The day the Nuggets bid adieu to Chauncey Billups - Ty Lawson, in just his second NBA season, was appointed to fill his shoes. The 23 year-old guard didn't disappoint as he ran, literally, away with the job. With Billups the Nuggets were a walk it up half-court team and with Lawson the Nuggets were once again the go-go team that fans of the franchise are more used to watching.
5'11’’ 195 lbs.
Turns 24-years-old November 3, 2011
Experience: The 2011-12 season will be Lawson's 3rd in the NBA.
Contract status: Lawson has 1 year and roughly $1.65 million remaining on his deal with a team option year for the 2012-13 season for $2.5 million and a qualifying offer for the 2013-14 season for $3.6 million.
Overview of 2010-11 season:
Lawson started out the season backing up 14 year veteran Billups. Not many in Nuggets Nation expected Lawson to finish the season as the Nuggets starting point guard or the team's most reliable free throw shooter, but both happened this past season. Denver lost their native son and team leader and underwent a radical change at the point guard spot as Lawson's speed made Billups look like he was running in white mud (Whoa, what happened to you? Did you fall into some mud or something? Yeah, I did. And now I'm gonna be famous because I'm the only one in the world who knows where you can find white mud.)
Not only did Lawson continue to show he could be a difference maker by using his incredible speed, but he continued to have success out on the perimeter. In his rookie campaign he shot an impressive 41% from three-point land going 34-83. His shooting percentage stayed about the same at 40.4% this past season, but the great part is that he doubled his makes and attempts (roughly) by going 69-171 from deep. Lawson also showed a signs of implementing a pull-up jumper into his game that kept his defenders on edge. When the team was running with Lawson, the Nuggets were very hard to beat.
Lawson played in 80 regular season games last year and in all five of Denver's playoff games.
Minutes: 26.3 career-high (23.6 career)
FG: 50.3% (50.7% career)
FT: 76.4% (76.2%)
Free Throw attempts per game: 2.8 career high (2.5)
Three-point: 40.4% (40.6%)
Three-point attempts: 2.1 per game (1.8)
Steals: 1.00 per game (0.9)
Assists: 4.7 per game a career-high (4.0)
Rebounds: 2.6 per game, career high (2.3)
Offensive boards: 0.8 (0.8)
Defensive boards: 1.8 career-high (1.5)
Scoring: 11.7 ppg up from 8.3 ppg in his rookie season (10.2)
Positives / What he brings:
Obviously Lawson has speed like few in the NBA possess. When Lawson is running and when his teammates are running with him, the Nuggets are a very effective team. The problem is that teams slow things down in the post-season, so Lawson's running style must be a commitment his 'mates are willing to go through with him and also he must continue to work on his half court capabilities. If you follow Lawson on Twitter then you know he's a pretty humorous guy and George Karl has talked about Lawson's joking ways as well - so I would think his teammates enjoy him on a personal level. Lawson has shown he is a three-point shooter and a good free throw shooter as well. While his teammates struggled at the foul line against the Thunder, Lawson finished the series shooting 21-23 from the freebie line - good for 91.3%. Lawson showed he's a very capable and often creative passer and averaged 4.7 assists a game last season, good for 32nd in the NBA (tied with Kobe Bryant), but after the Billups trade Lawson averaged 6.8 assists for 25 games and that would have earned him the 14th spot in the league standings right in front of Houston's Kyle Lowry (6.7) and behind league leader Steve Nash who averaged 11.4 dimes.
Negatives / What needs to improve:
Lawson's humorous side could be a bit of a negative thing if it keeps him from being able to assert himself as the leader of the team. Typically it's the point guard who leads the team and it's up to Lawson to control the offense and dictate the pace of the game. When Lawson was aggressive and looking to run, the Nuggets were in good hands. When Lawson gives up the ball when he crosses half-court and settles into the corner, the Nuggets get themselves into trouble. The pull-up jumper that Lawson showed at times needs to become a bigger part of his game. Speed is nice, but it wont last forever and Ty needs to keep implementing different tricks into his bag. His assist numbers are nice and I expect them to improve and be more on pace with his post-CB1 numbers of 6.8 or higher. For two seasons Lawson has shot 76.2% from the foul line - those numbers need to see dramatic improvement as he showed in the playoffs he has the ability to shoot very well from the foul line. I'd like to see Lawson average 84%-86% or better from the free throw line - which would put him in the same company as fellow point guards Derrick Rose, Andre Miller, Jose Juan Barea, Deron Williams, and Russell Westbrook. And with a starting role and more minutes he should see an improvement in free throw attempts as well and they should be well above his 2.8 attempts he averaged last season.
Outlook for 2011-12 season:
Lawson will get his first taste of averaging over 30 minutes per game next season, for an entire season. The Nuggets are in very good hands and the team will go where Ty takes them. The NBA has trended towards a league that is built much more on athletic players than it is on sheer size and brute force - the game is there for Lawson's taking.
Last season the Nuggets found a lot of success with the former North Carolina guard. Using 82games.com's Top Five-Man Floor Units stats we can see where the Nuggets had positive results with their lineup combinations. Let's take a look at some of the stats:
The Nuggets' best +/- Five-Man Floor Units with post-trade lineups:
1.) +41 with Lawson, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, and Nene (51.5 minutes).
2.) +25 with Lawson, Felton, J.R. Smith, Al Harrington, Chris Andersen (36.1 minutes).
3.) +12 with Felton, Smith, Chandler, Harrington, and Chris Andersen (57.4 minutes).
The common guy above is actually Felton, but Lawson was in both lineups that featured the best +/- stats with post-trade lineups. Now let's take a look at another grouping...
The highest minutes Five-Man Floor Units with post-trade lineups:
1.) 98.7 minutes // -4 with Lawson, Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Martin, and Nene.
2.) 98.2 minutes // +9 with Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Chandler, Martin, and Nene.
The common guy above is Lawson and Chandler. As you can see the more traditional lineup (No. 2) with Afflalo at shooting guard and Chandler at small forward (his natural position) found more success than the hodgepodge lineup No. 1 produced. Hopefully the Nuggets will be able to use Lawson with the best combinations next season to find the most success for the team. The funny thing - the Nuggets didn't have a lot of time to gel last season and they also didn't have a lot of time to show a lot of sample sizes so next season with another new team will give the coach and players plenty of time to find the right combinations.
The good thing for the Nuggets is that with the players they have under contract right now they still have a team that is capable of getting out and running and that suits Lawson's style. The pick and roll plays will have more success as Lawson refines his shooting touch and can burn teams that undercut him on the screens by burying jumpers in their face.
It's an exciting opportunity for Lawson and Nuggets Nation is ready to see him take this team to another level.
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