Why Extending Ty Lawson Caps an Offseason of Shrewd Moves by the Denver Nuggets

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Why Extending Ty Lawson Caps an Offseason of Shrewd Moves by the Denver Nuggets
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The Denver Nuggets inked Ty Lawson to a four-year extension according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

This is a big win for the Nuggets.

First, they get to keep Ty Lawson for four more years. Second, four more years of Lawson for $12 million a year is a bargain. 

Lawson is a terrific young player who averaged better than 16 points and six assists a game last year. He is among the league's fastest players. He's a perfect fit on a team that loves to run the way Denver does.

Only six guards in the league had more than Lawson's 6.9 Win Shares in 2011-12. They were Andre Iguodala, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and James Harden. None of those players is projected to make less than Lawson next year. The next cheapest is Tony Parker, who will make $12.5 million.

The next-cheapest player after Lawson and Parker is Iguodala. He was traded for by the Nuggets this offseason and is slated to make $14.7 million.

The Nuggets have quietly had one of the best offseasons of any team in the league.

No, they didn't add two Hall of Famers, but they did acquire an All-Star that fits seamlessly with the Nuggets' style of play, and they kept their most important player. 

The Nuggets led the NBA in fast-break points last season, according to teamrankings.com, averaging 19.8 points in transition. Iguodala was seventh in the NBA in steals and scored 94 transition buckets himself.

In addition, he's arguably the best passing non-point guard in the NBA, and that includes LeBron James. According to John Hollinger, Iguodala has the best pure point guard rating of any non-point guard in the NBA over the last two seasons.

In addition, Iguodala is a perfect fit for the Nuggets defensively. Here are the numbers from ESPN's Ryan Feldman:

The Nuggets upgraded their defense by trading Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington and acquiring Iguodala. That was an area of need after allowing the 5th-most points per play in the NBA last season. Last season, 113 players defended at least 50 plays and Afflalo was the worst among them in terms of points per play allowed. Harrington ranked 54th. Iguodala ranked 10th, holding opponents to 37 percent shooting. 

The addition of Iguodala is in addition to that of JaVale McGee, who is so zealous to play defense he even wants to play it when his team has the ball. Cough. You really can't make enough jokes about that. 

But seriously, the Nuggets have an assistant coach named John Welch.

If you've never heard of him, there's a reason. The Nuggets have tried to keep him a secret because he is an absolute master of player development, and that's why players like Corey Brewer find their mojo with Denver. 

Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post says:

You don't know John Welch. But he's the Nuggets' secret weapon, a workout wizard, an eternal gym rat, George Karl's consigliere.

Asked to talk about Welch's importance, Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri said: "I don't want to talk about him — because I don't want any other team to take him. He's the best, he's the best in the NBA, there's no doubt about it. No disrespect to anybody, but he's the best player development coach in the NBA. He takes basketball seriously — his work, his trade."

McGee is a an absolute freakish athlete, and Hollinger gave the Nuggets credit for doing more already than the Wizards did, saying, "Defensively, the Nuggets developed him more in two months than the Wizards did in four years, but he still has a ton of work left."

It's not just a matter of getting pieces; it's getting pieces that fit together and fit a system.

McGee, Iguodala and Lawson are all freakishly athletic. They represent a point, a wing and a center, which means that the Nuggets have great floor balance. 

They also have plenty of complementary talent in players like Danilo Gallinari, the team's best scorer, and Kenneth Faried, who had the best PER of any rookie last season. 

The whole team loves to fly up and down the court, which only makes it more difficult for opponents to handle the thin air of Denver. George Karl's "push the ball" mantra coincides wonderfully with this collection of players as opposed to the "hold the ball" mentality of a certain former superstar. 

In short, all the Nuggets did this offseason was get a lot better at what they were worst at—even better than what they were the best at—and they did it all without having to break the bank.

Denver's moves may not have grabbed the same headlines as some of the others in the offseason, but look for them to vie for the top seed in the West and grab the headlines late in the regular season. 

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