Ty Lawson‘s name has come up in trade rumors for months, and now it’s looking more and more like Lawson won’t be a member of the Denver Nuggets for much longer. The Nuggets selected Emmanuel Mudiay with the seventh pick in the draft and just inked veteran point guard Jameer Nelson to a three-year deal. Mudiay has shown some flashes of his potential at Las Vegas Summer League (19 points and 11 assists on Sunday), and with where the Nuggets are as a team, there’s little reason to have all three players on the roster (Nuggets also have youngster Erick Green).
Mudiay may be raw, but Denver isn’t a contender in the loaded Western Conference, so it makes sense to give him as much court time as possible now to speed up his development. Nelson is a solid veteran who can help with that process, while Lawson really isn’t that guy. Lawson contributed to the toxic locker-room culture that existed last season under former head coach Brian Shaw, and he’s also had some off-the-court problems. Basically, it’s better for both sides to part ways.
It’s tough to get a feel for what Lawson’s value is at this point. He’s been one of the league’s better point guards and has a very affordable two years, $25.6 million left on his contract. Even during last year’s trying campaign, he averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists and was eighth among point guards in Offensive Real Plus-Minus (he was fifth last season). His diminutive stature hinders him defensively (some lax effort doesn’t help either), but he still brings a lot of offensive value to the floor.
The locker-room stuff and off-the-court troubles depress Lawson’s value, though, and prospective trade suitors know the Nuggets really want to move him. Those teams may be able to wait out Denver and possibly strike a deal where the return isn’t all that great. And at some point, the Nuggets will likely just have to give in.
The point-guard position is deep across the NBA, so there aren’t too many teams desperate for an upgrade. Lawson was linked to the Sacramento Kings and a reunion with George Karl, and Lawson even sent out a video on draft night of him smoking hookah and saying he was going to Sacramento. Of course, the Kings don’t have many great assets outside of DeMarcus Cousins and also signed Rajon Rondo in free agency.
The Houston Rockets would be an intriguing destination, especially after the Rockets basically sat out free agency by simply reaching new deals with a few of their own free agents and adding Marcus Thornton at the minimum. Patrick Beverley is the starting point guard and one of the free agents who got a new deal, but Lawson would be an upgrade and would take some of the ball handling pressure off James Harden. Houston has some young pieces it can dangle in a trade (Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Kostas Papanikolaou), and we know general manager Daryl Morey is always looking to make a splash.
The Philadelphia 76ers have a huge need for a point guard and a ton of draft picks, but would Sam Hinkie want to bring Lawson into that young, impressionable locker room? Giving Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel a point guard like Lawson could be a huge plus, however, Hinkie might not want to cash in any of his assets on a player who might not be thrilled to join a major rebuild.
The Brooklyn Nets just bought out Deron Williams, but the Nets don’t really have future draft assets and just got through several disappointing seasons after making splashy trades. The Indiana Pacers (they want to play faster!), Utah Jazz and New York Knicks are a few others teams who could use a better point guard, but it seems unlikely those teams will swing a deal.
The Nuggets may not find an ideal trade for Lawson, but they should just find the best deal they can get and take it. There’s no place for him in Denver anymore, and he seems more than ready to move on as well.