Entering this season, the Houston Rockets were coming off an extremely successful playoff run that saw them make the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the 1996-97 season. Things seemed to be trending in the right direction for the franchise, led by two top-notch All-Stars in James Harden and Dwight Howard. Their lofty expectations only heightened in July, when the team acquired another talented guard, Ty Lawson, from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Joey Dorsey, Nick Johnson, Kostas Papanikolaou, Pablo Prigioni, a 2016 first-round draft pick, and cash considerations.
Lawson was extremely productive in his first six seasons in the league with the Nuggets. He was coming off arguably his best campaign, averaging 15.2 points with a career-high 9.6 assists, which ranked third-best in the league behind Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul and Washington Wizards guard John Wall. The Rockets expected Lawson and Harden to form one of the top backcourts in the league, but it has been the exact opposite.
Since the trade, 28-year-old Lawson has experienced nothing but problems off the court. In July, he was arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of driving under the influence, which marked his fourth arrest in relation since 2008 relating to this issue. He was also arrested in Denver in January after driving almost twice the speed limit while under the influence of alcohol. Lawson pleaded guilty in November and could face up to 180 days in prison for the incident. In response to that, the Rockets have levied a two-game suspension for his actions.
It hasn’t gone too well on the court either, as Lawson struggled through the early portion of the season with his new team. He was benched last month by then-head coach Kevin McHale, citing a lack of consistency playing alongside Harden and their porous defense. Even with the Rockets firing McHale in mid-November, Lawson has yet to play more than 29 minutes off the bench for Houston. He is currently averaging 5.9 points and 4.2 assists per game. This all leads the team to seriously consider trading their offseason addition in hopes of finding a solution to the team’s overall struggles, as they sit at a 13-14 record.
There could be a potential dilemma with this situation, as Lawson’s value appears to have plummeted due to his inconsistency on the court and continued trouble with the law. This leaves the Rockets in a precarious position, with a player they hoped would be the missing piece that would help them finally get over the hump in the playoffs in the Western Conference. Interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff continues to voice his faith in Lawson, who has shown some improvements as of late, such as his eight assists against the Los Angeles Lakers last week.
That said, if Houston can garner a significant amount of interest, the team should entertain the possibility of trading him. They already possess a suitable replacement in Patrick Beverley, who has proven to be viable starting point guard over the last couple seasons with the team. Yes, Lawson is a talented player, but he has struggled to play alongside other ball-dominant players like Harden, who won’t change that aspect of his game anytime soon.
Lawson and Harden both want to be the primary ball handler on the team, which makes it even more difficult to envision this pair working out their on-court differences for the betterment of the team. This, combined with Lawson’s suspect defense, isn’t a formula for success in Houston. All in all, it may be best for both sides to part ways.