Grading Lou Williams to Houston

By Michael Karapetian
Feb. 22, 2017

        It didn't take long for Earvin "Magic" Johnson to put his stamp on the Los Angeles Lakers franchise by dealing away veteran impact bench scorer to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Corey Brewer and the Rockets 2017 unprotected first round selection, which is slated to be the 27th pick. It didn't affect just these two franchises, however, as the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers are keeping a keen eye on the moves made by the Lakers.

Grade for Houston: B+/A-
         When Mike D'Antoni took the Rockets over, everyone expected a team that played minimal defense while being a juggernaut on the flip side. That is exactly what the Rockets have become and Lou Williams gunning mentality should fit right into the coaches system. His matador defense as well should have a seamless transition, allowing him to contribute in all ways right off the bat.

         However, what makes me iffy about this trade is the Rockets biggest need is size up front for a playoff run. A position which would be harder to fit as they dealt away a solid trade asset with majority of scouts agreeing that the 2017 draft is as deep as one could be. Another reason for doubt is the Denver Nuggets (reportedly) have dropped the asking price for both Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari to just one lottery protected first round selection. Now, Denver most likely would have wanted more (Sam Dekker?) in the move, but both Chandler and Gallinari would have provided the Rockets with a good sized three, that could slide over to the four. Chandler would give a defensive boost, while Gallinari is a better all-around offensive option than Lou Williams. 

Grade for Los Angeles: C+

          The Lakers wanted a pick for Lou Williams, and they got it. Williams was one of the few bright spots for a franchise that is used to greatness, however, his age just didn't fit in with the Lakers plans for the future. Dealing away an instant scorer is also going to help the Lakers chances of increasing ping pong balls to keep their pick in the top-three and preventing it from going to the 76ers.

         And that is the beginning of my dislike for the Purple & Gold in this move. If Los Angeles' pick ends up out of the top three, Philadelphia will receive it AND Orlando will receive the Lakers 2019 selection. If the Los Angeles pick ends up in the top three, then, Philadelphia will receive a 2018 first round selection, that is unconditional, while the Magic will have to settle for two second round selections. 

         Now, of course, the Lakers losing as much as possible this year could be the difference between giving up an extra first round pick or not, which is why this deal makes sense. Might as well give up one unconditional first, than a mid lottery and another one that could be lottery.

        However, in that scenario, the Lakers are going to be up against the ropes trying to clinch a playoff slot in 2018 to prevent Philadelphia from getting a top pick then. With D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson all being relatively young, and a top three pick (Lonzo Ball anyone?), they have the pieces that could inch towards a perennial contender. Potential is a scary thing, as the Chicago Bulls (Ben Gordon-Kirk Hinrich-Luol Deng), Oklahoma City Thunder (Russell Westbrook - James Harden - Coward Durant) and the Portland Trail Blazers (Brandon Roy-LaMarcus Aldridge)  had potential dynasties ruined for various reasons.

        Giving up the extra ~$7.5M in cap space due to Brewer could cost a reliable role player, which could make the world's difference, despite the last front office blowing cap space on Timofey Mozgov & Luol Deng.