I wrote this article about Ty Lawson, it's advanced stats heavy. click the link to see the shot chart.
Despite playing in the Mile-High City, Ty Lawson is flying under the radar this season.
The 5’11” 195-pound point guard has silently put together a career year with the struggling Denver Nuggets.
Second to John Wall, Lawson is dishing 9.9 assists per game, and he’s only turned the ball over 136 times in comparison to Wall’s 206. He also ranks 15th in the NBA in double-doubles with 22 which is third best amongst guards—trailing Chris Paul (26) and Wall (30).
The Nuggets haven’t been as successful as Paul’s Los Angeles Clippers and Wall’s Washington Wizards, but without Lawson's contributions, Denver would be competing with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA’s worst record.
Lawson's wins above replacement are 6.42 which is ninth best amongst 1's, and in the three games he's missed this season, the Nuggets are 0-3. In 2013-14, Denver went 7-13 without Lawson, and 29-33 with him.
Why Lawson Doesn’t Get Enough Credit
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Point guard has become one of the NBA’s deepest positions in recent years—flanked with numerous All Star talents such as Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Jeff Teague, Wall, Paul and Kyle Lowry.
Lawson doesn’t have the luxury of playing in a large basketball market that garners enough attention to offset his team’s lack of success.
Denver's struggles could be attributed to its poor defense and inefficiency from the field.
The Nuggets sport a defensive rating of 105.2 which is in the bottom 10 of the NBA. Despite Lawson providing quality looks for his teammates—the franchise is shooting at or below league averages across the court, as indicated by the graphic below:
In wins, Denver shoots 47.1 percent from the field, and 40.7 percent in losses. Kenneth Faried, JJ Hickson, Jusuf Nurkic and Lawson are the only players shooting better than 44 percent.
Lawson isn't a premiere defender, and that negatively affects the way he is perceived. With him on the court, his opponent's turnover rate is 13.2—without him, 14.7. His opponent's effective field goal percentage while competing is 50.2 percent, when resting, 48.6 percent.
In his free time, he's had a few mental lapses that taint his production. His most recent mishap being the practice he missed on Feb. 18 while stuck in Las Vegas.
Via Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post, “Lawson failing to show is the latest in a string of incidents that have upset management in the past two years. He had a domestic incident in the summer of 2013, a case that was eventually dropped. He missed a team breakfast meeting late last season and was held out of the starting lineup. In January he was arrested on suspicion of DUI.”
Lawson addressed his most recent mistake on his Facebook:
Travel plans got derailed ....but I'm always ready to go war with my bros... I know the season hasn't gone the we all wanted to but I'm a nugget until the day I die #nuggetsnation #letthehatecommentspileup
He hasn’t helped his cause off the court with his periodical lacks of focus, but his offensive impact under the lights cannot be denied.
Why He’s Worthy of Praise
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Lawson is a quick guard capable of getting into the paint on command. He's most effective in the pick-and-roll, and breaking down defenses and feeding an open big man.
Aside from scoring 16.9 points per game to go along with his 9.9 APG, Lawson is posting a player efficiency rating of 19.53, via ESPN.com with an assist to turnover ratio of 3.76 that trails only Paul's 4.27.
Lawson can push the ball in the open court and ignite plenty of fastbreaks, which the Nuggets must continue doing in order to counteract their shooting woes and embrace its athleticism. Denver's pace or possessions per 48 minutes is fifth best in the league at 98.40 with Lawson's personally at 101.11.
He's second in assist opportunities per game with 20.3 to Rondo’s 20.5 (with the Boston Celtics), and he’s second in points created by assist per game with 23.2 to Wall's 23.5, via NBA.com.
Lawson is also second in free throw assists per game with 0.9 to Wall’s 1.1—categorizing only players that have competed in at least 20 games thus far.
He’s averaged the third most minutes in the NBA this season with 36.7, and he’s third in drives per game with 11.5, and third team points per game on drives with 13., trailing only Tyreke Evans (13.2) and James Harden (14.2).
Lawson sports an adjusted production per 48 minutes of .305 which is fourth best amongst point guards—behind Westbrook's .333, Paul’s .407 and Curry’s .437, via Box Score Geeks. His wins produced are also third best amongst 1s, checking in at 9.9 with Curry and Paul ahead of him with 13.5 and 14.2, respectively.
His win shares are down this season from 2013-14 with 5.6 to 6.3, but his turnover percentage has decreased to 14.6 percent from 16.9 percent the season prior, via Basketball-Reference.com.
Joe Boozell listed his top-10 point guards in the league on NBA.com, and Lawson for some reason wasn’t named, despite having a better year than Jeff Teague (10th), Tony Parker (9th), Kyrie Irving (8th) and Mike Conley (7th).
Lawson has been unfairly snubbed and hasn’t received the praise he deserves. He’s become the league's most underrated point guard even though he's in the upper echelon of various statistical categories.
In some instances, reputation has superseded reason—such as Parker's ranking in the top-10 despite having the fewest win shares (1.9) and the first negative value over replacement player of his career (negative-0.3), via Basketball-Reference.com.
Lawson is silently having a tremendous season that would be even more prolific if he was surrounded by competent shooters. There isn't much more the 1 can do with Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler shooting 35.5 and 41.5 percent from the field, respectively.
Unless Denver fields a more competitive roster, Lawson's trajectory with the organization will continue down this underrated path. The Nuggets have two talented bigs in Faried and Nurkic, but its perimeter players are subpar and there's little Lawson can do to remedy that ailment.
The 1 can elevate his shooting and perhaps become more aggressive as a scorer, but that won't be enough to turn the tide for the franchise.
Denver has a good foundation with Lawson, Faried and Nurkic, but until better shooters and more consistent wings are brought in, the organization will continue wasting the effort their point guard contributes each night. As talented as he is, a point guard at his size cannot be the only perimeter player shooting well from the field if you want to be a contender.