As Charles Barkley once said, "I didn't even know he was still in the league!" T.J. Ford came out of Texas University as the No. 8 draft pick, he was a little undersized, but he had dashing speed which would enable him to play pretty well in his first season. His athletic ability alone enabled him to get up and down the court with blazing speed. However, as mother nature progressed, Ford regressed. He is now a backup and tiny contributor to an otherwise solid Spurs team, averaging just 4.2 points per game and 3.8 assists. Despite the fact that he is only in his seventh year in the league, Ford has lost the zip on his speed and is now only a below average point guard because he can't play in a half-court set very well. Is Ty Lawson doomed to follow a similar path?
If you told any NBA fan who was a better player in their first 3 seasons, many people would say Ty Lawson - but that isn't exactly true. Their stat lines are very similar through 3 seasons and Ty has shown no giant leaps this year to prove otherwise. Let us take a look at their stats from the first three seasons (Lawson hasn't played out this season all the way yet, but they will give you an idea of how similar they are as players).
T.J. Ford: PPG | Asts | REBS | MIN
03-04: 7.1 | 6.5 | 3.2 | 26.8
04-05: 12.2 | 6.6 | 4.3 | 35.5
05-06: 14.0 | 7.9 | 3.1 | 29.9
Ty Lawson: PPG | Asts | REBS | MIN
09-10: 8.3 | 3.1 | 1.9 | 20.2
10-11 : 11.7 | 4.7 | 2.6 | 26.3
11-12: 15.8 | 6.4 | 3.5 | 34.3
As you can see, there isn't that much leeway between Lawson and T.J. Ford, you could easily argue that Ford contributed very well as a passer given that he played for a pretty mediocre Milwaukee Bucks team in his first two years and a decent Toronto Raptors team in his third year, so he didn't really have the team around him that Lawson is gifted with, yet Lawson has quite average assist numbers.
Now, Ford was thought of in higher praise coming out of college compared to Lawson (I am not sure the reasoning here given Ford is only an inch taller). Granted Ford did have a career threatening injury in his first year as a player, but he did fully recover relatively shortly after that. The point here is that Ford with his style of play was the reason he was and still gets injured a lot, and we are starting to see the injury bug creep its way onto Ty Lawson. Lawson running up and down the court and George Karl giving him all that burn will no doubt result In Lawson and his miles being burned up very shortly, potentially becoming a similar player to what Ford is in only 4-5 years down the road. Ford would have been fine in his third year as your 4th best starter, contributing the ball well and being a solid point guard, but if he was your second best player, you were looking at a possible 8th seed berth and a mediocre draft pick. Stiffs here claim that Lawson and Gallo are a second rate Durant/Westbrook, which is not something to be ashamed of because we have more depth than the rest of the Thunder do, however, is Lawson really the guy you want to be your second man? Is he really nearly as good as Westbrook?
I don't think so. I like Lawson, I really do. However, it needs to be said that Lawson is not anywhere near Westbrook's league. In fact, he was right where T.J Ford was in his third year, albeit not as great a passer and despite his higher FG% (deceptively high since most of his points come from layups) Lawson seems to be too timid to take the jump shot and is too shy to take the three pointer that defenses will give him all night long. Defenders will give Ty Lawson the "Rajon Rondo" treatment, so to speak.
Is Lawson doomed to crash and burn early in his career? Stiffs keep saying we need to push the pace all the time, and run the court every single chance we get. All this does is hinder Lawson and his development as a playmaker in a half-court offense. Running the court in basketball in like running the ball in football, there are no set plays really. You just run behind the linemen, find the open gap and go as far as you can go. There isn't really anything to say about it, no details or complex strategy, you just run the ball. Now half-court offense is more like passing, as a quarterback, you have to remember your go-to route, you have to improvise if the CB plays inside if the route is a slant, you have to check down to your FB or HB for a pass if your go-to man isn't open, or your other receiver running his curl route has a FS lurking to intercept the ball, and you have to do all of this while remembering where every player is AND you only have 4-5-6 seconds to do it while having 300 LB behemoths trying to clobber you to the ground. The Passing game is strategic and quarterbacks are usually not ready until 3-4 years into their career and even then, only 2-3 men in the NFL can excel as a quarterback.
The Point guard is a lot like the quarterback in basketball, he needs to know which sets to run, he needs to know when to give the ball to each player. If all he is doing is running first, like MIchael Vick, and looking for the set-play second, that will hinder his effectiveness down the road. If Lawson continues to play like this, not only will he crash and not be effective in 5 years down the road as the backup point guard to the 2016 Indiana Pacers, but he will be looked at as the reason why the depth friendly Nuggets couldn't get past the first round of the playoffs, again.