Through his first four seasons, Lawson's put up 13.2 points and 5.3 assists, including a team-best 16.7 points and 6.9 assists last year. Since becoming the starting point guard of the Nuggets when Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups went to the New York Knicks, Lawson's game has evolved into the engine that makes Denver run.
But now the Nuggets will run more half-court offense with Shaw in charge. Adding that Andre Iguodala is no longer by his side, can Lawson be more of an asset than a liability defensively?
Lawson is clearly one of the better point guards in the NBA, but there are ways he can get better.
Balancing Out His Offensive Game
With a new scheme coming for the Nuggets, will Lawson still be a dangerous offensive threat?
Lawson is at his best when the ball is in his hands and he's penetrating the lane or pushing the ball up the floor. His combination of speed, ball handling and vision make him difficult to contain.
As Shaw wants improvement in the half court and he continues to work with the guys in training camp, he's not slowing it down all the time. According to Shaw in Nate Timmons' article at SB Nation, the key is getting the best shot possible, "I still want us to look to run and attack first. So, we have to be able to balance that. Although I have talked about us playing a little bit of a different style, inside-out, the first priority is still to push the ball up the floor."
At the same time, Shaw also mentioned in the article that some triangle elements are already being implemented. "When a guy like Quincy Miller had the ball in the corner, Faried would flash to the free throw line, McGee to the post, and the point guard who passed to Quincy would clear out ... thus forming a triangle. You see it all the time with NBA teams, really."
So here's a small taste of how Shaw is going to increase Lawson's offensive diversity.
Lawson is going to attack the rim early in the shot clock, perhaps off a pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop situation. If there isn't a clean look, he'll get the ball to the corner, and Denver starts moving the ball in some form of a triangle motion.
Then off this motion and as Lawson clears out, he'll come back around as the ball swings, and he'll have an opportunity at utilizing his three-point shooting. Lawson's 38 percent in his career from behind the arc, and with Shaw's success improving young players and shooting threes as a point guard in the past, he could have some ideas in helping Lawson from long distance.
Plus, it'll help Denver's 34.3 three-point percentage from last season.
We're still going to see Lawson excel in the fast break, but with the focus on the new half-court offense, he'll have more ways to score while getting the other guys going. He'll still put up around his usual 16 points per game, but they'll be more efficient.
Put Special Attention on Defense
While Lawson does have great speed and forced 1.47 steals last season, there's plenty of work to be done on defense.
At times last season when it came to the opposing guards, Iguodala defended the best perimeter scorer and Lawson took the more defensive-oriented player. Lawson won't have that luxury in 2013-14.
But not only is Shaw already taking steps to enhance Lawson's defense, he's putting the whole Denver squad to the test. According to Shaw in Timmons' article, he's turning the physicality up a notch by going man-to-man at all times. "Right now, I'm not letting them switch at all. I'm making them fight over screens, making them talk, and just be accountable for their own man."
While Shaw also mentioned there will be times where it's smart for Denver to switch, he wants his guys playing every possession like it's their last. This is particularly important for Lawson in regards to how often he'll be against high-ball screens guarding players like Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker and Stephen Curry.
Another thing Shaw referred to that's key for Lawson is simply being more tenacious. He understands opponents will always try and post up a 5'11" guard, and therefore, he must counteract that by disrupting their offensive flow before the ball even gets down the court.
There's no doubt Lawson is an alert player with quick feet. With some attention on these defensive aspects in training camp and now having an energetic guy like Nate Robinson to practice against, it helps Lawson become a more complete player.
So while Shaw is developing his point guard's game, he's beginning to change the culture of Denver basketball.
Keep Pursuing Him to Be a Leader
As Shaw continues to work with Lawson on the court, there's one additional thing the head coach is looking for out of him—leadership. He made that clear at Nuggets media day.
It's one thing to lead the team in points and assists. It's another to get everyone on the same page and pick up the slack when things aren't going smoothly.
Lawson is entering the prime of his career, and if he demonstrates the necessary leadership, this might be the season to make him a captain. As Mile High Sports points out, Iguodala and Andre Miller were the 2012-13 captains, but this team has a new coach, a much different look and one of those captains is gone.
A large part of it will depend on how Lawson does in training camp and the preseason, but it doesn't just mean statistics. It'll also come down to communication, controlling the tempo and fully understanding Shaw's system.
This is a perfect opportunity for the former North Carolina Tar Heel to embrace the challenge of taking a young talented team with solid potential and making it come to life. There are several hurdles for Denver to climb, but Lawson is a prime candidate to help the Nuggets get over them.
It's going to be tough with all the elite point guards in the Western Conference, but if Lawson makes strides in these areas this winter, he'll be in the conversation for a bid to the 2014 All-Star Game.
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