NBA Free Agency 2013: What is Denver Nuggets Ty Lawson’s Value on the Open Market?


October 26, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (3) makes a jump shot against the Phoenix Suns in the first quarter at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE

George Karl has deemed Ty Lawson’s contract discussions a distraction for the team.  It really begs the question, though, of what is causing the distraction.  Is Lawson dissatisfied with what the team is offering, or does Lawson even know what he should be receiving in the first place?

What is Lawson worth?

Ty Lawson has emerged as one of the best point guards that occupy that second-tier status.  He’s not on the level of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Tony Parker or Russell Westbrook.  He comes in more along the lines of Kyle Lowry, Jeremy Lin, Goran Dragic, John Wall and Brandon Jennings.

Kyle Lowry is due to receive $5.75 million this season and $6.2 million next year.  Jennings is still on a rookie contract, and will receive $3.1 and $4.3 million the next two years, so we can’t use him as a grounds for comparison.  Lin received a backloaded $24 million for three seasons ($14 of the $24 M will be paid in 2014-15).  Dragic is receiving $7.5 million over four seasons.  Wall is on a rookie contract.

That basically leaves us with only a few contracts to compare to what Lawson should receive:  Lin ($8 million per year), Lowry (approximately $6 million per year) and Dragic ($7.5 million per year).

Lawson does not have the accolades nor statistical production to warrant a $10 million contract.  But the Nuggets may be willing to pay him as though he does.  A max extension would be 4 years $58 million, but according to the Journal-Times  the Nuggets may be willing to offer Lawson $45 million over four years.

That would put his earnings on par with Rajon Rondo, who is a far better point guard.  It would pay him nearly as much as Tony Parker, who is still in his prime and has three championship rings and a Finals MVP to his name.

It is no where near the money that CP3 and D-Will command, nor is at as much as Rose, but it begins to approach what Russell Westbrook is paid ($13.6 million).  It’s just too much for a player who hasn’t made an All-Star team yet and without continuing improvement, he may never.

Lawson has the potential to be the best player on the Nuggets, and he is very good, but he is not a top-7 point guard in the NBA, and he’s about to be paid like one.  Even Mike Conley, who has proven himself to be a great floor general and good defender, only got $9 million per season.  That should be the max that Lawson can reasonably command in the open market.

Is there something I am missing?

Lawson is a very good scorer and posted a PER of 19.43 last season.  Lawson was 18th in pure point rating in the NBA and the fifth best point guard in true shooting percentage (57.5 percent).  He played 34.8 minutes per game last season, but John Hollinger (subscription required) cites concerns that he may not be able to take on a bigger time-share of minutes due to his style of play, and that his speed up and down the court may suffer if he became a 38-40 minute per night kind of guy.

That just doesn’t seem to scream $10 million a year.  Lawson is a very good player and every bit as good as Lowry, Dragic and Lin.  So pay him that much.  $7 million a year sounds about right.