Ty Lawson led the team last season with 16.7 points per game; a career high. For the past two seasons it has been Lawson powering the engine that is the Denver Nuggets. The 25 year-old guard came into his own during the second half of the 2012-13 campaign. Lawson's strengths were highlighted in an offense that was tailor-made for him. The big men were there to set screens, clean up any misses, and often stood out of bounds to create more room for their speedy point guard.
It has been a learning experience for Lawson so far under Brian Shaw. The new coach wants to use his big men and that's creating a bit of a crowded court for go-go Lawson.
"It's still a work in progress and I think the main thing is because the focus is a little bit different than what it was before," said Shaw. "So, they're still trying to figure out how to incorporate throwing the ball inside to our bigs when they haven't been in that position before; especially for Ty [Lawson], when to be aggressive and when to attack."
Attack is what Lawson does best. He was asked to amp up his scoring last season and responded well. Lawson averaged a career-high 4.3 free throws per game and he probably should have averaged more than that with all the contact he received on his drives.
"I know right now [Lawson] feels kind of restricted because our bigs are inside and he feels like it's clogging it up and he can't get in the lane and drive," said Shaw. "I still think it'll be easier for him to make the adjustment, but we need to continue to build the confidence of our bigs and get them to try to establish the best position they can inside."
"I still feel that's [feeding the ball inside to the bigs] the way we're going to have to play if we want to be successful in the long run," said Shaw. "I'm willing to be patient with that as long as they're working, which they are, and try to shore up some of their deficiencies."
The Nuggets will need Lawson now more than ever. While it could feel like he's being squeezed a bit out of his scoring role, he will have to become more of a playmaker and will still take over games when the time is right. He has been working on his outside shooting and will need to rely more on his shot if indeed he isn't going to be asked to attack as often.
The Nuggets will still go as far as Lawson can take them.
Shaw on Hickson and McGee's offensive pairing:
"I think they complement each other," said Shaw. "J.J. [Hickson] can stretch the floor a little bit, he can knock down the shot out to the free throw line and a little bit beyond that, which should open up space inside for JaVale [McGee] to have more room to operate. J.J., right now, is leading us in field goal percentage, so that's a good thing as well."
Shaw still has yet to name his starting power forward and the Nuggets have two more preseason games to figure out what they are going to do. It feels more-and-more, to me, like Hickson will be the starting power forward this season, but we'll see what happens.
Shaw on Hickson and McGee's defensive pairing:
"It's still a work in progress," said Shaw. "I think the main thing with JaVale [is] he has to realize that he's the anchor for our defense. I want him to get away from trying to block every single shot that comes in because a lot of times he takes himself out of position, which opens up for his man to offensive rebound. By the numbers, J.J. is one of the best defensive rebounders per minute in the game at his position, so that balances it out as well."
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