By: Rahat Huq
This was really predictable. The team makes a blockbuster trade and team blogger subsequently scrambles to compose a list of the top factors predicating the team's success, citing the recent transaction above all else. Oh so, so predictable. But this really wasn't that obvious. You could argue Harden's the biggest factor; or you could argue for the Howard maintenance plan, depending on how you see it. For instance, if Dwight's not healthy, Houston doesn't stand a chance. But Lawson's production is the item of greatest variation from last season's mean. Harden is pretty likely to be about as good again, and Howard is pretty likely to have better health, if even only slightly. (If he only plays half a season again, they already won 56 games withstanding that output). But Lawson is what can push the Rockets completely over the top.
I don't need to speak much of Lawson's merits, as that has already been beaten to death. By some standards, he was one of the best overall offensive players in the league, with his ability to create for others and score at the rim. The Rockets literally addressed their greatest weakness without giving up anything. That's amazing. It's like a fat guy losing 30 lbs. without having to diet or work out. (That analogy works, right?)
I'll get called a homer, but the Rockets weren't really that far away last season. They were within a few plays of being up 2-0 against the Warriors, playing without two starters. Funny how seldom that point is acknowledged, as if bearing little to no significance. It's not Houston's fault the team had roster parity with capable replacements ready to fill the void. That doesn't mean the Rockets would not have been better off with featuring the superior incumbents. I firmly believe the Western Conference Finals would have been a different series entirely had Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas suited up. Maybe not a Rockets Finals appearance, but a different series nonetheless. There is value to not playing two 35 year old point guards in the biggest series in franchise history in 20 years. And, because Terrence Jones.
I don't know if Ty Lawson can get his life together, but I do know Ron Artest gave Houston fans one of the wildest rides in recent memory. I believe in taking risks, especially when the price is so low. I envision Lawson starting with Harden in the backcourt, and then quarterbacking the second unit when the Bearded One rests. Last year, where the team went to Dwight post-ups in that spot, they'll now have another premiere option, while running the same sets. And Corey Brewer's return means Houston will probably lead the league in fastbreak points.
This will immediately be the best backcourt in Rockets history, and no worse than the third most lethal in the entire league. You paired a top 5 MVP candidate with a top 10 point guard, both in the primes of their careers. Rejoice.
It's amazing to think, in retrospect, at the deadline, most fans would have sold their souls to get Dragic. And above that, all preferred Lawson, but all were resigned in knowledge of his unavailability. Things fall in your lap in life sometimes, like instead of finding a quarter in the sofa cushion, unearthing a $10 bill.
Really the only concern, aside from the risk he cannot overcome his personal demons--which is a very real concern--are his defensive inabilities. My response is that we made the freaking West Finals playing Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni. You literally cannot step down from that.
If the Houston Rockets win the NBA championship this season, the greatest factor in promoting that outcome will be the performance of Ty Lawson.