The 2014 Houston Rockets had a very successful 2014-2015 season.
They beat the Los Angeles Clippers and came within a few games of an NBA Finals appearance. Once the dust settled, the Rockets seemed to be in a tough spot for next season.
They lost Josh Smith to LA, and outside of a recovering Patrick Beverly and an aging Pablo Prigioni, the Rockets had very little help on the guard side.
That changed in a big way when they pulled a classic buy-low trade with the Denver Nuggets. They snagged embattled point guard Ty Lawson.
The rise and fall of Ty Lawson happened very quickly. Last season, he was great.
Averaging over nine assists per game, he was one of the few bright spots on an awful, dysfunctional and utterly listless 2015 Denver Nuggets team. A few months ago, he was still viewed as a top flight point guard.
But, when you get two DUIs in one offseason, it's going to be tough to keep your current job, no matter how good you are.
Ty Lawson found that out the hard way, as he was traded to the Houston Rockets. At the end of the day, for basketball purposes, Lawson should be ecstatic. He left a potentially awkward situation with Denver now that Emmanuel Mudiay looks ready to take over.
But, what was the rush to trade Lawson?
To me, this was a great buy-low moment for the Rockets. I also thought it was a bit of a panic move by the Nuggets.
Let's look at the specifics and how it affects both teams.
Denver Nuggets Trade Grade: C-
The Nuggets get: Kostas Papanikolaou, Pablo Prigioni, Joey Dorsey, Nick Johnson and a protected first to Denver
This was simply not enough in return for a very good point guard in his prime. All-star-level point guards do not grow on trees.
I understand it was essential for the Nuggets to unload a problematic situation and try to regroup as quickly as possible.
But, I don't think that's a reason to pull the trigger on the first deal that comes to the table just because it has a first-round pick attached.
On the surface, getting Papanikolaou and a first-round pick is not a terrible return, but think about where this pick will likely land.
The Rockets will seemingly be a playoff team next year. So, at best, this will be a mid-round pick, and at (probably) worst, Denver will get a pick from Houston in the late-20s.
Papanikolaou has some talent, but he is not a guy who will turn your team around. If I'm Denver, I'm demanding a guy like Terrence Jones plus that pick, or I'm looking elsewhere.
Jones is an impact player who will help your team right away. A late, first-round pick and spare parts will not do that.
Houston Rockets Trade Grade: A
The Rockets get: Ty Lawson
This was a steal for the Rockets. They gave up no core players to make this deal happen, and they get a top-tier point guard who can come in and immediately improve the team.
He is a willing passer and can definitely relieve some offensive stress from James Harden.
Losing Josh Smith this offseason will hurt the Rockets, but they still have Terrence Jones and have added a significant offensive upgrade from Patrick Beverly.
Granted, Lawson could have some deeper issues that may unfold over the course of his career, but basketball wise, this was a home run for the Rockets. They got better without sacrificing short- or long-term assets.
You never like to give up a first-round pick, but remember this: With splits of 15.2 PPG and 9.6 assist per game last season, there's no pre-DUI chance that a trade partner would have been able to land Lawson for less than two first-round picks or some combination of picks and actual talent.
The risk was certainly worth the reward in this case, and once again, Daryl Morey looks like a magician.
Hats off to you, Mr. Morey.