Pacers willing to give Lawson longer look
May. 19, 2016
If you thought Ty Lawson had played his way out of Indiana, think again.
Despite his postseason disappearance, Lawson is still considered a viable option in the team’s never-ending search for an upgrade at point guard.
“I felt comfortable,” Larry Bird said, “when Ty Lawson was here making plays and getting up and down the court.”
Granted, it was a limited sample size, but Lawson really showed more down than up in his time with the Pacers. He closed the regular season with a relative flourish, averaging 8.0 points and 7.7 assists in the final three games (against the Nets, Knicks and Bucks), giving rise to the hope he could be a factor in the postseason.
Instead, Lawson couldn’t contain Toronto’s journeyman backup, Corey Joseph, and produced next to nothing offensively. In seven games, he totaled 16 points – fewer than the 18 Joseph scored in Game 1 alone – and shot 33 percent from the field.
In Lawson’s 74 minutes on the court against the Raptors, the Pacers were outscored by 43 points.
And yet, when asked about the future of the position, both Bird and new head coach Nate McMillan warmed to the possibility of Lawson.
“That position is so important when you’re talking about playing fast,” McMillan said on The Ride with JMV Tuesday. “That guy has to establish your tempo and if he is a guy that can’t establish your tempo then you’re not going to play that style of basketball. We moved Monta Ellis to the point this year because we felt the tempo would increase with him handling the ball a lot more. George Hill was shooting lights-out from the 3-point line so we wanted to get him down the floor and get him to the 3-point line and spread that offense out. The biggest key with playing fast is your point guard must establish that tempo and that’s something we’re going to look to address this year.”
Could Lawson be the answer?
“I was in the West for a number of years coaching against that guy,” he said. “He has the speed and he certainly has the game to establish that tempo. When he was in Denver under (George) Karl, he was deadly. There’s probably one other guy that has that type of speed – John Wall. So Ty certainly could be the guy to establish that tempo. That was the main reason Larry tried to bring him in. I think he only played 13, 14 games for us so it was hard to really take a good look at him.”
Working in Lawson’s favor are the relatively few options for an upgrade. The draft offers no legitimate starting prospects where the Pacers select (No. 20 overall), there will be enormous competition for the one standout on the free agent market (Memphis’ Mike Conley) and the trade market will be flooded with offers for Atlanta’s Jeff Teague.
How thin is the crop of free agent point guards? HoopsHype.com’s position rankings have Lawson No. 6 overall.
“We’ve talked about this for a number of years,” Bird said. “What we have here, we have a budget and we stay within our budget and if we get an opportunity to get a point guard, we probably will look at it. But to run around and say you should get this guy or that guy, it’s a little harder than you think it is. But obviously I would like to have a real point guard. …
“The summer is going to be full of surprises, I think, because of the new cap and players moving around. I think there’ll be a lot of trading and guys will be moving teams, so it’s all new for all of us in this business. But to sit here and tell you I’m going to get a point guard, I really don’t know yet.”
Perhaps with a full offseason to get up to speed with McMillan’s system – whatever it turns out to be – and more in synch with his teammates, Lawson can regain the form that made him one of the most dangerous point guards in the league during his years with the Nuggets.
The cruel benefit of his modest production with the Pacers, following a release from Houston, is that Lawson will not command much of a payday so he would be a low-risk player with potentially high reward.
If he was on another team, he’d be precisely the type of player the Pacers would be looking for – a proven talent with plenty of years ahead of him looking for a fresh start.
Those last 20 games suggest Lawson isn’t the solution. Six years in Denver suggest he could be.
So maybe we haven’t seen the real Ty Lawson yet. There certainly is no harm in continuing to look.