The Denver Nuggets caught the NBA world by surprise with a miraculous run after the Carmelo Anthony-trade. They also started this season with the same time of success, but injuries and different lineups have derailed the Nuggets success and has forced Denver to take a step back over the last two weeks.
Now for the Nuggets to get back in the saddle and to be a serious playoff contender it depends on the smallest player on the team – Ty Lawson.
Lawson has wowed his coaches with his speed, decision-making and the ability to make things happen for him and his teammates. But he has frustrated the coaching staff with his lack of aggressiveness. And in an important game against the Utah Jazz on Friday, Lawson did the disappearing act. He spent most of the game working off the ball, letting his teammates run the offense and making it easy for Utah’s defense to take him out of the game. In turn, Lawson had more turnovers (6) then points (5).
For a while, it seemed the third-year point guard was ready to take the next step into stardom. He led the Nuggets to a 3-0 start out of the All-Star break and was chosen the Western Conference player of the week after tallying 20.7 points, 11.7 assists and registering 7 rebounds per a contest. But that All-Star like performance has disappeared as Lawson has once again stepped back into a shell of his former self, letting defenses dictate how the game is played.
No doubt defenses have keyed on Lawson, knowing his importance to Denver’s success. However, if this Nuggets team is to be successful the young point guard needs to fine a way to through it.
Over the last five games, in which Denver is 2-3, Lawson has averaged only 11.4 points and 6.6 assists, while tallying more than 4 turnovers a game. In fact in loses, Lawson averages only 13.2 points, 6.2 assists and 3.2 turnovers. In wins, he averages 16.8 points, 7.3 assists and only 1.9 turnovers. When he has less than 10 points, Denver is 2-5. When he scores more than 10 points, the Nuggets are 22-14.
Probably the most puzzling is Lawson’s trips to the free throw stripe. Over the course of the season, Lawson’s trips to the foul line have dropped. He started the season by going to the charity stripe at least four times a game, but over the last seven games he has only gone to the foul line 13 times. Ask Scott Hastings and it is the officials fault, but sooner or later the blame has to fall on Lawson.
For the Nuggets to be an elite squad it falls on Lawson. He may not be the best player on the roster, but he is the MVP. When he plays well, the Nuggets play well. When he plays poorly, they play poorly. The Nuggets are at their best when the ball is in Lawson’s hands and his teammates are working off of him. He is the Nuggets’ superstar, he just needs to accept it.