Rockets GM Daryl Morey is no stranger to risks and splashy moves, and Houston’s trade for Ty Lawson represents both. Lawson was arrested last week on suspicion of DUI, his second such arrest in six months. Still, he’s finished third in the NBA in assists per game each of the past two seasons, an accomplishment that comes amid the league’s golden age of point guards. Lawson will make more than $12.404MM this season, but coupled with Patrick Beverley‘s affordable new four-year deal for about $23MM total, Houston gained depth at a key position for a reasonable price.
It’s all part of an effort to win the franchise’s first championship in more than two decades, which prompts the question of the day: Are the Rockets legitimate title contenders now?
It wouldn’t be altogether difficult to support the argument that they were in the championship mix even before the Lawson deal, since they had the second seed in the Western Conference entering the playoffs last season and made it to the conference finals. However, the rest of the Western elite improved this summer. The Spurs landed LaMarcus Aldridge and David West. The Clippers snatched DeAndre Jordan back from the Mavs, signed Paul Pierce and lured Josh Smith away from the Rockets. The Thunder are poised to return to contention with a healthy Kevin Durant and a full season of Enes Kanter. The Warriors kept most of their 67-win championship team together. LeBron James and the Cavs loom even if Houston can escape the West.
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