Rockets to trade Ty Lawson?

ty-lawson-rockets-tradeWhen the Houston Rockets traded for Ty Lawson last July, they thought they were getting a big upgrade at point guard. After all, Lawson averaged 15.2 PPG and 9.6 APG as a member of the Denver Nuggets last year. Unfortunately for the Rockets, Lawson has only been a shell of his former self, averaging 5.9 PPG and 4.2 APG while shooting just 32.9 percent from the field.

So it should be little surprise that Houston is now looking to trade Lawson, who’s struggled to fit in with his new squad. And it doesn’t help that the Rockets are off to a poor 13-14 start after making the Western Conference Finals last year. But will Houston ultimately pull the trigger just one third through the regular season? Or will they wait to see if Lawson eventually turns things around? Let’s discuss the matter below by covering both why the Rockets should and shouldn’t trade the 27-year-old.

Lawson has not played well alongside James Harden

Perhaps the toughest thing for Lawson has been fitting in alongside shooting guard James Harden, who dominates the ball. In Denver, Lawson was used to running the show, as evidenced by his 9.6 APG last season. But in Houston, he merely brings the ball up the court while most of the offense runs through Harden. Obviously Harden isn’t going anywhere; so if they can get something back for Lawson they are likely to jump at a deal.

This situation goes both ways too because the rumor is that Lawson isn’t happy with his role in Houston right now. The matter is only made worse by the fact that he’s in a contract year and if things don’t turn around soon, Lawson will have much less value in the free-agent market. That said, the 5’11” point guard is unlikely to fight the opportunity to showcase his talents on a different team.

It’s unclear if Houston would get much back for Lawson

ty-lawson-rockets-trade-1The Rockets are only beginning to shop their unhappy point guard, but it’s doubtful that they’ll find many interested teams. Lawson has played really badly this season, and his value only further diminishes when you consider his two DUI’s — the last one earning him a two-game suspension.

Another aspect to consider here is that Lawson’s $13 million contract is up following this season, which would give Houston tremendous wiggle room in the offseason. They could use the cap space to find the perfect fit for their team while it’s still a championship contender. So unless the front office finds a good player in exchange for Lawson, they’re unlikely to give him and his expiring contract up.

The Rockets will be making a Trade of Some Kind

As ESPN reports, Houston is very excited about being able to trade for restricted free agents. Over 110 players who signed contracts last summer will be eligible for trades come Jan. 15. And general manager Daryl Morey, who thought he already had a championship-caliber roster, will be one of the most-eager execs looking to deal.

Lawson will certainly be one player whom the Rockets are willing to part with for the right assets. However, they’ve also reportedly talked about dealing Corey Brewer and Terrence Jones for disgruntled Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris. It’s unclear exactly who Houston will end up landing when Jan. 15 comes around. But you can guarantee that they’ll tweak their roster in some way so they can compete for the title again.

Clippers vs Rockets Game 7 Betting: Can Houston close at Home?

houston-josh-smithOnly eight teams in history have come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Playoffs – and the Houston Rockets are looking to be the ninth. Houston seemed hopelessly lost while losing games 3 and 4 in blowout fashion to the L.A. Clippers. However, they’ve proven to be very resilient, coming back from a 19-point deficit in Game 6 to force one final game.

This is certainly bad news for the Clippers, who must now travel to Houston and try to win the series that they seemed to have in the bag after going up 3-1 in L.A. The good news: Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul are a perfect 3-0 in Game 7s. Furthermore, they’ve proven that they can win big road games, having done so twice in San Antonio during the first round.

The stage is set for one very intense final contest between these two teams. So let’s look at the Clippers vs Rockets Game 7 betting line, then discuss who has the advantage:

Game Time: Sunday (May 17th) at 3:30pm ET on ESPN Betting LIne:
L.A. Clippers -2.5 (-110)        Over 219.5 (-110)
Houston (-110)                      Under 219.5 (-110)

It’s interesting that the Clippers are still favored on our betting line, despite the fact that they’re playing on the road. But are they deserving of the favorite billing – especially after losing a 19-point lead with just 14 and a half minutes left!? Let’s answer this question by looking at some key factors.

History favors the Rockets

If there’s one big thing going in Houston’s favor, it is the simple fact that almost 80% of home teams win Game 7s. Of course, it isn’t like Houston was the resounding number-two seed in the Western Conference; they earned this honor on the final day of the regular season in a scenario that tested the math buffs. But the simple reality is that the final game will be played at the Toyota Center, in front of the Rockets’ fans.

chris-paul-injury…But the Clippers are Amazing on the Road

If there’s one team that is totally road-proof in these playoffs, it is definitely the Clippers. They won a franchise-record 26 road games – more wins than five NBA teams had total – and the two games they captured in San Antonio were while facing 2-1 and 3-2 deficits. It’s hard to discount home-court advantage and the 80% figure, but it’s even harder to look past this tough L.A. team.

…But History really hates the Clippers

The L.A. Clippers have been around for 45 years, and in those 45 years, they have NEVER reached the Western Conference Finals. Some might call this extra motivation for Griffin, Paul and Jordan to push their team past the Rockets tomorrow night; others might say that they’ll lose and the Clippers curse will continue. After all, this is a team that’s become accustomed to first and second-round playoff exits over the years – that is, when they’re not suffering through embarrassing regular seasons.

corey-brewerHouston’s Bench has stepped up, Clippers Bench sucks

James Harden had one of his worst games of the season (5-for-20 shooting) and spent most of the fourth quarter on the bench with an illness. This gave way to Houston’s bench to provide some illness of their own, with Corey Brewer pouring in 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting, and Terrence Jones adding 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Mix in 19 points from unheralded starter Josh Smith, on 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc, and you can see why Houston was able to outplay L.A. down the stretch. On the other side, the Clippers bench once again had a horrid performance, shooting 6-for-22 from the floor.

Chris Paul is looking Healthy

On the bright side, Paul has looked good on the floor after missing the first two games of the series with a hamstring injury. He played exceptionally well in Game 6, hitting 10-of-19 from the floor and making 10 out of 11 free throws to total 31 points. Blake Griffin was also great, making 12-of-20 shots and scoring 28 overall. If they can keep up this torrid performance and actually get some bench scoring, then it’s going to be the Clippers advancing.

Final Score Prediction: L.A. 109 – Houston 105

Clippers vs. Rockets Game 3 Betting: Chris Paul Still Out?

clippers-vs-rockets-game-3Down double digits in the third quarter, the Houston Rockets looked like they were headed to an 0-2 deficit on their home court. However, the Rockets scraped back into Game 2 against the L.A. Clippers and prevailed 115-109. Now, action heads to Los Angeles for Game 3, which we’ll discuss below. But first, here’s a look at the Game 3 betting line:

Game Time: May 8th (Friday) at 10:30pm ET on ESPN Betting Line:
L.A. Clippers -4 (-110)       Over 217 (-110)
Houston Rockets (-110)    Under 217 (-110)

The Rockets were handled pretty easily in the first game of this series, falling 1117-101. And as mentioned before, they were struggling in Game 2 before coming back, thanks to James Harden scoring 16 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter. The MVP runner-up didn’t have his best shooting night, hitting only 7-of-17 shots overall, and 3-of-10 behind the arc. However, he was phenomenal from the free-throw line, going a perfect 15-for-15.

As a team, Houston made 42 out of 64 free throws – both franchise playoff records. Hack-a-Howard worked to perfection since he made only 8 out of 21 free throws. But what hurt L.A. was the rest of the Rockets making 34 out of 41 (82.9%). Howard more than made up for the bad free-throw shooting by scoring 24 points on an assortment of alley-oop dunks, along with 16 boards and four blocked shots.

For the Clippers, Blake Griffin’s early-game domination, 26 points in the first half, helped L.A. take control early. However, with Chris Paul still out with his hamstring injury and DeAndre Jordan in foul trouble, the Clippers couldn’t hang on to their lead. So what can they do to win? On the other side, what can the Rockets do to make it two in a row?

L.A.: Chris Paul needs to get Healthy, Jamal Crawford needs to hit Shots

chris-paul-injuryAustin Rivers has done a decent job, and Jamal Crawford not so much, in relief of Chris Paul. CP3 missed the first two games, and nobody can fill his ability to distribute the ball on this team. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee on when he’ll be ready to play. Regarding Paul’s status for Friday night’s game, head coach Doc Rivers said, ”My guess is it’s going to come down to the eye and feel test. With hamstrings, there really is no gauge.”

Going back to Crawford, he’s largely been really bad in this series. After committing 6 turnovers in Game 1, he shot just 6-of-22 in the second game, including 1-for-8 from behind the arc. He’s never made a high percentage of shots, but Crawford is hitting just 36.7% of his attempts in this series.

Houston: Must make Outside Shots, also play Small Ball More

trevor-arizaAs a team, the Rockets have really struggled with their shooting – especially behind the three-point line. They only made 5-of-26 three’s (19.2%) in Game 2, preceded by 11-for-33 in the first contest. This is not a team that overwhelms opponents inside like a Memphis or Chicago, so they need to shoot at least around 35% from beyond the arc to continue competing.

The other thing, Houston might want to consider playing small ball more often. When they were behind in the second half, coach Kevin McHale put his smaller lineup in and they took over the game. That’s not to say the Clippers won’t be more ready for small ball in Game 3. However, Trevor Ariza is good enough defensively to slow Blake Griffin down while the smaller lineup jump-starts the offense.

Game 3 Prediction: Houston 109 – L.A. 103

Anthony Davis keeping Pelicans in 2015 Playoff Race

anthony-davis-nba-best-playerThere’s no debate about what the most-competitive division is in the NBA right now. The Southwest Division in the Western Conference currently features the number two, four, six and seven playoff seeds. And the only team in the Southwest Division that’s not currently qualified for postseason? The New Orleans Pelicans at 33-28.

Assuming New Orleans were in the East, they’d be the number-six seed and comfortably ahead of seventh-seeded Miami (27-33). But they’re not and so they’re going to have to scrape to surpass Oklahoma City (34-8) for the West’s final spot. And if they do accomplish this feat, the team owes a huge debt to Anthony Davis.

The 21-year-old is currently averaging 24.2 PPG, 10.3 RPG and 2.8 BPG while shooting 54.5% from the field. People can debate back and forth about whether James Harden, Steph Curry or LeBron James are the league’s MVP right now. However, nobody is more important to their team than Davis.

Take last night for instance, where the 6’10” forward led his team past the Detroit Pistons by a score of 88-85. He played 42 minutes, scored 39 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked eight shots. The end of the game was just as significant as the numbers, where he scored two of New Orleans’ final three baskets and disrupted Reggie Jackson’s potential game-tying three. It’s pretty easy to do the math here; without Davis on the court, the Pelicans were definitely losers.

anthony-davis-vs-pistons“He had one of the most well-rounded games I have ever seen, defensively, offensively, hitting shots, (and) affecting the game in multiple ways,” Pistons veteran forward Anthony Tolliver said after the game. “He is a special player.”

The only chink in this special player’s armor right now is a recent injury that kept him sidelined for five games. In fact, Wednesday night’s contest against the Pistons was just his first game back since the injury. And it was obvious that rust wasn’t an issue as Davis completely dominated all facets of the game. If only he could shoot three-pointers too…

It’s doubtful that the Pelicans will also be expecting Davis to fill this duty too. However, they are certainly going to need all of his contributions down the stretch as the race for the eighth playoff seed heats up. There’s honestly not a player in the league who can impact the game on both ends of the floor as much as Davis. And at 21 with just two years of experience in the league, it’s hard to fathom how good he’ll eventually be.

But first thing’s first, and that will be guiding New Orleans to their first playoff appearance in years. The team’s next six contests are all winnable, with a tough home game against Memphis mixed in there. Then things really get tough with games @Phoenix, @Golden State, @LA Clippers and vs Houston. Obviously this stretch won’t be easy, but with Davis back and healthy again, the Pelicans shouldn’t fear their ability to compete with any team.

Pelicans Betting: Is Anthony Davis the NBA’s Best Player?

anthony-davis-nba-best-playerAlthough Anthony Davis is a very talented player, few people would’ve called in the league’s best before the 2014-15 NBA season began. But now, one month into the season, we need only look at Davis’ numbers to throw him in the discussion that begins with LeBron, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and James Harden.

Considering player efficiency rating alone (PER), which measures per-minute performance, Davis is unquestionably the best – in fact, it’s not even close! Through 13 games, the New Orleans Pelicans forward has a 34.52 PER, compared to Dallas’ Brandan Wright, who ranks second with a 29.89 PER.

Of course, Wright isn’t exactly in the discussion for the top NBA player, so let’s take a look at how the aforementioned greats rank in this category:

3. Stephen Curry – 28.84 PER
5. Chris Paul – 27.70 PER
8. LeBron James – 25.12 PER

Okay, so we’ve established that nobody is better than Davis when it comes to making the most out of minutes. But as Wright shows, even unheralded players can rank high here, so let’s look at pure numbers.
anthony-davis-nba-best-player-1In this category, what Davis is doing might be even more remarkable. He’s averaging 25.4 PPG (2nd in NBA), 11.2 rebounds (7th), 2.08 steals (4th), 3.38 blocks (1st) and shooting 56.5% from the field. As ESPN’s Marc Stein tweeted, if Davis can keep this up, he’ll join some pretty outstanding players:

Stein – If Anthony Davis can average 25/10/3.5 for the season, he’ll join Kareem, The Admiral, Hakeem The Dream & Patrick Ewing in an exclusive club

When the unibrow-sporting, Kentucky product came into the league, many looked at him as an ultra-talented shot blocker who was raw in other areas. Moreover, at 6’10”, 220 pounds, it was assumed that Davis would need far more mass to be effective. Well he’s put on the muscle, but his skills were already shining in his first two years. Now that Davis has begun his third NBA campaign, he’s become a superstar…at least in terms of numbers and respect around the league anyways.

What’s tough for Davis is that he plays in the crowded Western Conference on an average team. New Orleans stands at 7-6 right now, which ranks them 10th out of 15 teams in the West. As has been the case over the past few years, simply having a winning record isn’t good enough to make the Western Conference playoffs. And as long as the Pelicans stay out of the postseason picture, Davis’ talents will largely go unnoticed.

So while he’s the best player in terms of all-around numbers, the 21-year-old still needs to produce wins in order to be mentioned with the LeBron’s, Paul’s and Harden’s of the league.

This is definitely the best chance that Davis has had to win in his short career. New Orleans features a strong lineup that includes PG Jrue Holiday, SG Eric Gordon, forwards Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson, and C Omar Asik. So it’s not like they are short on talent. However, this is also a young team without anybody who’s been in serious playoff battles. So as the Pelicans improve, Davis’ legend will grow.

Phoenix Suns Guard Archie Goodwin poised to be Breakout Rookie

archie-goodwin-1When the 2013 NBA Draft ended, few people were focused on Archie Goodwin. After all, the University of Kentucky product was only picked 29th overall, and he wasn’t expected to do much, given that he was just 18 years old at the time. But then the Summer League came and everything quickly changed for Goodwin.

The 6’5″ combo guard averaged 13.3 PPG and 3.3 RPG during his seven-game stint in Las Vegas. Perhaps the most telling stat behind Goodwin’s Summer League success was that he hit 57% of his three-point attempts. This is quite an accomplishment for somebody who made less than 30% of their three-point shots in college.

Aside from putting up good numbers, Goodwin has also impressed league observers with his controlled confidence. “It wasn’t a surprise to me how well I played,” he said when discussing the Summer League. “It was a surprise to everybody else. I just feel like I got the opportunity to do the things I was able to do and I showcased it.

archie-goodwin-2“It wasn’t what I learned about myself. It was more or less what I showed everybody else. I was showing everybody else I could do more things than they thought I could.” Goodwin later added, “I always feel like I’m the best player on the court no matter who’s on the court. It’s just a matter of me taking care of opportunities.”

Of course, as NBA fans know, lighting up the Summer League against a bunch of rookies and roster hopefuls is one thing. But competing against the likes of Kobe Bryant and James Harden is an entirely different thing. Star guards like these are used to handling upstart rookies such as Goodwin. And even though the recently-turned 19-year-old has an exceptional ability to get to the basket, he’s going to need more than this to compete with the best.

Goodwin’s new coach, Jeff Hornacek, hit on this topic in a recent interview about his new rookie. “He’s got that ability to get to the basket,” he said before the Summer League. “But when he really attacks the basket, not just think shot. He’s got to think ‘is it open for the shot?’ If not, do something else.

archie-goodwin-3“And those are things that are a little different in the NBA. Things collapse a little bit quicker than in college. In college, once you make the turn those guys can pretty much get to the basket with no problem. In this league, they get around that turn and all of sudden, in their heads they’re thinking “I’m gonna get to the basket” and all of a sudden it’s closed off.”

Obviously Goodwin showed this summer that he’s capable of more than just a quick first step and ability to drive. The 57% clip in which he hit three’s in Vegas shows an improving outside shot. Plus the Arkansas native is a talented and willing defending – a factor which is guaranteed to earn him playing time on the Suns.

It’s quite possible that Goodwin could even step into a starting shooting guard role if he develops early on. The only other shooting guards on the Phoenix Suns roster include P.J. Tucker (6.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG), Malcolm Lee (4.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG) and Gerald Green (7.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG).

None of these guys are exactly All-Stars, so the opportunity is definitely there if Goodwin can seize it. He just has to prove that he can keep hitting outside shots during the regular season and show a nice touch on his floater.