To Top

Injuries Opening Up Opportunities to Move Ty Lawson

If the Houston Rockets are still interested in trading point guard Ty Lawson, there are suddenly a few more teams looking to fill a void at the position. After being acquired over the summer to be James Harden’s backcourt sidekick, the 28-year-old former Tarheel has been a complete flop with his new team. He’s posting career lows in scoring (6.4 points), field-goal percentage (37.1 percent) and three-point percentage (31.3 percent) while his 4.3 assists are his worst effort since his rookie season in 2009-10.

Lawson is also in the midst of serving his second league-imposed suspension of the season for DUI arrests accrued during his time with the Denver Nuggets. He was suspended for two games in mid-December for his first arrest. For his second arrest, the league is punishing Lawson for three games, and he’ll hopefully be able to return to the court for the team’s Jan. 13 clash with the Minnesota Timberwolves. For Lawson, the upside to his latest sabbatical is being able to rest his injured ankle, which caused him to miss the Jan. 4 game against the Utah Jazz. The Rockets haven’t been affected by Lawson’s absence. In fact, the team is 5-0 in the games Lawson has missed this season.

According to’s Calvin Watkins, Houston was shopping Lawson not long after news of his first suspension broke. Given the team’s need for change and its success without Lawson in the lineup, there’s no reason why that shouldn’t still be the case. While things haven’t worked out in Houston, Lawson did have a productive career in Denver, where he averaged 14.2 points and 6.6 assists during his six-year stint. Although his $12.4 million salary is a tough pill for suitors to swallow, his non-guaranteed contract for 2016-17 would make him an attractive option for teams looking for a half-season rental.

The Rockets’ chances of moving their big offseason addition have increased in recent weeks as opposing point guards are dropping like flies.

December 20, 2013: Alec Burks (10) of the Utah Jazz is fouled by Elton Brand (42) of the Atlanta Hawks during the Hawks vs. Jazz game at Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia. The Atlanta Hawks won the game 118-85.

On Dec. 27, the Jazz, who are already without young floor general Dante Exum saw fellow guard Alec Burks go down with a fractured fibula. Burks underwent surgery three days later and hopes to return after the All-Star break. While injuries have hindered what appeared to be a promising campaign, Utah still holds on to the eighth seed in a suddenly weak Western Conference. Lawson would be an offensive upgrade over the tandem of Trey Burke and Raul Neto. Even after Burks returns, adding Lawson to their guard rotation would increase depth in the backcourt and could help the Jazz keep opposing contenders at bay, especially if Lawson can return to form.

Meanwhile, on Dec. 29, the Phoenix Suns lost star guard Eric Bledsoe for the season due to a torn meniscus in his left knee. Phoenix’s 2015-16 campaign was already looking bleak even before Bledsoe’s injury. The team entered the month of December at 8-9 and proceeded to lose 16 of its next 21 games. While Phoenix is just 3.5 games behind Utah for the eighth seed, the loss of Bledsoe drastically lowers its ceiling, and the club would be wiser to prepare for the future. However, if the Suns still hope to salvage this season, Lawson wouldn’t be a bad option to help fill Bledsoe’s void. The Suns and Rockets reportedly had trade discussions last month involving disgruntled Phoenix forward Markieff Morris, but a deal never came to fruition. Could that change the second time around?

Lastly, there’s Brooklyn Nets point guard Jarrett Jack, who saw one of the best seasons of his career come to a screeching halt after tearing his ACL on Jan. 3. With the second-worst record in the East and third-worst in the NBA at 10-25, the Nets are in a tough spot. They don’t have the talent (especially with Jack out) to make a run at a playoff spot, but they can’t tank because their unprotected 2016 first-round pick belongs to the Boston Celtics via the disastrous Kevin Garnett trade. As bad as that deal was, could you imagine if Brooklyn somehow gift-wrapped LSU star, Ben Simmons, arguably the only sure thing in the 2016 draft, to Boston?

The reaction in Beantown would probably look something like this.

The only middle ground would be if Brooklyn can be competitive enough to avoid handing over a high lottery pick to the Celtics without mortgaging what’s left of the team’s future. That’s where Lawson comes in. While he’s been a bust in Houston, is it unreasonable to think Lawson could thrive in a zero-pressure situation in Brooklyn where he’d likely get all of the playing time he could handle?

After all, if Jack could have a career resurgence in BK at age 32, why couldn’t Lawson do the same two months removed from his 28th birthday? Would the Nets be willing to part with someone like Thaddeus Young (in the first year of a four-year, $50 million contract) if it meant getting back a package of picks and young parts in return? With nothing much to play for this season, it’s something worth considering.

While Phoenix, Brooklyn and Utah have the most glaring needs at point guard, they aren’t the only teams that could use Lawson’s help. The Dallas Mavericks have been dealing with the instability of Deron Williams’ health and could use a backup option (though last year’s Rajon Rondo debacle could sour them on acquiring players with baggage). The Philadelphia 76ers have been perennial sellers on the trade market for the last half-decade and have used their wealth of cap space to store opposing teams’ unwanted players in the past (most recently, JaVale McGee last year). The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls also have depth concerns at the 1 spot.

Even though the trade deadline is a little over a month away, the Rockets will be hard-pressed to find a better opportunity to move Lawson than in the coming days. Houston currently owns the seventh seed, but at 18-19, there’s clearly work to be done. In the past, teams have used a diminishing asset to acquire a player who helped turn things around. Last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder moved point guard Reggie Jackson in a three-team deal that brought Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin and Steve Novak to town. Even though OKC inevitably missed the playoffs due to a tiebreaker, Kanter’s presence as a low-post scoring option breathed new life into the Thunder’s season.

A similar situation can happen in Houston. With needs on the defensive end as well as holes at power forward and point guard, now is the time for the Rockets to make some moves.

More in Houston Rockets