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Blazer Draft Prospects: Ty Lawson

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We continue our look at draft prospects the Blazers could potentially (and reasonably) move up to get.  Today we're examining the teammate of Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson.

Ty Lawson  6'0" 190lb projected point guard from UNC  (DraftExpress Profile)

Why He Might Be the Guy

Lawson has an impressive dossier encapsulating most of the things the Blazers are looking for.  He's experienced.  He's played at a high level against high level competition.  He's a genuine point guard who can handle the ball and pass.  His assist-to-turnover ratio is high.  He had excellent shooting percentages from the field and three-point range in college.  He draws and makes plenty of free throws.  He's efficient with his offense.  He's quick.  He's strong.  He's reliable.  He can run and finish at the rim.  His added steals are a bonus.  He reportedly has a good work ethic and it's hard to find a bad word said about him anywhere.  He's not considered to have star potential in the NBA but most are banking on him being a good complementary player, which is more or less what the Blazers need.

As we're been refining how the Blazers need to approach this draft decision it's become apparent to me that there's a distinction between point guard and other positions, especially if the Blazers intend to move up to get their man.  I stated it in the podcast the other day and I'll restate it here.  With any other position the Blazers are fine moving up to take a chance on a home run player even if that player doesn't end up making it big.  You have enough coverage at other positions that you can take that risk.  Should the Blazers move up to take a point guard, because of their current situation and their draft history at that position there are only two things that matter:  this guy has to be a real point guard and this guy has to be able to play.  Portland has already taken chance after chance filling that spot through the draft with no tangible success so far.  Jerryd Bayless is the next guy on the runway.  If he's not the answer then the guy after that had better pan out if you spent a pick on him.  He doesn't need to be all-world.  He may not even be a career starter.  But he better be someone you want on the team for a decade and he better be able to play productively.  That sounds like a Lawson-esque description.

Because other teams are in more of a position to take a chance on point guard, not having Portland's history and perhaps not needing to win and/or fill that position as soon, a steady, productive guy like Lawson could well fall into the teens as projected.  The cost to get him could turn out to be marginal, another factor perhaps in his favor over more decorated or exciting point guards.

Why He Might Not Be the Guy

First of all, he's a point guard.  That same lack of success in finding good points through the draft might indicate that Portland needs to take another tack.  If you couldn't manage it all those years in the lottery how are you going to manage starting with the 24th pick?  In many corners, including this one, there would be a sigh of relief if the Blazers didn't select a point guard this year and acquired more veteran help instead. 

(To be clear for podcast listeners, when I made a prediction of picking Lawson on the ‘cast I was asked what will the Blazers do, not what should the Blazers do.  I'd rather have Hinrich or another veteran point myself, but if I had to pick a point guard from this year's draft crop I think Lawson would be inexpensive and a smart percentage move compared to most.) 

Second, Lawson is small for an NBA point guard.  Plenty of almost-six-footers have made it but the Blazers would probably be more comfortable with a guy 6'3", all things considered.  Also you have to ask if his size will make it harder for him to get free for that offense he relies on.

It's hard for me to tell because UNC ran a bunch when I saw them this year, but DraftExpress has Lawson's mid-range game as a question mark.  He can shoot and he can finish at the rim but he can't combine the two.  Right now this isn't a big issue for Blazer point guards, as none of them play a mid-range game the way we have the position laid out.  But it would be nice to have that option at least.  Steve Blake can probably shoot better off the catch.  Jerryd Bayless can certainly score better off the drive.  Why acquire a hybrid that doesn't match either of them?

Defensively Lawson could well have trouble in the NBA, given that man-to-man wasn't a priority for him in college, factoring in his smaller frame.  It's hard to imagine him matching up against a Jason Kidd or Deron Williams, for instance.  Who does, really?  But you'd like to at least believe there's a chance.

That brings up the old bugaboo of not drafting back-up players intentionally.  At the end of the day, that's probably what Lawson is.  One of the attractions to the Blazers might be specifically that he's going to be fine no matter where he ends up in the point guard hierarchy.  You'd love him to be the second guy but you wouldn't mind if he were third either.  But that sounds like a job description for a veteran, not a rookie.  Add the fact that you're trading up to get your probable back-up and the deal starts to look less sweet.

What are your thoughts?  Would Lawson be worth moving up 6-8 spots for?  Would you burn the trade exception and an extra million and change in cap space this summer even if you could get him for nothing else?  How would he fit on this team?  Could you ever envision him starting?  Does he bring anything different than the current Blazers point guard corps?

Comment to your heart's content below.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)