While the point guards of other teams around the NBA are anointing themselves as the best in the league, Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson and Erick Green are quietly going about their business (other than some playful jabs at James Harden) and preparing for the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. As the leaders of one of the most athletic and dynamic squads in the NBA, they're charged with implementing head coach Brian Shaw's schemes on offense, feeding the rock to a team full of hungry hands, and demanding accountability when the sets don't go as planned. So how does our terrific trio of taskmasters compare to one another?
|2013-2014||Games Played||Minutes Played||FG Att||FG%||Assists||3P%||Turnovers||Steals||AST%*||AST/TO**|
*AST% = Estimate of the percent of teammate's field goals that the player assisted while on the court.
**AST/TO = Assist to turnover ratio is the number of assists a player has for every turnover they commit.
***Erick Green = Statistics pulled from 2012-2013 senior season at Virginia Tech, named ACC Player of the Year
Entering his 6th year in the NBA, Lawson, still, has a lot to prove. After an extraordinarily difficult 2013-14 campaign, Lawson will look to get his team back on a playoff track. Since being given the reins of this team as the starting point guard, we've seen incremental growth in Lawson's skills on the court - and as a leader - that has been frustrating at times. In a position that demands a commanding presence, Lawson has oftentimes seemed aloof and almost reticent in assuming the mantle of authority.
Despite the slow growth in his leadership skills that are in stark contrast to his speed on the court, Lawson has never been in a better position to demonstrate his development as both a leader and a player. He'll have the opportunity to introduce incoming rookies Jusuf Nurkic, Erick Green and Gary Harris to the culture of the Nuggets organization, and establish his standards for their conduct. Even as the Russell Westbrooks and Dion Waiters of the NBA are busy covering themselves in unearned glory, Lawson quietly continues to be one of the best point guards in the league. Coming off a season in which he averaged almost 20 points and 10 assists a game, yet still seemingly below his ceiling, Lawson (and his general demeanor) is perfectly positioned to speak softly and carry a big stick.
Personally, I'd like Lawson to shore up his declining three point shot percentage (which has receded from a high of 41% in 2009 to just 36% in 2013) and consistently utilize his dizzying speed to open up good looks in the paint for his teammates. Lawson didn't seem to have the same higher gear that we're used to seeing from him at times last season, and the team's offense often sputtered as a result. Lawson remains the engine that drives this Nuggets, and his continued excellent play will be the biggest factor in whether or not this team returns to the playoffs this season.
The great, mush-mouthed Charles Barkley once opined that, "Every great team [...] needs a crazy guy." Without a doubt, that player for this incarnation of the Nuggets is Nate Robinson. While in the past this role would have been easily filled by the volcanic Kenyon Martin or the just plain insane J.R. Smith, Robinson has been able to largely balance the crazy with the composed.
Despite being one of the shortest players (generously listed at just 5'9" tall) in the league, "NateRob" brings a combination of ridiculous hops, a junkyard dog approach to defense and the ability to get lethally hot when his team needs him the most. Never afraid to take a shot, Robinson is also a capable distributor - if not a great one - and has largely cut out dumb turnovers and careless mistakes from his game that characterize so many other "crazy guys" in the league. While there are definitely backup guards that are better setting up their teammates, very few bring Nate's unique combination of athleticism, outside shooting, attitude and grit to their teams.
My biggest hope for Nate this year is that he comes back healthy from the season-ending ACL tear he suffered to his left knee in January of 2014. Like Lawson and so many of the other Nuggets, Robinson's athleticism is a critical part of his effectiveness on the court, and if he can't return with the same explosiveness from a severe injury, the Nuggets will be faced with a difficult decision in how to move forward with him. That said, Nate's attitude, relentless work ethic and commitment to greatness have never been in question, and I fully expect plenty of "NateRob Moments" this season. As long as he stays out of trouble.
I'll be honest here - I have no idea what to expect from Green. Selected 46th overall by the Utah Jazz in the 2013 draft and traded to the Nuggets, Green has spent most of the last year playing with the professional Italian basketball club of Montepaschi Siena.
My esteemed, knowledgeable and all-around badass colleague-in-Stiffdom Nate Timmons wrote an excellent piece on Green's time in Italy earlier this summer. In his piece, Timmons noted that "[...] if he is to make it as a point guard in the NBA, we'll need to see some additional assist numbers" as Green recorded an average of just 1.2 assists in 23 minutes per game with Montepaschi. It will be very interesting to see how (and if) Green's experience overseas translates to success in the NBA with the Nuggets.
Truthfully, I don't watch a lot of college basketball, so my actual viewing of Green's skills on the court have been quite limited. However, leading the entire Division I of the NCAA in scoring for most of his senior year is nothing to sneeze at. At 6'3" tall, Green also brings some height and length to the frankly lilliputian stature of Robinson and Lawson. I expect to see Shaw deploy Green in some spare minutes here and there and as injury insurance, so it'll be up to Green to make the most of his opportunities on the floor and carve out a greater role in the rotation.
Although the Nuggets are relatively "deep" at positions 2-5, they're fairly shallow at the one. With Robinson still recovering from a major injury and Green still ... well, green, the Nuggets are going to once again demand a lot from Ty Lawson. We've all wondered when Lawson is going to take the next step to becoming a superstar in the league and command attention and respect everywhere instead of just here in Colorado. There is no better time for him than now, at the start of a new season with a roster that is slowly piecing itself back together. In the meantime, we'll continue to hope for a speedy recovery from NateRob, Green to develop into a capable distributor and the budding of Lawson into the Nuggets first superstar since a horse named 'Melo came to town.