Young Denver Nuggets Need Ty Lawson to Grow Up Now

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2013

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 20:  Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets is fouled by Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Pepsi Center on January 20, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Thunder 121-118 in overtime. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Ty Lawson needs to grow up. Like now.

Pushing 26 and entering his fifth season in the NBA, the Denver Nuggets don't have the wherewithal to wait on him any longer. Incidents like the ones he's found himself connected to over the last 12 months suggest just that—the Nuggets are waiting on him.

The Denver Post's Ryan Parker recently reported the point guard was charged with "physical harassment and criminal mischief" following a domestic violence arrest. And according to ABC-7 News' Alan Gathright, Lawson's girlfriend, Ashley Nicole Pettiford, was detained as well:

Denver Nuggets' guard Tywon "Ty" Lawson and his girlfriend were arrested in a domestic violence incident at his home on Saturday night, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said.


The 25-year-old Lawson was arrested on investigation of domestic violence-related harassment and property damage -- both misdemeanor charges, court records state.

Previously, Lawson was arrested in January after attempting to "avoid prosecution" stemming from a traffic-related case, per Gathright. He eventually pleaded guilty to allowing an unauthorized person to drive while all other charges were dropped.

This is the kind of distraction the Nuggets don't need; this is the kind of behavior they can't afford to see from their floor general.

Both his run-ins with the law are misdemeanors, details on the current situation remain scarce and Lawson himself doesn't appear shaken by the latest batch of drama but it needs to stop. 

The thing about these public spectacles is, whether you're being misrepresented or not, damage is done. You're associated with unnecessary theatrics.

And right now, the Nuggets need Lawson to be affiliated with leadership, not obscure off-court headaches.


Leadership Void

Since trading Carmelo Anthony, Denver's greatest pitfall has been its lack of recognizable leadership.

Some would posit 'Melo was never really a leader, that he was too self-involved to shoulder such a burden. But with him, there was a distinct chain of command and he was perched atop it. No questions asked.

Once he left, the Nuggets' pyramid crumbled and order has yet to be restored.

They've clinched three straight postseason berths in the post Anthony-era, but have yet to win a playoff series. Avoiding a first-round exodus has been their biggest problem for the last decade, with and without 'Melo.

Andre Iguodala was supposed to fill the void Anthony left, the one that actually existed to a certain extent while he was still in Denver. In Iggy, the Nuggets had a selfless captain who wouldn't put up superstar-esque stat lines, but had the mental capacity to lead.

With him at the "helm," Denver still didn't make it out of the first round. The Nuggets fell to the Golden State Warriors, a loss that has left a trail of residual damage in its wake.

Head coach George Karl was shown the door, Masai Ujiri's pay grade became too much for the organization to foot and Iggy pounced at the opportunity to join the team that sent Denver home early.

Now the Nuggets are here, once again without a clear on-court executive.

For all the talent on their roster, the Nuggets remain ridiculously young. They presently house only one player over the age of 30 (Andre Miller). Additions like Randy Foye, Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson were all good gets, but none of them replace what they had in Iggy.

None of them are going to emerge as the figure Lawson should.


Next in Line

It's almost always the point guard.

Look across the NBA and you'll see it's littered with franchises that have turned to their point men for guidance. Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers, Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls, John Wall and the Washington Wizards and so many more.

Exceptions to the rule exist, of course, but for every LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Paul George there are multiple Tony Parkers, point guards who are handed the reins to their team.

Not without good reason either. Floor generals are often offensive lifelines. They direct their teammates, they make plays—they're (typically) leaders by craft.

Who better to provide the Nuggets with what Iggy and 'Melo couldn't then the team's resident playmaker? JaVale McGee? Funny. Danilo Gallinari? Eh. Kenneth Faried? Double eh.

Denver didn't sign Lawson to a four-year, $48 million extension under the impression it would have to continuously place the fate of the franchise in someone else's hands. He was compensated like he was to lead.

Sans Iggy, the Nuggets have never needed him more, and no matter the circumstances behind his brush with the law, this latest conflict is a ballot for doubt, not a vote of confidence. Lawson can't effectively pilot the Nuggets if his public persona is marred by outside litigation, however minor. And the team, realistically, has no one else to look toward right now.

The next best option would be Andre Miller, who isn't really a good option at all. For starters, he's 37 and can't be expected to log the minutes necessary to carry Denver. Mostly, though, he's not the future—Lawson is.

Or rather, he's supposed to be.


Existing Dependency

Leaning on Lawson isn't anything the Nuggets haven't done before.

Last season, he led the team in points (16.7) and assists (6.9) per game, and was second in steals (1.5). Even next to Iguodala, he was still an important fixture in their system. Now he's even more of a necessity.

One glance at the roster and you can tell the Nuggets are a team in need of a structurally sound point man. They're going to run. A lot. They led the NBA in fast-break points last year (19.7) and need a similar showing to remain relevant in the competitive Western Conference.

Miller isn't going to spearhead their transitional attack, and neither Foye nor Robinson are the catalysts Lawson is. Their is no one else to facilitate those high-octane sets.

McGee, Hickson and Faried will also rely on him for easy looks at the rim. They can't create their own shots, hence the need for someone who can do the dirty work for them.

Exhibit A:

And B:

Denver's offense is nothing without Lawson's dribble penetration and court vision. The Nuggets finished 25th in three-point percentage (34.3) last season, increasing the importance of his drive-and-kicks, rim attacks and general play creation. They don't finish first in points in the paint (57.3) without him.

Robinson and Foye bring seasoned three-point consciences to the Pepsi Center, but that doesn't diminish the significance of what Lawson does. Their success has always been tied to his performance and ability to cover up collective deficiencies.

Then there's the last-shot theory to consider. Success by committee won't always work. Someone on this team must have the ball in their hands, when the clock is winding down and the game is on the line. Doesn't matter if they plan to shoot or dish, there just needs to be someone the ball runs through during those clutch moments.

Lawson needs to be that someone.

Alongside offensively limited towers and lukewarm deep-ball threats, the Nuggets still need him to build upon his career-high assist percentage (30.2). They still need him to score, to run the break, to hit big shots.

They need him to lead like he has never done before, like only a grown-up can.



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