Ty Lawson makes the Denver Nuggets more fun to watch, he gives the team a better chance at winning, and it’s clear he is the team’s best player whenever he is on the court. In the 62 games Ty Lawson played last season, the Nuggets won 44 percent of their games. In the 20 games he couldn’t play due to injury, the Nuggets only won 35 percent of the time.
However, as the old NBA saying goes, “the team is only as good as its best player.” With the title of “Nuggets best player,” it is on Lawson to take the Nuggets to the next level. All signs say he’ll be in the same leadership role next season, and the Nuggets need him to play great to meet their lofty goal of getting into the advanced rounds of the Western Conference playoffs in the next couple of seasons.
Big goals are met by achieving smaller goals in sequence. So, it all starts with the goal of Lawson making the All-Star Game next year, and then it goes into with the Nuggets aiming for a 45 plus win season behind him, but it clear the Nuggets need Lawson to play his best basketball yet all season next year if they are going to be a serious playoff team.
Lawson had the seventh best Player Efficiency Rating among Western Conference point guards at 19.02 last season, according to ESPN.com. The only Western Conference point guards ahead of him were Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Mike Conley, and Eric Bledsoe. As crazy as it sounds, Lawson had a higher PER in 2013-2014 than Tony Parker (19.00) did. So, there is no denying the 5’11” guard out of North Carolina is good, and he has been to the playoffs every season but this last season in his four year NBA career.
He’s never been out of the first round of those playoff trips though. In order for the team to make it to the second round the Nuggets need Lawson to be elite. Just look at the point guards who were left standing in the Western Conference this season: Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Damian Lillard. These Western Conference playoff teams are really good, and they are all led by some of the league’s best point guards.
It’s still hard to think the Nuggets need to ask more of a guy who averaged 8.8 assists per game, which is second best in the league behind Chris Paul. It’s crazy to think they need to ask more of the 12th highest scoring point guard in the NBA (17.6 points per game last season), and it’s ridiculous to expect more from a guy who also added 1.6 steals and 3.5 rebounds per game on top of all that. But, the Nuggets still need to ask more of Ty Lawson to reach their lofty dreams.
First, The Nuggets need Lawson to be even better at dishing out assists. It’s a good sign he has improved in this category every season he has been in the NBA, and he averaged 8.8 assists a game even when the Nuggets lost three starters to injury last season. However, next season’s healthy Nuggets will have some easier targets to pass to, like Danilo Gallinari, and it’s up to Lawson to capitalize on the talent that’s returning to be an even better passer.
Those newly healthy teammates should help the point guard cut down on his turnovers as well. Lawson’s turnover ratio was 11.6 last season, meaning 11.6 percent of Lawson’s possessions ended in a turnover. That’s too high for playoff point guards, and in comparison Chris Paul’s ratio was 7.9 and Tony Parker’s was 9.7.
The Nuggets may only be as good as Ty Lawson according to the old NBA adage, but Lawson has shown he can take this team to at least the second round of the playoffs in his first four years. If the former Carolina Tarheel can cut down on his turnovers while using the return of his best teammates to up his assists even further, then we’ll be seeing him in the same sentence, and playoff round, as Chris Paul a lot more often.