Ty Lawson wrapped up his career season with a breakout performance in the 2012 playoffs.
He led the Nuggets in points (19.4) and assists (6) in the postseason, as well as posting an impressive assist to turnover ratio (5.3/1). He also had some stellar performances, including scoring 32 points on 13 of 18 shooting in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
That performance put the final touches on Lawson’s season in which he had career-bests in points (16.4), rebounds (3.7), assists (6.6), steals (1.3) and free-throw percentage (.824). He also was still efficient shooting the ball (.488 from the field and .365 from behind the arc).
Lawson is arguably the quickest guard in the League and is one of the toughest players to stop from driving the basket. He also has become nearly automatic from mid-range.
The former Tar Heel was 11th among NBA point guards according to Hollinger’s Efficiency stats with a 19.43 PER. Five of the players (Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Deron Williams and Jeremy Lin) that had higher PERs missed more than 10 games.
No doubt Lawson hasn’t hit his ceiling, but how good can he be?
It’s highly unlikely that he’ll ever reach the elite level like Chris Paul or Rose, who are the top point guards in the League. And even young point guards like John Wall and Irving have a much brighter future than Lawson – thanks in most part to their great mix of size, athleticism and speed.
But it isn’t out of the question that Lawson can follow similar career paths as Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo and former All-Star Terrell Brandon.
Parker is the most comparable player to Lawson in the NBA. Both have great end-to-end speed, and are at their best driving to the basket.
Of course, Parker had the advantage of playing with Tim Duncan, who is one of the best big man to ever play the game, and Manu Ginboli, who is one of the more crafty players in the NBA.
And it’s fair to say that Lawson should be a better player than Parker. He is a greater passer, has a much more reliable jumper and more strength.
The Nuggets’ young point guard is already putting up higher numbers than Parker did when he was 24. Of course, Parker also had two NBA titles before he was 24 and was chosen as the NBA Finals MVP in 2007 when he was 25.
One thing that separates Parker from Lawson, is his ability to control the flow of the game. The veteran point guard can push the tempo or run a half-court offense. He does a good job at dictating the pace of the game. Lawson on the other hand, still struggles to do this consistency. He gets passive and sometimes lets his teammates and the defense dictate the flow. He also still struggles at time in the half-court, especially if his jumper isn’t falling. But it’s hard to fault the young point guard, who plays in George Karl’s fast-paced offence that is most effective in transition.
While Rondo’s game is completely different than Lawson, his growth and road to the All-Star level is one that Lawson could mirror.
Rondo was a late pick in the 2006 NBA Draft and was acquired by the Boston Celtics on draft day. However, unlike Lawson, Rondo has spent much of his career being surrounded by All-Stars like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
Rondo was thrust into the starting lineup at the start of his second season and has gradually improved each season, setting his career best in assists with 11.7. Scoring-wise, he has never really been a threat (he averaged a career-best 13.7 in 2010) – up until his historical performance in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals when he nearly had a triple-double with 44 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Rondo has also taken more of a leadership role due to the diminishing talents of the Celtics’ Big Three and he has thrived on both sides of the ball.
Lawson was also forced into a larger role due to the changes to the Nuggets’ lineups. Luckily enough his demeanor doesn’t mirror Rondo’s, who had eight technical fouls this season. Lawson had zero.
The Nuggets point guard will never be confused with Rondo on the defensive side of the ball, but his efficiency shooting the ball and his speed makes him just as dangerous on the other side of the ball.
Very few guards in the NBA can shoot the ball as proficiency. Lawson’s career mark is .499 from the field, and he shot over .50 percent in 30 of 60 games this season and Denver went 21-9 over that span. His confidence has grown as he has matured and in the playoffs he proved how good he can be (scoring 32 in Game 6 and 24 in Game 7 and hitting 24 of 37 shots during both games) when he is aggressive.
Rondo is also a better playmaker, leading the NBA in assists (11.7).
Lawson may be the second-coming of Brandon, who had a vastly underrated career. The 5-foot-11 point guard was twice chosen to the All-Star game and spent the beginning of his career stuck behind Mark Price.
Brandon, who was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1991, didn’t officially become the full-time starter for the Cavs until his fourth season when he averaged 19.3 points a game to go with 6.5 assists a game and made his first All-Star appearance.
While Brandon was a great shooter (.355 career 3-point shooter, .873 from free throw line), he still was quick on the drive and was nearly automatic from mid-range. He also wasn’t aggressive and made a point to get his teammates involved. He finished his career with an impressive assist to turnover ratio (3.1/1).
Brandon became more of a role player during his days in Minnesota and was a supporting scorer for Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak.
While the Nuggets work on a contract extension with Lawson this offseason, but Nuggets fans will eagerly watch to see how good the young point guard will be and how far he can carry Denver.
Topics: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Chris Paul, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, George Karl, Jeremy Lin, Kevin Garnett, Kyrie Irving, Los Angeles Lakers, Manu Ginobili, Mark Price, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, San Antonio Spurs, Stephen Curry, Terrell Brandon, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Ty Lawson, Wally Szczerbiak