Essay: Ty Lawson’s Need To Attack The Basket
There is no simple way to describe this season’s installment of the Denver Nuggets. Their roster is symmetrical tie-dye, a blend of cultures and complimentary skill-sets splashed together with an insane level of athleticism, smarts, chemistry, and camaraderie.
Are they a title contender? In this season, with all the injuries, crazy lineup implementations, and uber-balanced playoff races, why not? A healthy Denver Nuggets squad matches up well with just about every team in the Western Conference. They have scorers, rebounders, facilitators, shot-blockers, and a bench full of guys who believe they should be starting. That’s a scary group.
If you believe crazier things have happened, that Denver could in fact survive what’s shaping up to be the most unpredictable postseason in recent memory, then by definition you agree that they’re contenders. Using this logic, Ty Lawson, in his first season as a full-time starter, is now the most important player on a championship contender. Let that thought sink in for a moment.
Drafted with the thought he’d be a change-of-pace energizer bunny off the bench, Lawson is instead blossoming into a pace-setting energizer bunny from opening tip to final buzzer. His combination of speed and stocky girth has placed him in elite company among those we regularly wonder aloud the question: How do you defend that guy? Lawson combines the arguable title of fastest player alive with a mental determination to attack the basket, and he does so regardless of the opponent and regardless of fatigue. (This season, on second games of a back to back, Lawson averages nine points in the paint, which is two more than when Denver is granted a day of rest.)
Courtesy of NBA.com, here’s a distribution chart of every shot Lawson’s attempted this season. Take note of his action around the basket.
Now, here’s another one detailing his past five games.
Granted it’s a tiny sample size that must account for Denver’s integration of a few new players and some unfortunate injuries, but lately Lawson has differed his approach. In Denver’s last five games he has accounted for 42.9% of all his team’s made three-pointers when he’s on the court. That number isn’t necessarily bad because he’s an above average long distance shooter, but it shows that Lawson has recently been drifting. Instead of attacking the basket and utilizing his greatest strength (blinding speed), he’s giving defenses a break by settling. In back to back losses against Utah and Minnesota late last week, Lawson went 7-22 from the field for 19 points. Monday night, as Denver thrashed the league’s best defense in Chicago, he scored 27.
Ty Lawson is four inches shorter than Russell Westbrook but outweighs him by about 25 pounds. That’s crazy. He’s like an awesome 3rd down running back who’s on the field for every single down. When he’s playing with channelled aggression, Denver becomes the most bellicose team in the West. When he doesn’t, they disintegrate.
If Denver wins it all, several players, including Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Arron Afflalo, and Al Harrington will all have to play the most focused basketball of their life for a two month period. And even if they all do, and everything clicks, nothing will matter unless Lawson inserts his key. He’s the puppeteer, pushing buttons and pulling strings inside the empty brain of a team that’s built to win it all. All he needs to do is put his head down, and keep on driving.