the board and draining 7 threes.
With Williams on board, the Rockets are likely in good position to challenge the Golden State Warriors and/or the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. The writers at Space City Scoop got together to discuss exactly how much better the Rockets are post-deadline, among other things. Let’s get started.
Next: Can Houston beat the Warriors or Spurs with Lou?
Jan 20, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) dribbles the ball during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
1. How much does Lou Williams increase Houston’s chances of upsetting the Warriors or Spurs?
Corey Brewer was easily Houston’s least efficient offensive player, so giving his touches to an elite scorer like Lou Williams should give the offense a massive boost. The Rockets don’t have the defense to contend with the Warriors, but the offense is now just as good–if not better. That’s saying a lot.
I think the Williams acquisition moves the needle against the Spurs and it at least gives Houston a punch’s chance against the Warriors. I’d be confident in their chances against San Antonio, and if they can somehow shoot the lights out and take a game or two from the Warriors early in the series, then who knows?
From the beginning, I had no doubt that if Houston played well, they could defeat the Warriors and Spurs. Now with Lou Williams on the team, my confidence has only increased. Williams adds some more long range firepower to the Rockets, something that will definitely be needed when going against great teams like Golden State or San Antonio.
To be honest, the subtraction of Brewer helps Houston’s cause a bit more than the addition of Williams. Brewer was a great locker room guy but was a liability on both sides of the ball for the Rockets. His gambling on defense cost the team on a regular occasion, and his 24.2% three point shooting was even more of a problem.
Lou doesn’t help the Rockets on defense, but he’s clearly a scoring option. With him on board, there isn’t a non-center on the roster who can’t shoot the long ball. Houston’s only hope of beating the Spurs or Warriors is to simply shoot them out of the building, and their chances of doing so did increase with the deadline transaction. The chances are still somewhat small, but they’re more realistic now than they were.
Next: 2. Who's your pick for 6MOY?
2. Lou Williams, along with Eric Gordon, is one of the leading 6MOY candidates. Now that they’re on the same team, who’s your pick for 6MOY?
My pick for 6MOY will have to be Lou Williams. In his first 3 games, he has already topped Eric Gordon when it comes to points, assists, and rebounds. This is a huge factor in the decision for the award because it shows that Williams is a flexible teammate who has already adapted quickly to his new team.
The Lou/Corey trade benefitted both the Rockets and the Lakers, but it didn’t make season awards voters’ jobs any easier. If Houston continues to play well, I can’t imagine the award going to anybody other than Sweet Lou or Eric Gordon. Gordon will probably have a slight advantage considering he’s been with the team all season, but it could go either way. Nobody else should have a chance unless the Rockets crash and burn.
Williams has built a nice candidacy and he’s probably had a better individual season than Gordon. However, I’m siding with the guy who’s made huge contributions to a Western Conference contender, rather than the guy who was traded at the deadline.
Personally, I don’t like to reward guys who have been traded. In this case, the Lakers likely traded Lou because they needed to play worse to keep their pick. A player putting up numbers on a team that’s in contention for a top three lottery pick usually hasn’t been as valuable as the guy who’s doing it for a top 3 team in the league (record-wise at least).
Next: 3. Overall winner of the trade deadline?
Feb 23, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward DeMarcus Cousins (0) drives on Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15) in the second half at the Smoothie King Center. The Rockets won 129-99. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
3. Who was the overall winner of the trade deadline?
Barring no wild success stories or unforeseen catastrophes, there’s no way around the New Orleans Pelicans being the trade deadline champions. They gave up draft picks and underdeveloped players and in return paired the league’s two best big men together. They haven’t figured things out quite yet, but Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will be giving the NBA hell for a long time coming.
Neither Paul George nor Jimmy Butler were traded, so the Pelicans came away with the steal of the deadline. They may not (definitely won’t) win the title, but they dominated the trade deadline.
As a big DeMarcus Cousins fan, I tend to see the Pelicans as the deadline’s biggest winner. They acquired one of the league’s 10-15 best players for a very, very modest package. There’s some risk involved, but the payout could be high and I love the Boogie/Brow pairing.
As far as teams improving their ability to contend this season is concerned, the Toronto Raptors getting P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka places them pretty high. Their new additions definitely improve their chances at beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs. Ibaka is a great fit and they have a few more capable defenders now. They may be the second best team in the East after the deadline.
In the same light, the Rockets getting Lou also gives them a stronger chance of going deep in the West. If the Rockets were in the East, we might be saying that they were the biggest winner. However, the gap between GSW and the rest of the league is so huge that it makes a Finals run in the West seem unlikely.
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As a Houston Rockets fan, I’m going to say they did pretty well when it comes to trading at the deadline. I don’t really agree with giving up a first round draft pick because it makes it harder for the team to succeed down the road, but I still think that adding Lou Williams was a good idea.
The Rockets have been in need of a high-level shooting guard like Williams for a while, so this is good. He’ll make them even more competitive in the postseason.
Not many teams put themselves in good position to win right now, and the Rockets are one of the few. With that in mind, I’ll name them the biggest winner of the trade deadline.
Next: James Harden's Narrative Shift
Let us know if you agree or disagree in the comments or on Twitter at @SpaceCity_Scoop. Also, if you have any questions you want answered in the next 3-on-3, ask away!