#NuggetsRank No. 2: Ty Lawson

Coming into the season Nuggets fans had enormous hopes for Ty Lawson. He averaged career highs across the board in his first (kind of) full year as a starter. Then in the playoffs against the Lakers he took his game to the next level, averaging 19 points and six assists per game. After receiving a $48 million extension just prior to the 2012-13 season, it seemed the groundwork had been laid for Lawson to finally emerge as the team’s clear-cut best player. But 11 games into the season, it’s become apparent that Lawson still has other things on his mind. For the last several years George Karl has often clamored about how he’s needed Ty Lawson to become more of a leader. Heading into training camp, this was a narrative both the media and Lawson were embracing. Lawson was confident in his abilities (as well as his team’s) and gave no indication that he’d be anything other than a borderline All Star. Then, the season started.

Through 11 games Lawson is averaging a career-low .373 shooting percentage from the field, .261 percent from behind the 3-point line and .535 percent from the free-throw stripe. His 3.3 turnovers per game are a career high by almost an entire turnover. His rebounds and points are down from last year as well. In fact, the only measurable improvements Lawson has made to his game have come in the assists and steals categories, where he’s improved only slightly.

Looking at the stats sheet is telling. It’s clear Lawson is not himself at this point in time. But watching him play is when you start to actually understand why his stats are so deflated.

Lawson does not have the confidence of a leader right now. He doesn’t even appear to have the confidence of a solid role player. He is timid and apprehensive. He’s not looking to score nor make an overall impact on the game. His assists continue to pour in at a respectable rate only because he’s averaging a whopping 37 minutes per game; but they’re mostly routine passes. Overall, Lawson is sluggish, passive and overcome with trepidation. He’s over-analyzing the act of playing basketball and as a result, has temporarily lost his confidence. Or, was it the other way around?

Ty Lawson has never seemed like a natural-born leader to me. Does this mean he’s incapable of displaying leadership or possessing similar types of skills? Of course not. I fully trust that he’s more than capable and willing to display leadership. But to ask Lawson to be the leader of this team, at 25, while he’s still trying to figure out who he is as a player, just doesn’t seem like a realistic proposition. How can he help others and demand more from his teammates when he’s still developing himself?

Lawson seems like he’s folded under the pressure bestowed upon him not only by his head coach, but the media, fans and most importantly, himself. He’s playing a confused brand of basketball; and not with the type of unrelenting, full-force, Speedy Gonzales-like blurriness we’ve come to know and love. The great thing, of course, is that it’s only a matter of time before Lawson has an epiphany (or a series of them), de-attaches himself from the expectations and just plays ball. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that by the end of this month Lawson will already have shown glimpses of his former self. By the the time All-Star break rolls around, Lawson should very well be on his way to having yet another career year.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.
  • Will the NC Nugget

    I’ve been following Ty’s career all the way from UNC (GO HEELS!!) and I agree with everything written here….TY3 is such a laid back person that being a loud outspoken leader might not ever be his cup of tea….but what he can and soon will do is lead by example and I know that combo of nerves and rust will wear off soon (maybe tonight vs minny?) and he’ll be back in full swing. just hope he gets it together soon enough that my All-Star voting isn’t in vain

    @Will_B_iLL

  • http://Denverstiffs.comSlader Richard Greenslade (Slader)

    It is bewildering to see him so hesitant. He doesn’t seem to have the confidence to shoot his way out of a slump – like Gallo, who hit the killer 3 against Memphis after bricking like seven in a row.
    So I think Ty needs a breakout game, and Minny’s a good opportunity. That’s where he hit 10 consecutive 3s last year, and they are hurting right now. All he needs is to stay aggressive and get the first couple of shots to drop.
    Go Ty! Go Nuggets!

  • Herman VanNess

    Cream of the crop:CP3, Rondo, DWill, DRose, Westbrook, Parker.

    Up and comers: Irving, Lillard, Curry, Jrue, Rubio.

    Old Guys: Kidd, Nash, Billups, Miller.

    Solid: Felton, Lowry, Jennings, Dragic, Collison, Conley, Teague, George Hill, Mo Williams.

    TBD: Wall, Kemba, BKnight, Bledsoe.

    In a point guard driven league, Ty seems to be just another guy. He’s been around to long to be considered up and coming. I feel for the most part he is what he is.

    I’m certainly not saying all of the aforementioned guys are better than Ty. When Ty is playing at his best I’d take him over all of them save for the 5 or 6 elite guys. My problem is Ty seems to be leveling off while I see the Currys, Lillards, Irvings, passing him up.

    I hope I’m wrong but, Ty appears to be a change of pace guard. Ideally a bench player. Ty seems to have the same effect on the game whether he’s playing 25 or 37 minutes.

    • http://espn Gary

      Regrettably i think I agree with you. I think our expectations off Lawson are just way too high and he’s just never going to be the player we think he should be. He’s fast and really talented but he’s also small , even by PG standards, and just doesn’t have the mental edge to be on the mark night after night. Moreoover, although he’s an above average shooter mostly, he will probably never have the consistency to make the money buckets on most nights and that in some way is linked to his lack of mental toughness…which in turn doesn’t let him gain the confidence to hit it consistently. Its almost a chicken and egg thing with him and I fear he is just who he is and his career thus far doesn’t warrant us to hold him up to the elite level we do.
      What is even more disturbing is that this whole description probably fits Gallo as well…I just don’t think he’ll ever be that upper level consustent shooter and/or overall player we yearn him to be.
      Faried & McGee are probably our two best players based on pure talent and in terms of the highest ceiling. Its great to have great big men for years to come and that they are still young, but our achilles heel has been the medium to long range shooting both on O & D. We are great in the paint, but need the other stuff figured out for any shot at success in the post season specially.

      • Thomas

        I want to see him play a full season without sharing the floor or PG duties with Miller.

        While Gallo has shown no statistical improvement over his last 3 years, Ty has improved every year in the league. I doubt that the numbers he is throwing out right now are an indication of where he will be at the end of the season.

        It doesn’t help that our team is one of the worst at shooting the 3. Teams clog up the middle against us and make it harder on Ty to get easy buckets.

        I would guess that if we traded Miller and had Ty play PG (alone) for 35-38 minutes a game, he will average a very efficient 18ppg and 7 assists.

        We need to cut down on experiments at some point and define the character and style of play this team. With GK, that’s not going to happen as we will continue to have small ball, 2 PG line-up, etc. Line-up is Ty-Iguodala-Faried-Gallo-KK or Mcgee, with Hamilton and Brewer coming in as primary subs. That’s it. Simple.

    • dynamo.joe

      So what if he is what he is? What he was last year was a guy who was hovering around the 10th best pg in the NBA. That’s plenty good.

      If this was pre-2005 we would be saying “it’s Ty and Nash for the only true pg’s in the Association”. We just happen to be in a period with a lot of good PG’s.

      You guys are looking at this as if Ty was our best player. If that was true then, ya, it would suck that our best player was around the 10th best at his position. But it’s not true. Ty is maybe our 4th best player.

      As for the leadership issue, it is blindingly obvious who our leader is. His name is Kosta Koufos…okay just kidding, it’s Kenneth Faried. The fact that Karl is still trying to push this mantle of leadership onto Ty is just more GK idiocy. Karl’s prejudice against young players and for pg’s is driving it, but it’s only a matter of time until everyone, even GK, is forced to acknowledge the truth.

    • bayesk

      I’d swap Holiday and Kyle Lowry (playing great for TOR right now), and promote Eric Bledsoe to “up-and-comers”.

      • http://shanedesignshealthy.com Shane

        Yeah, no way Bledsoe stays with the Clips. He’s too damn talented… gonna be a force.

  • Aaron

    I Know You Guys Did This List Before The Season Started But No Way in Hell Lawson is Our 2nd Best Player This Year.

  • James

    As Thomas intimates, I think that once the team starts hitting threes Lawson will be his old self – a better than average, but below elite point guard. With the current group, we will never be a great three-point shooting team, but Gallo, Iguodala and even Lawson will get better and that will REALLY unclog the lane. Every time Ty drives these days, he’s running into three people. Once he and the others start making some longer shots, I think they might start blowing some teams out.

    Three point shooting, to me, is a lot about reputation. J.R. Smith and Harrington both had better reputations than their percentages would warrant (though Smith could really get hot), and I think those reputations kept people out of the lane. Afflalo was actually pretty good, and helped also. Their three-point shooting woes are well publicized, and once those improve to the point where its not the current disaster it is now, the lane will unclog, and points will rack up.

    And a side note – many on this blog, and one of the morning chumps on 93.7 (whatever radio station that is) have been screaming for trades already. After 10 GAMES?? Unless they’re trading Mozgov for LeBron, count me out. By the time we finally built chemistry last year, we almost beat the Lakers, and we were playing great. So then we trade Afflalo and Harrington for Iguodala. Start over on the chemistry. I actually do like that trade, but man, give it a chance. I think the Mike Brown thing (really? the Princeton offense with Nash and Bryant?) has made everyone trigger happy.

    This DJ dufus was pushing Josh Smith for Gallo and someone another Nugget (Mozgov maybe). Gallo is what he is, blah, blah, blah. I totally disagree with that, first of all (he’s already shown he wants to, and can make, the big shot, which is huge going forward, and I think he has a much higher ceiling), but Josh Smith? What has he ever done? Teased Atlanta and taken them nowhere? And he’s a flat out BAD shooter, especially from 3-point range.

    Call me overly optimistic (or something else), but I think with more experience together, some even slightly improved three-point shooting and a more favorable late season schedule, they will be playing great come playoff time (hopefully with a top 4 seed).

  • EWilson

    Here, here, James. People just need to relax and let the Nuggets build some chemistry. They’re a young team that still needs work, but their long-term potential is sky-high. Frankly, guys like Lawson are likely to be better for struggling a bit. It will make them work harder on their game and gix the things they are weak at. I’ve said it before, but I think everyone is a year early on this team. They’ll be OK this year, but watch out next year.

  • OriginalJakeSauce

    I think you guys made a mistake in not clarifying and sticking to your guns, that these were your feelings a month ago. Ty has been pretty disappointing this year. I wonder what it would look like if andre miller wasn’t GK’s “precious”. Gotta think that with Ty being forced to be the man all the time his game would naturally elevate itself. Like at NC. Kid is a champion, I didn’t believe in him at all going in to the NCAA championship game years back… but his play that day on 2 bad ankles told me who he is when he is the man, and has the room he needs to operate.

    Love the steadiness Dre can bring, but that’s him being the man out there, and it’s a distraction for Ty.

  • joshtk

    I think if in the off-season gk and Ty wouldn’t have pit the leader tag on him and just said Ty needs to be himself he would be much more effective and he would have naturally turned into the leader. Maybe not a vocal leader but by his play and energy he displayed

  • OriginalJakeSauce

    To clarify, GK’s head. On a plate.