How Awesome is Ty Lawson?

Ty Lawson is coming of a very impressive college season in which he lead his team to an NCAA championship and won the Bob Cousy award (which goes to the best college PG in the country).  How amazing was Lawson this year?

Out of all the college players in Draftexpress’s database (dating back to 2001/2002), Ty Lawson this year was the highest in both A/TO ratio and pure point rating.  The amazing part is that Ty Lawson accomplished this feat with a game that is a mixture of scoring and passing rather than being the type of PG that racks up a ton a assists because they never shoot themselves.  Speaking of scoring, Lawson’s 1.15 points/play and 1.30 points/possession are both the best of any college PG in the nation this year.  In other words, Lawson was both the most efficient passer and the most efficient scorer out of all of the college PGs this year.

Lawson has also done pretty well in the complete statistical metrics (like PER, EFF, Win Score).  In terms of PER (which puts a heavy emphasis on volume scoring), Lawson was only the 4th best PG nation this year, but the 3 players ahead of him (Stephen Curry, Lester Hudson, and Been Woodside) all played against much weaker competition than Lawson.  In terms of WS/40 (I don’t like to use WS/40 as an evaluation for NBA players but is decent for evaluating college players since it puts a low value on volume scoring which is one of the things that often does not translate well to the NBA anyway) Lawson is the best PG this year and 2nd best in the database (behind Lester Hudson’s 2007-2008 season, which was against much weaker competition).  In EFF/40, Lawson is the 5th best player in the DXdatabase (behind Stephen Curry, Lester Hudson, Dwayne Wade, and Rodney Stuckey, all of whom faced weaker competition than Lawson.  The next player on that list after Lawson would be Brandon Roy).

Lawson isn’t just about the numbers though.  Lawson is also a good athlete who is very quick and has a versatile and well-rounded game.  I was very impressed by Lawson’s passing ability.  Lawson routinely makes spectacular passes (full-court outlet passes, alley-oops, post entry passes through traffic), yet somehow manages to do all that while maintaining a very low turnover rate.  I was also impressed with Lawson’s defense.  His lack of height is a disadvantage, but Lawson is quick and strong, plus he has a good sense of when he needs to rotate and he forces a lot of turnovers by choosing the right time to double team opponents.

Perhaps the best aspect of Lawson’s game is that he does not have any major weaknesses (other than his height).  A year ago Lawson did have some significant weaknesses, the biggest of those weaknesses being lack of a consistent 3-point shot, poor shooting when pulling up off the dribble, and a perception that he was only good in a run-and gun system and would struggle in the half court.  This year, Lawson hit 47.2% of the 3-point shots he took, many of which were from beyond NBA range.  Draftexpress also had this to say about Lawson’s scoring efficiency this year:

Ty Lawson looks as good as anyone from this perspective, regardless of position.

As we put this data together, we weren’t surprised that Ty Lawson excelled from a situational perspective, as he did play for the most potent offense in all of college basketball, but we didn’t expect him to look this good. He ranks first in a number of key categories, including overall FG% (52%), Points Per Possession [PPP](1.13), pull up jump shot FG% (47%), and %shots he was fouled on (16.1%). Though his teammates did a lot of scoring as well, Lawson functioned seamlessly as a complementary scorer. Looking past his efficiency as a shooter off the dribble, he was second in catch and shoot field goal percentage at 48%. From a purely statistical sense, no player on this list scored more efficiently than Lawson.

We thought that UNC’s transition offense might have given Lawson a decided advantage over some of his counterparts in terms of efficiency, but that wasn’t entirely true. He did get 10% more offense in transition than any of the other players we looked at (an outrageous 38.6%), but his transition PPP of 1.2 is the same as his PPP in spot up situations and not as far above the average as his PPP in pick and roll situations (1.19 PPP, +.29) or on isolations (1 PPP, +.16). Lawson was an incredibly prolific transition player (which is quite an advantage in itself today’s NBA), but he was comparatively better in other areas as well. When you consider that he only turned the ball over on 13.8% of his half court possessions (5th best) and can drive left and right equally well, it seems like Lawson could be an excellent offensive fit on virtually any team, regardless of tempo.

So Lawson is not just good at running the break, he is also the most efficient scorer of any of the PGs in the draft in half court situations and he is the best at hitting pull-up jumpers.  Basically, the 3 biggest “weaknesses” that Lawson had last year are all significant strengths for him this year.

If Lawson is so great why isn’t he projected to go higher in the draft?  The only real answer that I can think of is because he is short, which really isn‘t that good of a reason when you consider that the consensus best PG in the NBA (Chris Paul) actually has a slightly shorter standing reach than Lawson does.  Lawson looks like he could be a steal if falls to the middle of the first round as most mock drafts project him to.

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