Top 50 NBA Players: #34 Ty Lawson

Ty Lawson
Resume: 16.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 34.4 minutes, 46% FG, 37% 3PT, and 76% FT… Team record in games played: 49-24 (8-1 without)… Playoffs: 21.3 points (career best), 3.3 rebounds, 8.0 assists (career best), 1.7 steals (career best), 39.3 minutes (career best), 44% FG, 85% FT, 2-4 record… 12th in MVP Voting

I finalized my rankings right before I posted my first write-up, about two and a half weeks ago. Right up until the last day I’m maneuvering things around and making sure guys are placed where they ultimately should be. Since it is in fact my own opinion, you wouldn’t think I would be surprised by where anyone ended up. That’s not the case. This year Ty Lawson was one of a few players that made me scratch my head, ask myself “Should he really be that high,” think about it for a while and then come to the conclusion that it sounds about right (Earlier subjects of this internal debate were Nicolas Batum, Nikola Pekovic and David West). So how did I come to this conclusion with Ty Lawson?

Before the last season Lawson received a fat chunk of change in the form of a four year, $48 million contract extension. In comparison, Stephen Curry—another upcoming subject of the “Should he really be this high” debate— received a four year, $44 million contract extension on the same day as Lawson. This raises the question of whether a players’ contract really means anything in the landscape of how highly he should be ranked. Not entirely, considering Ben Gordon is making $13 million this season and Gilbert Arenas made nearly $21 million last year without laying a foot on an NBA floor.

Apr 23, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (3) controls the ball in the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors during game two in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at the Pepsi Center. The Warriors won 131-117. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This is what I know for sure though: Curry would be offered more money than $11 million per year, and probably more money than Lawson, but Lawson’s 2012-13 season wouldn’t have warranted Denver taking any money off of the table. And for whatever it’s worth, we’ll all remember Stephen Curry going bonkers in the Denver/Golden State 1st Round playoff series, but Ty Lawson was more of Curry’s equal than anyone will remember. During a four game stretch from Game 2 to Game 5, Curry averaged 26.3 points, 9.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 steals; Lawson averaged 24.8 points, 9.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals. Advantage goes to Stephen Curry, but Lawson wasn’t a slouch.

Additionally, without being egregiously greedy, Nuggets fans couldn’t really ask for a better point guard than Ty Lawson to run their fast paced show. If all NBA players competed in a 100 meter dash then Lawson would be the co-favorite with Mike Conley, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, and new teammate Nate Robinson. He pushes the ball frenetically, gets into the paint at an extremely high rate—you could argue Lawson is the biggest reason why Denver kicks every other teams ass in points in the paint, scoring nearly 1,000 more paint points than any other team in the league last year— and has improved every year he’s been in the league. Despite his lack of size Lawson remains tremendously effective thanks to his blazing speed, pick-and-roll skill set, improving ball handling, and overall control of the game which has been his biggest improvement since he came into the league. The only concern for Lawson is how Denver will manage to find minutes for him, Nate Robinson, and the emotional roller coaster also known as Andre Miller.

For the Nuggets to remain relevant in the loaded Western Conference the team needs to be Lawson’s and he that means he may need to take his game to another level. But for now, it seems as if Nuggets fans would have to be pleased with the fifth year point guard. I asked my cousin Erik (the only Nuggets fan I know) what he thought of Lawson and my ranking of him. His response:

“Hmmm. Top 50 is pretty damn good. Mid 30’s sounds about right. I’m happy with that. As long as he’s ranked better than Andre Miller.”

Yeah, that sounds about right.