Sasha Vujacic

Lakers, Nets, Rockets close to completing three-way deal

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According to the one and only Adrain Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (and with multiple sources now confirming), the Lakers, Nets, and Rockets are close to completing a three-way deal. According to Wojnarowski, here’s how the deal would shake out:

Houston Rockets:

Trade: 2012 1st round pick

Receive: G/F Terrence Williams

New Jersey Nets:

Trade: G/F Terrence Williams, F Joe Smith

Receive: 2012 Houston 1st round pick, 2011 Lakers 1st round pick, G Sasha Vujacic

Los Angeles Lakers:

Trade: G Sasha Vujacic, 2011 1st-round pick

Receive: F Joe Smith

The Nets’ motivations for this deal are obvious — in exchange for giving up on Williams’ potential, they received an expiring contract and two future first-round picks, all of which could be assets in a Carmelo Anthony deal.

The Rockets gave up a future first-round pick to take a flier on Williams, who’s as inconsistent as they come but has tremendous potential. (The fact that Williams was recently demoted to the D-League, then averaged a triple-double in three D-League games, tells you all you really need to know about him.) Williams is versatile and athletic, but hasn’t been an efficient player at the NBA level. All of his advanced statistics are terrible, which makes him an odd player for Daryl Morey and Co. to take a flyer on — his PER is 6.71, and the Nets have been 10.75 points per 100 possessions better when Williams is off the floor. Still, I guess Houston believes in Williams’ considerable potential, and they do need to get more athletic on the perimeter.

For the Lakers, this is a straight salary dump. Vujacic’s contract is expiring, but giving him up for Smith will save the Lakers around $8 million when you factor in luxury tax concerns — essentially, they sold a late first-round pick for around $8 million, which isn’t bad. Smith almost definitely won’t be a real part of the Lakers’ rotation, especially with Andrew Bynum back, but with Theo Ratliff out injured a little depth to keep Pau Gasol’s minutes down doesn’t hurt. Plus he’s a good locker-room guy and Vujacic wasn’t really in the rotation anyways.

The deal is not yet finalized, so we’ll keep you updates on new developments as we hear about them.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.