Why Denver Nuggets Must Lock Up Blossoming Star Ty Lawson Before Free Agency

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIOctober 2, 2012

DENVER, CO - APRIL 18:  Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets controls the ball against Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers at Pepsi Center on April 18, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Clippers defeated the Nuggets 104-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

One of the greatest hindrances of a young team looking to find its way is the annual period of the feared free agency. After carefully sculpting a roster that is capable of achieving the goals one had planned, a general manager must then secure these players from a contractual standpoint.

If they're unable to, all of the work they've placed into constructing a team will mean nothing. If the Denver Nuggets don't act soon, they'll learn just how devastating that can be.

With free agency looming, the Nuggets are now faced with the task of retaining breakout star point guard Ty Lawson. Although there is promise for his return, Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post reports that the re-signing process may not come for quite some time.

“Talks are good,” [Nuggets executive Masai] Ujiri said. “We continue to talk. It never gets really serious until that date comes.”

Lawson had told The Denver Post back in the spring that he wants to remain with the Nuggets long-term.

Although Hochman attempts to offer a sense of confidence due to Lawson's interest in returning to Denver, there is a serious reason for concern. Lawson is one of the fastest-rising stars in the NBA and will be in high demand this coming offseason.

Due to this growing possibility, it is imperative that the Denver Nuggets re-sign their point guard before the 2013 period of free agency.


No distractions

The Nuggets have spent nearly a full decade with the label of "the team that is on the brink of legitimate success." Whether it was the Carmelo Anthony era or the recent infusion of youth, hope was never met by results.

Although they've made the postseason every year since 2004, the Nuggets have made it out of the first round on just one occasion. That came in 2009 when 'Melo and the boys lost to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

For that reason, it is of the utmost importance that the Denver Nuggets go through this season with absolutely no distractions. To focus on anything other than finally living up to expectations would be detrimental to the potential success of the Denver franchise.

To prevent such events from transpiring, the Nuggets must lock up Ty Lawson in the near future. If they fail to, his expiring contract will become a daily topic among the players and media—something that George Karl's group is certainly looking to avoid.


Core established

One of the keys to an NBA franchise developing success and longevity is the formation of a "core." For those unaware, that term is in reference to a group of players whom the team can build around as they pursue glory.

For the Denver Nuggets, that core is made up of Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee and, you guessed it, Ty Lawson.

With the addition of All-Star wingman Andre Iguodala, those essential young players have finally found the star veteran they've needed for guidance. Although Andre Miller provides the necessary leadership, they haven't had a dominant force since Carmelo Anthony departed.

Iguodala could be just that.

The Olympic gold medalist is an elite perimeter defender who can attack the basket and throw down some of the most ferocious dunks you've ever seen. He's also an excellent ball handler who can facilitate, thus offering a new dynamic to a perimeter that has struggled with inconsistency.

Most important of all, he's coming off of a season in which he led the Philadelphia 76ers to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. That's an escape from the first round, for those of you taking notes.

With all of this being established, there would be nothing worse than to lose the point guard of this core group of players. Ty Lawson is the pacemaker and leader of this group, which makes him the most important asset on the roster.

To let him walk would be to essentially allow what could be a championship-caliber core crumble.


Approaching elite

Ty Lawson has long been one of the most dynamic point guards in the NBA. He's one of the fastest players in the game and is equally as quick in the half court. What Lawson has lacked, however, is a developed set of point guard skills that could be classified as elite.

With Andre Miller as his mentor, it appears as if Ty Lawson has made the leap.

During the regular season, Lawson began his march to the top of the food chain by posting averages of 16.4 points, 6.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. When faced with the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 2012 postseason, Lawson's averages crept to 19.0 points, 6.0 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.

In that seven-game series, Lawson had negative outliers to effect those averages. The performances that truly offer insight into what the former UNC Tar Heel is capable of, however, were the four games in which he scored at least 24 points.

That includes a 32-point performance in the Nuggets' series-saving Game 6 victory. Lawson was 13-of-18 from the floor and connected on five three-point field goals. From top to bottom, it's safe to say that this was his breakout performance.

In a losing effort during Game 7, Lawson followed up with 24 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Consider this trend to be more of an evolution.


Fastest rising position in the NBA

Is there an NBA position that has seen more of a rapid infusion of young talent than point guard? After evaluating the entirety of the league, it's safe to say no.

Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio are five of the many point guards who are at or approaching elite status. The constant with these players is the fact that they are all under the age of 25.

At 24, Ty Lawson fits that bill and joins those players as one of the most promising stars of tomorrow. The difference is, Lawson will be the only one of the players listed to be entering free agency.

As a result, Lawson's price and demand will increase significantly during the period of free agency. It's safe to say that he is the second-best point guard in this upcoming class of the unsigned, with only Chris Paul sitting before him.

Assuming Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans make it past their qualifying offer and do not overcome their multitude of questions, that will not change.

In turn, Lawson will become one of the hottest commodities on the market. Every team is in search of a point guard and there are very few who can control the pace of a game like the former North Carolina Tar Heel.

Unless the Denver Nuggets plan on entering a bidding war, that is exactly why they must re-sign Ty Lawson before it's too late.