Saturday, October 6th, 2012 at 3:17 pm  |  26 responses

Top 50: Ty Lawson, no. 41

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad

Ty Lawson isn’t short on confidence heading into the ‘12-13 season, having already claimed that the Nuggets are the team to beat out West.

With his statement, the lightning quick point guard has put a huge bullseye on both his and his teammate’s backs and will have to perform at a high level if he is to back up his pre-season claim.

Is Lawson up to the challenge?

The last time we saw the Nuggets on the court was during last season’s Playoffs when the point guard lead Denver in a seven-game slugfest against the Lakers. The Nuggets went onto lose the series, but it was no fault of Lawson’s as he put together impressive outings—25 points and 7 assists; 25 and 7; 36 and 6; and 24 and 6—in four of the seven games.

Think about that for a second: Ty Lawson, a sub-6-foot player balling in a League dominated by giants, was torching an L.A. team that featured two 7-footers, Ron Artest (sorry, I refuse to call him Metta World Peace) and Kobe Bryant. Using his blinding speed, the Carolina alum was able to knife through a crowded paint and rain threes over the overmatched combo of Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake.

The Nuggets’, and Lawson’s performance in particular, left many basketball fans and analysts impressed, setting the stage for this season’s elevated expectations.

The ‘12-13 season has the potential to be special for the Nugs. With the addition of Andre Iguodala plus scorers like Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, Lawson will have a lot of mouths to feed, and faces the challenging task of keeping all of his teammates happy while still getting his.

Though this Nuggets team has proven to be unselfish, this is the NBA where every player is a bad stretch away from letting his ego get in the way of a team’s success. Lawson will be counted on to put everyone in the position to get their touches.

Luckily for Lawson, he has plenty of experience in running the show when surrounded by talent. Growing up in the DMV area, a high school-aged Lawson played on the same AAU team as Kevin Durant. From there, Lawson attended UNC, teaming with the likes of Wayne Ellington, Ed Davis and Tyler Hansbrough, where they ultimately won a National Championship. With that kind of experience, Lawson knows what it takes to make a team click and help maximize its performance.

While he should see a rise in both his point and assist totals (last year he averaged 16.4 and 6.6 per—eerily identical numbers to his final year at Carolina), the point guard’s biggest impact won’t show up in the stat sheet.

Lawson’s biggest contribution on the court this season will be more mental than anything else—entering his fourth year, he will have to prove that he is ready to become the leader of team for years to come.

Outside of Iguodala, who hasn’t played a single game for the organization, the Nuggets lack a seasoned veteran who has an influence both on the court and in the locker room. Lawson will be George Karl’s eyes and ears on the hardwood and it will be up to him to take control of the team and assume the leadership role that is currently vacant.

At 25 and entering a contract season—though there’s a chance that he will sign an extension before the season starts—Lawson will be the most important (not best, important) player on a Nuggets team that is building what could be a force in the Western Conference.

Denver’s intelligent front office will determine whether Lawson is the team’s long-term solution at the point, a decision that will come down to not only his production and numbers but also his grip on the team and his leadership capabilities.

Coach Karl has been hounding his point guard all offseason about stepping up and being the voice of the team and it is now show and prove time for the young man.

Fortunately for Lawson, Karl has put him in a perfect position to succeed with a gameplan that caters to his strengths.

Denver’s uptempo system allows the point guard to get out in transition and find his surrounding cast of young, athletic players for easy scoring opportunities. When the game is on the line, Karl is comfortable with the ball in Lawson’s hands, and the point guard is never one to shy away from the big moment, possessing the rare clutch factor gene that big-time players are seemingly born with.

Lawson’s pre-season proclamation will certainly be scoffed at, but beneath the surface, it could be seen as an attempt to control the reins of this young Nuggets team. Lawson will be held accountable from here on out, but if he backs up his claim and produces, there’s no doubt that his teammates will instill their trust and count on him to help the team win games.

Lawson made a strong impression on the SLAMonline staff, making his Top 50 debut at No. 41, ahead of other point guards Brandon Jennings and Steph Curry and All-Star Al Horford. Lawson’s ranking is indicative of SLAMonline’s belief that he is ready to take the next step in his career and become a vital piece of Denver’s future.

In an era where the depth and talent at point guard has never been matched, he has a chance to work his way into the top tier of guards with his play this upcoming season.

The table is set for him to enter the conversation as an All-Star caliber floor general.

Now it’s on him to deliver.

Where should Ty Lawson rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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    he will be top 30 in no time. dude is special

  • Perry the PlatyPteranodon

    Fast as hell, got the jumper on lock, good basketball iq, an ego of almost Kanye-esqe proportions… This kids awesome and fun to watch… Denver might beat out the Clips for most entertaining team to watch

  • danpowers

    now i wonder if felton made the top 50

  • http://twitter.com/MaluNewYorker Jerry Alex

    Ty will be an all star this year.

  • Caboose

    Is this going to be another Top 50 where defense isn’t taken into consideration?

  • thor

    of course felton wont make it

  • danpowers

    he’ll be in there next year

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    No he won’t. That’s ridiculous. He’s average, at best. He isn’t going to be anything he hasn’t already proven to be.

  • Perry the PlatyPteranodon

    He’ll be there when Stoudemire makes a positive defensive impact.

  • danpowers

    depends on the shape he is going to be in this yr. if he is in a good shape he will repeat his great performance of his last stint with the knicks when he almost played on an all star level. this time his ppg will go a bit down as the offense will be clearly designed for stat and melo but i expect his fg% and apg go up. should be a solid year for him.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    No his great performance was a byproduct of Mike D’Antoni’s system. Not him being in great shape. Come on are you also holding onto the great shape theory for Chris Duhon too?

  • danpowers

    we all know how dantonis system inflates players stats, sure. but he also played nice in denver and put up nice numbers even though he didnt start there. he is not going to average 17ppg and apg again but should have a pretty solid year IF in shape.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Lol. If he doesn’t put up 17 and 9 ever again then he certainly won’t ever be in the top 50 dude.

  • JR

    I’m gonna say it: Kyle Lowry better make this list.

  • Datkid

    when in shape and in the right system (up tempo pick and rolls) Felton can actually be pretty decent. However he’ll be in mike wood son’s melo-centric iso offense so he’ll definitely suck. sorry.

  • tealish

    oh he’s making it, don’t worry

  • spit hot fiyah

    only 9 point guards left on the list, so don’t be so sure

  • spit hot fiyah

    he is the 10th ranked point guard on this list, which mean mario chalmers should be coming up soon right. right?

  • danpowers

    14 – 8 should also do it when on a playoff squad. but well, so far thats not predictable and i think in his case the best case scenario. anyway, hes not in there and i didnt know ty was already that good, was jus a little suprised when i saw his numbers. the nuggets will be big fun to watch.

  • danpowers

    we’ll see if they really play melo iso ball again. i jus dont hope so

  • Drig

    Rondo, Rose, Westbrook, DWill, CP3, Nash, Parker, Irving, Wall/Lowry???? Leaving out one of them is gonna be tough……..

  • Justin05

    No he won’t. He’s not even the best player on his team anymore.

  • Justin05

    Wall or Lowry will be left out

  • Datkid


  • brad 09′

    wow really 41 hmmm he belongs top 32

  • Tom.s

    He got the reins of his squad and every oppurtunity to become an allstar. Damn, Denver is going to be fun to watch this year and the show starts with Ty (why did the Pistons pass on him?!?).