After spending nine seasons as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers, Brian Shaw’s influence on point guard Ty Lawson and the Denver Nuggets as a head coach is making a positive impact.
A 1-4 start that featured two home losses wasn’t the most ideal beginning to Shaw’s career as a head coach, especially since he’s replacing George Karl—the man who led the Nuggets to 57 wins a season ago.
However, a seven-game win streak from Nov. 21 through Dec. 3, in addition to a 103-92 win over the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday, has helped propel Denver back into the playoff picture.
The play of Lawson has been a huge reason for the impressive turnaround.
Lawson was sidelined for the game against Philly, but his stats during the 2013-14 season have been phenomenal. He’s leading the Nuggets in points (19.3 per game), assists (eight per game), steals (1.2 per game) and player efficiency rating (22.0).
Where the 26-year-old point guard has truly excelled, however, is attacking the basket.
He’s scored 109 total points on those drives while shooting a steady 50 percent.
What’s most impressive, however, is Lawson’s league-leading team points per game on drives (13.7). So not only is the point guard getting his own looks while driving to the bucket, he’s also freeing up teammates for scores.
Despite his success, it wasn’t easy for Lawson to adjust to Shaw’s system, which features the big men on the interior.
Coach Shaw’s philosophy of involving guys like Kenneth Faried and upstart center Timofey Mozgov in the offense frustrated Lawson initially, per Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. However, the point guard has adapted and thrived under his new coach.
Here’s what Lawson had to say, per Kiszla’s article:
It’s been a big adjustment. I like to penetrate and touch the paint. It’s a little bit harder when there are bigs in the lane, waiting for the post (pass). There’s really nowhere for me to drive. Now, I’m working on passing inside and then cutting. I never really cut during my first couple years in the league. Now, cutting off the big could actually get me an easier shot, either from the corner or with a baseline layup. This could take my game to another level, make it more multidimensional.
Now the North Carolina product is in the midst of a career year because he bought in to Shaw’s teachings.
Another Nuggets player who has thrived under the first year head coach is Mozgov.
The 27-year-old Russian didn’t receive much court time early in his career, but he’s taking advantage of his opportunities now.
“He’s getting an opportunity and he’s making the most of it,” Shaw said according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post.
Of his new coach Mozgov said, “He puts you on the court. He trusts in you. It’s better. It’s simple,” per Dempsey's article.
After a rough start, the Nuggets are finding their groove under Coach Shaw. They’re 8-2 in their past 10 games and 12-8 overall.
As long as key players continue to buy what Shaw is selling, this Nuggets team could become a serious playoff contender.