Every year around this time ESPN introduces its annual #NBArank series codifying all 500 players in the NBA from least to most valuable. Last year Roundball Mining Company decided to get in on the action and began ranking each of the players on the Denver Nuggets’ final 15-man roster in the same fashion. We’ve polled all seven of our writers, asking them to arrange each player on the Nuggets roster from one to 15 (one being the best, 15 the least valuable), then we added everyone’s scores together to come up with a single, definitive list of the 15 “most valuable” Denver Nuggets. Taking the top spot in this year’s #NuggetsRank is Ty Lawson, who moves up one position from No. 2 in 2012.
Ty Lawson is the best player on the Denver Nuggets roster. All but one of our writers had him first overall on their #NuggetsRank ballots. Had the Nuggets not traded for Andre Iguodala last season, Lawson would have made consecutive appearances as the No. 1 player on this list. But what is it that separates Lawson so much from Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler for the near consensus best player on the team? As I mentioned in my recent season preview, it’s all about potential.
Since coming into the league in 2009, Ty Lawson has improved every season. Though this shooting percentages have dipped, that’s to be expected given his increase in playing time and overall responsibility as the starting point guard and leader of the Denver Nuggets. What matters most with Lawson are essentially two categories: points and assists. Those have increased every year he’s been in the league — as have his steals — and are the two main strengths Lawson possesses as a professional basketball player. Other players will rebound, hit threes and block shots. Ty Lawson must score and distribute.
And he has. In addition to his impressive regular season performances, Ty Lawson has morphed into a totally different machine come playoff time. Despite the Nuggets’ repeatedly underwhelming playoff performances spearheaded by former head coach George Karl, Lawson always brought his A Game and then some. In 2011 Lawson increased his averages from 12 points and five assists in the regular season to 16 and four in the postseason. In 2012 he jumped from 16 and seven to 19 and six. And last year he bumped his numbers from 17 and seven in the regular season up to an All-Star caliber 21 and eight against the Golden State Warriors in the first (and the Nuggets’ only) round of the playoffs.
In recent years Nuggets fans (including yours truly) have openly questioned how far Denver can really go in the Western Conference without a star. We’ve nearly crashed the ESPN Trade Machine trying to concoct deals that would bring disgruntled superstars to Denver and have scoured for myriad ways the Nuggets could trade up in the draft for the next precocious prodigy. But with the way Ty Lawson has been playing, and the way he’s consistently improved each year, it’s not entirely inane to suggest that the star Denver has been looking for since Carmelo Anthony left town has been right under our noses all along, wearing powder blue and gold.
15. Anthony Randolph
14. Quincy Miller
13. Timofey Mozgov
12. Jordan Hamilton
11. Randy Foye
10. Darrell Arthur
9. J.J. Hickson
8. Andre Miller
7. Evan Fournier
6. Nate Robinson
5. JaVale McGee
4. Kenneth Faried
3. Wilson Chandler
2. Danilo Gallinari
1. Ty Lawson
This concludes our #NuggetsRank for 2013. Though our system for ranking isn’t perfect, we figure it’s a pretty good indicator of where everyone falls in relation to their teammates. Next week we’ll be doing a 5-on-5 to assess how well we think we did with this year’s rankings, but in the meantime, tell us what you think about #NuggetsRank. Are we somewhere in the ballpark in terms of where players should be positioned? If not, which guys should be higher and which should be lower? And what’s your personal #NuggetsRank order, if you haven’t told us already?
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