James Harden, Ty Lawson

The Houston Rockets try to make big moves every offseason in their quest of building a championship team around James Harden. Their latest addition, Ty Lawson, is the kind of player who serves as a game changer, but obviously it’s not that simple.

Lawson, traded by the Denver Nuggets following his second DUI arrest in seven months (one in Denver, one in Los Angeles), might have been a low value transfer because the Nuggets are trying to build something new while Lawson’s run-ins with the law and alcohol problems made it an even more pressing matter regarding his trade, but he’s a very good point guard.

The thing about point guards and the Rockets is that they need to play next to Harden. The most prolific shooting guard in the NBA right now, Harden doesn’t wait for players to create for him. He handles the ball quite a lot, and was 8th last season in the league with a 30.5% usage ratio, with only Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, who played a lot less than him, posting higher numbers.

Into all of this comes Lawson, who might not even be a starter for the Rockets. It’s been a while that the Rockets prefer putting Patrick Beverley next to Harden, to both balance the defensive issue but also to provide a guard who is a good shooter but doesn’t need to handle the ball a lot. Jeremy Lin was pushed out of the lineup and then the team because he wasn’t the kind of point guard the Rockets were looking for: Someone who doesn’t need the ball in his hands most of the time.

Lawson, if you haven’t noticed where this is going, needs the ball in his hands. His usage ratio (22.1%) isn’t as high as Harden’s and he can probably adjust into a role of doing more off the ball work and movement, but this is a more classic point guard, especially in size, which means Harden is going to need to split touches more than he is used to, and maybe prefers.

For now, Harden is only positive regarding Lawson. He’s talking about how he’s more focused than before and he’s providing something the Rockets have been missing. But once the actual season starts, don’t be surprised to see struggles in balancing out the ball sharing ratios between the two players, which should be especially difficult for Harden, who doesn’t like sharing the spotlight.

But all the talk about balancing minutes and responsibilities between the two players won’t matter until we know what Lawson’s punishment by the league will be. The league doesn’t usually administer punishment until after the court cases have been settled. Lawson has a court date on August 20 in Denver, ordered to rehab with the condition that he wouldn’t face charges until he completed his treatment.

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