Mar 3, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson warms up before the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Ty Lawson's 2014-15 Fantasy Basketball Outlook

 

The Denver Nuggets’ star point guard, Ty Lawson, had a strong start to his 22013-14 season before injuries hobbled him to the finish line. With a new season to look forward to, let us take a look at Ty Lawson’s 2014-15 fantasy basketball outlook:

Offense

Lawson had a breakout season in 2014, averaging career-highs in points scored (17.6,) assists (8.8) and free throws made-attempted (5.2-6.5). He ranked 10th among point guards in scoring, but was just 17th in field goal percentage (.431) and in adjusted field goal percentage (.475).

Lawson also has a decent three-point shot, averaging 1.2 three point field goals per game, while shooting at .356 from downtown.

Assists-wise, Ty Lawson was among the NBA’s league leaders. At 8.8 assists per game last season, Lawson was tied with Kendall Marshall and John Wall for the 2nd highest average, behind only Chris Paul.

However, if you take a look at Lawson’s career averages, you will notice a decrease in his field goal percentage the more he’s gotten the ball in his hands. At the same time, his assist numbers have gone up during this period of time. The reason for this is that Lawson did what he had to do to generate offense for his teammates, but they did not do the same for him. The proof of this is that only 22 percent of his made shots were from assists in 2014, which was down from 34 percent in 2013. Offensively, Lawson struggled because he did not have anybody to set him up. Having to create his own offense took a toll on his shooting percentages.

That being said, the strength of Lawson’s game is his ability to go to the foul line by being an aggressive basket attacker. Lawson led all NBA point guards in free throw attempts per game at 6.5, and was a close second to Russell Westbrook in free throw makes per game at 5.2. The reason for this was because Lawson was very aggressive last season, drawing 53 more shooting fouls than the previous year despite playing nine fewer games than in the 2012-13 season.

The concern with Lawson’s 2013-14 season was that he also had a career-high with 3.2 turnovers per game, which is perhaps the biggest drawback of his offensive game. Many of these turnovers were caused by the career-high 140 bad passes he threw last season. These bad passes were visible in three areas:

  1. Getting in the air with no pass to make
  2. Bad pitch-ahead passes
  3. Passing to a spot rather than reading the defense during pick and roll plays

This is where Lawson needs to improve the most next season.

Overall, Lawson’s offensive game is good enough to have on any fantasy basketball team. His areas of strength are scoring points and dishing assists. With the Nuggets not making major changes during this offseason, Lawson could be in a position where he may average around 20 points and 10 assists this upcoming season.

Why do we say so? Lawson had 23 double-doubles last season, and was averaging 21.0 points and 8.4 assists in the month of November, prior to his injuries.

Defense

Last season, Lawson averaged 3.5 rebounds per game. Although those are just modest numbers, that is impressive considering that Lawson stands just 5’11”, and that his average was 12th best among all NBA point guards.

The key statistic in Lawson’s defense is steals. He was 16th in the NBA in steals at 1.61 per game, but among point guards he was ranked 6th. What makes Lawson’s steals average impressive is that he had a 0.88 steals per personal foul average, which was 10th best in the entire NBA and was just slightly behind point guard leaders Chris Paul (0.98) and C.J. Watson (0.91). The reason for this is that Lawson isn’t one of the more foul prone guards in the NBA. He averaged just 1.8 personal fouls per game last season.

That being said, opponents took advantage of Lawson’s size (or lack thereof) during pick and roll situations. Last season, Lawson was a pick and roll defender in 338 plays, and he was flat-out screened in many instances. An increase in his defensive awareness and aggressiveness in pick and roll plays should help this weakness, although there is also a need for an improvement in Denver’s overall pick and roll defense.

Experts’ Rankings

  • CBSSports.com (as of August 7, 2014) 8th ranked guard, Average Draft Position = 26.05
  • FantasyPros.com (as of March 31, 2014) 5th ranked point guard overall, Expert Consensus Ranking = 21st
  • ESPN.com  2014-15 has him ranked as the 10thbest point guard, with an overall ranking of 24th

ESPN also ranks Ty Lawson 10th among NBA point guards in Player Efficiency Rating at 19.02. So, it’s safe to say that Lawson is among the Top 10 point guards in the NBA right now and is certainly one worth adding to any fantasy basketball team.

Injury Report

Lawson played only 62 games last season, including missing the last six games, due to numerous injuries. Last June, the Denver Post reported that Lawson’s injury was more serious than expected.

In a report by DenverPost.com, dated June 2, 2014:

“The left ankle injury that cost Nuggets guard Ty Lawson the last six games of the 2013-14 season has turned out to be worse than originally thought.

‘I still can’t run,’ Lawson said by phone from Valencia, Spain, for NBA 3X, a 3-on-3 tournament sponsored by the league. ‘They said it’s no surgery, just another three or four weeks just staying off of it, not really doing too much and it should be fine.’”

Lawson had the ankle checked, but “neither X-ray nor MRI showed any structural damage to the knee,” according to the same report.  Lawson was expected to begin full offseason workout activities last month.

62 games was the fewest number of games that Lawson has played in a single NBA season. In fact, Lawson hasn’t missed more than 10 games in any of the last three seasons. He’s only 26-years old and if it’s a simple ankle injury that he’s dealing with, expect Lawson to make a full recovery and play at least 72 games next season.

2014-15 Season Outlook

As the Nuggets struggled during last season, coach Brian Shaw said this, via DenverStiffs.com on April 4, 2014:

“Before practice earlier this week, Shaw and his coaching staff met with Lawson and Faried about finishing the season strong and embracing their role as leaders on the court and in the locker room. ‘I just keep trying to encourage both of them to start thinking more in those terms,’ Shaw said. ‘They’ve come to the forefront as the cornerstones that this team is going to be built around.’”

The Nuggets finished just 36-46 last season and were way out of the race for the playoffs. However with Shaw’s statement, we know the direction the team is going to.

The fantasy significance of this statement is that as long as Lawson is healthy, he will be the focal point of the offense, as Kenneth Faried will be on defense. Lawson is locked with the Nuggets until the 2016-17 season, and with that lofty billing as a cornerstone comes more opportunities to produce statistics.

With that said, expect a healthy Ty Lawson to lead the way and to produce better numbers as the Nuggets focus to make the playoffs after their adjustment period with Brian Shaw last season.

Tags: Denver Nuggets Ty Lawson

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