Just hours after the Lakers announced Magic Johnson would be President of Basketball Operations and Rob Pelinka agreed to be the general manager, the new Lakers brass agreed to trade Lou Williams to the Rockets for Corey Brewer and a 2017 first-round pick. That pick should be very late with the Rockets currently sitting in the 27th spot right now. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Magic was the man on the phones to get this done, so props to him.
It’s a pretty clear win-win with the Lakers being sellers and the Rockets looking to get an extra boost in their second unit. Williams is also under contract for next season at a very reasonable $7.0 million. Plus, there were reports of the Wizards, Raptors and Hornets being in on Lou, so it’s a solid get for one of the best offenses in the NBA. Actually, Corey Brewer’s contract is $579K more than Williams next year, so the Lakers will have to absorb that cap hit. Obviously, they’re not built to win next year anyway, so it’s all about the pick here. Let’s break this down for the Rockets.
Lou Williams goes from being in contention for Sixth Man of the Year as arguably the best scorer on his team to being a second or third option on his new team. As far as the basic stats go this season, Williams was averaging 18.6 points, 2.3 boards, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 2.1 turnovers and 2.1 treys on 44.4 percent from the field and 88.4 percent from the line in 24.2 minutes. Here’s what his shot chart looks like this season:
He lives above the break and also gets his own shot a lot. His catch-and-shoot attempts from deep account for 18.3 percent of his shot total while he made 39.6 percent of those. His pullup treys account for 23.4 percent of his total while he’s made 37.4 percent of those, so he can do some serious damage and help the team's efficiency on both of those styles. That has to sound good to coach Mike D’Antoni, general manager Daryl Morey and Harden.
One other great aspect to his game is how well he can get his own shot with Williams being unassisted 65.0 percent of the time. That ranks 25th among the 170 players with at least 30 games and 24 minutes per outing to put him with the upper-echelon scorers. That should be a great help to Eric Gordon and James Harden.
On overall efficiency, Williams has a terrific 60.9 true shooting percentage this season. Why? It’s all about the charity stripe. He's made 88.4 percent from the line and his free throw makes per 48 minutes are just 0.3 behind DeMarcus Cousins for fifth in the NBA. Of course, James Harden is first in both total and per 48 minutes. The Rockets are fifth in the NBA for free throw makes per game and are just 1.3 behind the first-place Suns, so you can expect the Rockets to rise up those ranks with Lou.
One of the interesting parts of this is how often the Rockets will go with three-guard lineups. The Rockets have used their James Harden, Eric Gordon and Patrick Beverley combination for just 122 minutes all year. They have also used Harden, Gordon and Brewer for 93 minutes, so that’s a small positive here. Although, it's somewhat unlikely Rockets would use a three-guard lineup with a big lead late in a game unless the matchup dictated to go small.
As for Williams, he’s also seen plenty of three-guard lineups. The Lakers used a Williams, Jordan Clarkson and Nick Young lineup for 180 minutes, a Williams, Clarkson and Marcelo Huertas combo for 78 minutes, coach Luke Walton went to a Williams, Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell lineup for 66 minutes, Williams was also with Jose Calderon and Clarkson for 37 minutes, and a few other combos along the way. Although, the Lakers trail a heck of a lot more often, so that’s why they’ve gone to so many more three-guard combos. Still, Williams getting run with all those guys is encouraging on his new team.
So what about the usage? Yeah, we all know that pretty 30.0 usage rate so far this season is taking a dive. Don’t forget he absolutely feasted on usage while D’Angelo Russell was out. In fact, Williams only has a 23.0 usage rate in his 167 minutes with DAR. That number is probably a good expectation going forward.
For fantasy, it’s going to be tough to count on Williams early in his tenure. For season-long leagues, he’s sitting at fifth-round value per game, which is likely headed for a big drop to probably around ninth round value. For DFS, his price should also be dropping to the low $4K neighborhood. Although, he will be an interesting target on the nights Eric Gordon misses. If James Harden ever gets a night off, Williams will be the chalkiest of chalk plays.
Let’s move on to Eric Gordon. As mentioned above, he should still see a good amount of minutes, but there’s almost no doubt he’ll be dropping from his 30.5 minutes per game. Plus, his 17.2 points, 2.8 assists and 3.5 treys should also be headed south for the winter/spring.
Gordon has been the main man in the second unit with his 23.7 usage rate overall on the year. Excluding players with fewer than seven minutes per game, the next closest usage rate in the second unit is Montrezl Harrell’s 17.8. Yeah, Williams is a little better than that.
As alluded to, Gordon’s 23.7 usage rate should be dipping. For what it’s worth, check out his on/off splits with James Harden this season:
Yeah, that’s a quite the stark difference. Obviously Williams isn’t quite as impactful on usage rate as Harden, but that attractive little 32.6 usage rate without Harden is absolutely falling into the 20s going forward next to Lou.
One other interesting part of this is how is Gordon going to get his shots. He’s said that his off-the-dribble shots is a big reason why he’s stepped up so much this year, so that is almost certainly dropping with Lou around. The reigning 3-point contest champion boasts a 42.5 percent made on pullup treys to put him in elite company. Although, he does most of his work on catch-and-shoot treys with those accounting for 47.9 percent of his shot total, making 37.2 percent on those shots.
For fantasy, Gordon is probably the biggest loser from this deal. Part of this could be due to how he’s dealt with back injuries for the past month or so, which is troubling given how often he’s been hurt leading up to this season. In his 17 games during the 2017 portion of the season, Gordon has barely cracked value in standard leagues. That makes him a drop candidate in standard leagues unless you need the treys. For DFS, he’s going to be really tough to count on because his scoring and even the other stats should take a hit.
Patrick Beverley isn’t a scorer, so don’t expect him to be affected too much here. His usage rate is basically the same in the EJ-Harden combo, but he has a pristine 71.6 true shooting percentage in that time (NBA Wowy). Yeah, he might slightly fall off from his sixth-round value in his 22 games during 2017, but he should still approach mid-round value.
Could James Harden take a hit? Probably not. He is sitting at 36.6 minutes per game, which is actually down from his 38.1 per game last year. As mentioned above, Williams is also an adept scorer off the ball, so Harden should still be the favorite to hold his assists-per-game crown. Even if Harden is playing off the ball a little, he’s been killer on catch-and-shoot treys at 42.1 percent made — just 12.1 percent of his shot total. He should still be in the Russell Westbrook neighborhood for monster stat line potential and flirt with the No. 1 spot for eight-category leagues.
Besides those guys, there should be a slight drop in output to Trevor Ariza. He’s too valuable on both ends and playing the four is huge for him. Ryan Anderson is a little different. He is a defensive liability, so maybe the Rockets go with Ariza at the four more often. Ryno has lost a lot of value lately, so he’s possibly on thin ice for shallow formats. Chances are DFS owners weren’t looking to these guys too often unless it’s a dream matchup. After that, you can expect guys like Sam Dekker to lose run, too.
The Lakers are a little tougher to predict because they’re not done dealing. The short, short version is that this helps Russell, Clarkson and Brandon Ingram. We’ll see if the Lakers do end up dealing away Nick Young, but he would also be in a better spot if he can stay with the Lakers. We may also see Marcelo Huertas get in the rotation while Jose Calderon is definitely a buyout candidate.
More trades please!