Connect with us

NBA

NBA AM: Can Ty Lawson Salvage His Career?

Can Ty Lawson salvage his NBA career with a strong bounce-back season in Sacramento?

Oliver Maroney

Published

on

Please enable Javascript to watch this video

It wasn’t long ago that Ty Lawson was regarded as one of the NBA’s best point guards.

After all, he was a big reason for the Denver Nuggets’ success several seasons ago. In the 2012-13 playoffs, he averaged 21.3 points, eight assists and 1.7 steals. In 2013-14, he led the Nuggets in points, assists and steals. His best season came in 2014-15, when he averaged a career-high 9.6 assists (ranking third in the NBA in assists per game and total assists).

Lawson seemed on his way to a very lucrative NBA career. That was, of course, before multiple DUI arrests and other off-court issues arose (including a domestic violence call). It became clear that Lawson needed help, and he entered an alcohol treatment facility.

He was then traded to the Houston Rockets in the 2015 offseason for a second-round pick, which showed how much his trade value had plummeted due to the red flags surrounding him. It was a low-risk, high-reward move for Houston since they didn’t have to give up much and Lawson agreed to remove the guarantee from his 2016-17 salary of $13.2 million to facilitate the trade.

The hope was that Lawson’s issues were behind him and that he’d return to form after showing so many flashes of brilliance in Denver. The Rockets had made the Western Conference Finals in the previous season and Lawson gave a talented team yet another key contributor.

But 11 games in, the Rockets fired head coach Kevin McHale because the team was struggling. Lawson didn’t look like a good fit with the Rockets, averaging career-lows in all major statistical categories (5.8 points, 3.4 assists and 1.7 rebounds). Even though he remained out of trouble publicly, he didn’t look like himself on the court and was struggling to become an integral part of the team.

Due to his struggles, the pairing with the Rockets just didn’t work out. Fifty-three games in, Lawson was waived. The Indiana Pacers, who were trying to bolster their roster for the postseason, signed the floor general to add depth behind starter George Hill.

He played 13 games for Indiana, but it was another short stint in which he didn’t really showcase his true talent. Lawson continued to look like a shell of himself, averaging 4.9 points, 4.4 assists and 2.4 rebounds with the Pacers. For the first time since his rookie season, he averaged single digits in points.

Now, Lawson is hoping to put last season behind him and is once again hoping a change of scenery will bring out his best basketball. Last week, after remaining unsigned for much of the offseason, Lawson agreed to join the Sacramento Kings on a one-year contract that is non-guaranteed. This stings for Lawson, especially when you remember that he voluntarily gave up his $13.2 million guaranteed 2016-17 salary for the upcoming season to join Houston last summer.

Some believe that this is Lawson’s final opportunity to play in the league. If he struggles in Sacramento or has any off-court issues, his NBA career could be over.

But those who know Lawson are remaining hopeful that this could be the bounce-back season the floor general needs to salvage his career.

“Ty has a chance to get back on track,” Anthony Wright, a friend and former teammate of Lawson’s, told Basketball insiders. “But he needs to keep the right company around him. On a one-year, non guaranteed deal, you can see he’s teetering on getting bounced out of the league. He has the talent, but will have to get his confidence and dog [attitude] back in him in order to stick.

“Playing with Ty in high school and against him growing up, it made me see how tough he was as a competitor. He was a pitbull, an explosive athlete and a great teammate. I’d like to see him battle through adversity a bit better though. Outside of his known off-court problems, I think his handling of adversity has attributed to his downfalls.”

Sacramento’s new head coach Dave Joerger is an underrated leader who has shown the ability to get the most out of players. He did a terrific job leading the Memphis Grizzlies to the playoffs last year, even though injury after injury depleted his roster. It’s also worth noting that Mike Conley played the best basketball of his career under Coach Joeger, which led to him signing the largest contract in the NBA history this summer (a five-year, $153 million deal).

And keep in mind, Rajon Rondo entered a similar situation with Sacramento last offseason after struggling with the Dallas Mavericks and being dismissed from the team in the playoffs. Rondo thrived on his one-year deal with the Kings and, this summer, he inked a two-year deal worth $28 million with the Chicago Bulls. That’s the kind of success story that Lawson is hoping to duplicate.

Lawson seems set up nicely to have a strong bounce-back season. As long as his struggles off the court are indeed a thing of the past, he should receive the opportunity to play significant minutes. In fact, he could even start for Sacramento due to the recent news that Darren Collison pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery from a May incident. Collison could receive jail time, and will surely be suspended either way.

This could be Lawson’s opportunity to become a starting point guard again. But even if that happens, he needs to take advantage of the opportunity and play more like he did in Denver two seasons ago. Fortunately, he has some nice offensive pieces around him such as dominant center DeMarcus Cousins, scoring swingman Rudy Gay, offseason addition Arron Afflalo and others. For a facilitating point guard like Lawson, that’s certainly helpful.

The last year – and signing a non-guaranteed deal  – had to be humbling for Lawson. When players come to the realization that they could be down to their last opportunity, reality typically starts to set in. He likely understands the sense of urgency, that he has to make this work and show the best version of himself on and off the court to keep alive the NBA career that just two years ago looked so promising.

Will Lawson be able to turn this into a great comeback story, or will he be labeled as a player whose NBA career went off track and ended sooner than expected?

Oliver Maroney is an NBA writer for Basketball Insiders. He is based in Portland and covers the league as a whole.

Advertisement




Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Headlines

Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd

Basketball Insiders

Published

on

The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

Continue Reading

NBA

Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17

Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.

Spencer Davies

Published

on

It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.

There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

 6. Hassan Whiteside

After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.

5. Anthony Davis

Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.

4. Josh Richardson

Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.

Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.

3. Kevin Durant

This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.

In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.

2. Joel Embiid

Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.

Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.

Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.

Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.

He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.

1. Paul George

Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.

Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.

“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”

Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.

“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”

Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.

“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”

That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.

Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA AM: Most Likely All-Star Snubs

Damian Lillard seems to top the All-Star snub list every season. It couldn’t happen again, could it?

Joel Brigham

Published

on

This year the NBA has famously decided to mix up the way the All-Star rosters work, while rather infamously deciding against televising the draft that will organize those players into teams, but even as some things change, some things remain the same.

Just like every year, there will be snubs when the All-Star reserves are announced on Tuesday night. Oh, there will be snubs.

The starters already have been selected, chosen by a combination of fan votes, media votes and player votes, the latter of which were taken so seriously that Summer League legend Jack Cooley even earned a single nomination from one especially ornery player voter.

For those that missed the starters, they include LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, and Joel Embiid from the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and James Harden from the Western Conference.

That leaves seven more reserves from each conference and way more deserving players than that from which to choose. These will be selected by the coaches, per tradition, but it’s anybody’s guess who ends up making the team. There absolutely are going to be some massive snubs this year, so let’s take a quick look at the most likely candidates to earn roster spots this winter, as well as who that might leave out of this year’s event in Los Angeles.

The Eastern Conference

Let’s start with the “sure things,” which almost certainly will include with Indian Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. Not only is he putting up a career-best 24/5/4 line, but he’s also averaging two steals per night for an Indiana team that currently lives in the playoff picture despite dismal expectations. That’s almost entirely because of Oladipo.

In the frontcourt, there was plenty of healthy debate when Embiid was voted the starter over Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis, so there’s a very good chance that those two guys find their way to the roster, as well.

Kevin Love, who also is having a monster statistical season, seems like the most obvious third frontcourt guy, but his defense stinks and the Cavs haven’t exactly proven themselves worthy of two All-Stars. Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris both are having borderline All-Star seasons for a borderline playoff team, but they are the closest contenders to stealing away that third frontcourt reserve slot from Love.

Beyond that, Bradley Beal or John Wall likely will be the “other” guard reserve, but choosing which one is dicey. Wall’s the four-time All-Star, but Beal arguably is having the better year and has been snubbed for this event entirely too many times already. It doesn’t seem likely that both guys will make the team.

The wild cards could be that “other” Wizards guard among Beal and Wall, one of those two Pistons players, Miami’s Goran Dragic (they are fourth in the conference, rather surprisingly), Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, or Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons.

What seems most probable is that Oladipo and Beal earn the Eastern Conference reserve slots, with Horford, Porzingis and Love earning the backup frontcourt positions. Lowry and Wall feel most likely as reserves.

That means the most likely Eastern Conference snubs will be: Goran Dragic, Ben Simmons, Andre Drummod, Tobias Harris and Khris Middleton.

The level of controversy with this group feels fairly low, though if Dragic or Drummond were to make the team over Wall or Love, the conversation would be a lot feistier.

The Western Conference

Choosing the reserve guards in the Western Conference is a no-brainer. It will be MVP candidates Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook, which immediately means that if Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Paul George are not named as Wild Card players, they will be left off of the team. That’s about as “yikes” as “yikes” gets.

The battle for the frontcourt spots are going to be no less brutal, even with Kawhi Leonard effectively out of consideration having missed so much time at the beginning of the season. The Spurs will have an All-Star anyway, though, which makes LaMarcus Aldridge all but a lock.

Towns, who is averaging a 20/12 with over two assists and 1.5 blocks per game on one of the West’s top teams, also feels likely to get in. That means Draymond Green and Nikola Jokic are the two guys expected to battle over that last frontcourt spot, and both deserve real consideration. Green’s importance is less obvious to this Warriors team with Durant on the roster, but he’s no less essential even if his offensive numbers are down. Jokic, meanwhile, has kept Denver in the playoff hunt even without Paul Millsap, and is the best passing big man in the game.

The most likely scenario in terms of Western Conference reserves has Butler and Westbrook getting voted in at guard, Aldridge, Towns and Green voted in as frontcourt players, and Thompson and Lillard voted in as the wild cards.

That means the most likely Western Conference snubs will be: Chris Paul, Paul George, and Nikola Jokic.

Paul has missed 17 games this season, which is just too many when there are so many other great guards from which to choose, and George’s usage has dropped massively in Oklahoma City. As for Jokic, somebody has to get snubbed, and the other reasonable possibility is that he be named a wild card player at the expense of Lillard, and no NBA fan should have to see that happen yet again.

The 2018 NBA All-Star Reserves will be announced at 7:00 p.m. EST on January 23 on TNT.

Tune in Tuesday night to see which players will make the team, and which will inevitably be snubbed.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending Now