Ty Lawson Contract Means Denver Nuggets Are Ready to Contend

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets goes up for a dunk in the second half while taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets took the time to re-sign speedy point guard Ty Lawson this afternoon to the tune of a four-year $48 million contract extension that will keep him in a Nuggets' uniform well into the future.

What Denver gains here is a lot of small bonuses for this season and beyond, but it seems like Lawson gains the most out of the extension.

First let's take a look at what he's getting in comparison to the some of the other guys who have recently signed contracts.

This immediately makes Lawson the highest-paid player on the Nuggets in terms of overall money left on his contract. Andre Iguodala is their highest-paid guy per season, but his contract is up at the end of this year, with a player option for $15 million next season.

Aside from that, two guys have contracts that rival Lawson's. JaVale McGee recently signed a four-year, $44 million deal, and Danilo Gallinari has a combined $42 million left on his contract over the next four seasons.

It keeps Lawson out of the top 30 players in the league in terms of yearly salary in the coming season, which is probably a good thing. Lawson is a fine player, but he's not quite in that top-30 echelon yet. 

Of course, should he continue to grow past what he did last season, it's possible that the Nuggets have an amazing deal in this contract. An average of $12 million over four seasons for a guy who can be considered a team's "best player" is an impressive steal.

Denver now has a pretty good hunk of payroll tied up in Lawson, McGee and Gallinari over the next four years, so it seems like they're more or less all-in with these guys.

What remains to be seen is what they end up doing with Andre Iguodala.

What that means, however, is that they're ready to be legitimate contenders in the Western Conference. Whether you're ready to call them championship sleepers or not is still up to you, but they're definitely in play to remain at the top of the West for the foreseeable future.

There's a lot of formality in this title for sure. They've effectively done nothing to alter the status of their team as it stands, or did they? There's a bit of duality here.

Denver's team is the same, sure, but the philosophy is much different than it was before Lawson signed his extension.

What they've done now is they showed their cards on the flop, confident enough in what they've seen so far that the next two cards can't do much to hurt them. In a sense, that seems like a good way to look at this team.

We've seen Lawson's greatness, but not an innate ability to run the point, which he can still get better at. We've seen flashes of brilliance from JaVale McGee, just not consistency, which can come with time. And we've seen Gallinari take and make big shots, just not on an everyday basis.

The idea behind this team is the same as the idea behind buying bigger-sized clothes for kids. They're going to grow into them, just as these players are going to grow into their bigger-sized contracts.

At least that's the theory.

On top of everything else, this is Nuggets General Manager Masai Ujiri believing in the team he's put together and his ability to continue to fill in pieces along the way.

They aren't in a conundrum fiscally with this deal, as they basically have about $34 million going to three very good basketball players and flexibility past next season, depending on what they do with Iguodala.

More so than anything else, this is an incredible vote of confidence toward Lawson, and that's something that can't be overlooked.

The very first thing this extension does is get rid of the elephant in the room that the team wasn't exactly ignoring. George Karl pointed it out as a distraction recently, making it seem as if this was something weighing heavy on the team.

Lawson has been shown by the team that they value him as one of the two most important players on the team.

With that on his mind, and the worry about an extension off his mind, it's probably safe to say that the former North Carolina guard is going to put together a big season for Denver.