It didn’t take Magic Johnson long to put his stamp on the Los Angeles Lakers as their new President of Basketball Operations, as he sent Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for Corey Brewer and Houston’s unprotected 2017 first round draft pick.
Houston had been looking for ways to add some more offensive firepower at the guard position. Despite James Harden playing at an MVP level, Eric Gordon being a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year and Patrick Beverley providing solid production, the Rockets were still a guard short. Neither Tyler Ennis nor Bobby Brown had stepped up to take the backup point guard minutes and that had caused the previously listed trio to carry a very heavy minutes load. Brewer had seen some time at the shooting guard spot, but was more of a backup three behind Trevor Ariza.
Williams had been performing at a high level for the Lakers, scoring a career-high 18.6 PPG off the bench. His PER, True Shooting % and Offensive Rating are all career-bests as well. He was also considered a Sixth Man of the Year contender like Gordon.
Williams will further add to the scoring punch Houston has off the bench, combining with Gordon, Nene, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell to form one of the league’s best second units. Williams is also a terrific fit in the Houston system, as he loves to push the pace, attack early in the shot clock and he generally takes most of his shot in the paint or from behind the arc. On nights when Gordon or Harden don’t have it going, or Mike D’Antoni needs more scoring than Beverley provides, he now has a weapon to turn to in Williams.
Another win for Houston in the deal is that the acquisition of Williams allows them to rest Gordon, Beverley and even Harden more if they need to. The D’Antoni system can be very taxing on players, as they are generally asked to play heavy minutes and to play at a high pace. The Rockets looked visibly tired in some sloppy losses leading up to the All-Star break, so adding a bit more depth is very helpful.
Lastly, Houston actually saved a little bit of money this year and next with this trade. Williams is at $7 million flat for this year and next, while Brewer is owed $7.6 million for 16-17 and $7.5 million for 17-18. Every little bit helps for a contender when they are looking to add talent. And the first round pick saves a bit on the payroll as well, and with it projected to be in the late 20s, the Rockets are unlikely to miss out on a franchise changing player at that point in the draft.
Grade for Houston: A-
Los Angeles had made it known they were willing to move Williams before Magic Johnson took over, as he was a luxury for a team at the bottom of the Western Conference. Despite his excellent play, the Lakers are probably better served giving Williams' minutes to younger players who are part of their core going forward.
This trade should accomplish two goals. First, the aforementioned extra minutes open up for younger guards like D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. The Lakers can also slide Brandon Ingram down to the shooting guard spot on occasion as well. Those three are guys the Lakers are building around and they can use all the playing time they can get, to figure out who fits where and with who.
The second goal is grow their asset base. The Lakers are staring a very real scenario in the face of losing both their 2017 first round pick and their 2019 first round pick. If Los Angeles finishes fourth or lower in the draft order, the 2017 pick conveys to Philadelphia. That would also force the Lakers to convey their 2019 pick to Orlando. If the Lakers finish 1-3 in the draft order, they keep their 2017 pick and instead deliver 2018 to Philadelphia, and their 2017 and 2018 second round picks to Orlando. If the Lakers were to lose two first round picks, it is nice to have one in the coffers to somewhat replace it. Even if they retain the picks, a rebuilding team can always use an extra first rounder.
As far as Brewer goes, he will have little value on the court to the Lakers. He’s likely to be behind Ingram, Nick Young and Luol Deng on the wing depth chart. There is also a chance Brewer and LA could agree to a buyout that would free him up to move to a contender’s bench. Either way, this trade was more about the pick than the player for the Lakers and they did a solid job to get a first round pick for a luxury asset at this point in their season.
Grade for Los Angeles: B+