Sacramento Rolls the Dice with Ty Lawson

The Kings lost their starting, and third-string point guards in free agency after Rajon Rondo signed with Chicago and Seth Curry signed with Dallas.

Although they brought in Garrett Temple to help replenish their backcourt, Sacramento may also be without presumed starting point guard Darren Collison to start the season as he battles with legal trouble.

After meeting with Ty Lawson in Sacramento on Sunday, Vlade Divac signed the embattled 28-year-old to a one-year deal.

Lawson arguably declined more sharply than any other player in the league last season, posting just 5.2 points and 3.6 assists per game in time spent between Houston and Indiana a year after averaging 15.2 points and 9.6 assists per game for Denver, just the year before.

While Lawson is unlikely to return to the form he displayed in Denver, the Kings will simply need to hold the fort as either a backup or third guard, depending on the status of Collison and how highly Dave Joerger values Garrett Temple. If Lawson can stay focused both on and off the court, he could earn big minutes in Sacramento and get his career back on track.

Lawson at his best combines blinding speed and a tight handle with a knack for making the right pass. Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Chris Paul may be duking it out for the best handles in the league, but Lawson at his peak is not far behind. At 5'11" Lawson keeps the ball low to the ground, and his quick crossover and great hesitation dribble allow him to break ankles over:

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And over:

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And over again:

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Lawson needs all the space he can get given his diminutive stature, but his dribbling skills allow him to use his incredible speed to jet to the rim and slice up opposing defenses. Lawson recorded the 9th fastest time in the 3/4 court sprint of any NBA player since 2009 in the combine.

Lawson also manages to maintain good ball control even when going full-speed. His assist to turnover ratio in 2014-2015 was a stellar 3.89, which put him second in the league behind Chris Paul. Point guards with great speed and stellar handles don't usually do a good job of holding onto the ball--John Wall's ratio was 2.48 last year, and Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry barely eked out a ratio above 2.0 (2.02 and 2.01 respectively).

Turnovers tend to generate more efficient offensive possessions than any other type of play since they frequently lead to transition or semi-transition buckets against defenses scrambling to get back into the play. Lawson posted a still-respectable 2.57 AST/TO ratio last year, and his tight grip on the ball will certainly help a Sacramento squad that ranked 28th in the league in turnovers last season.

The main reason that Kings fans should remain hopeful about Lawson is that he will have more opportunities to do what he does best in Sacramento than he did last season. Although he is an above-average 3-point shooter (with a 36.6% mark for his career), Lawson does his best work with the ball in his hands.

He struggled mightily when playing alongside very ball-dominant shooting guards in James Harden and Monta Ellis; dominating possession is not an issue that either Arron Afflalo or Ben McLemore has struggled with in their careers, barring Afflalo's odd marriage with the Trailblazers down the stretch of the 2014-2015 season.

Lawson will be given plenty of opportunities to generate offense and kick out to open shooters, and Willie Cauley-Stein will be more than happy to take advantage of the sky-high lobs that were once the province of Kenneth Faried.

Ty Lawson may also be the best pick-and-roll point guard that DeMarcus Cousins has ever played with.

Lawson was a solid pick-and-roll player even during his worst moments last season and was stellar at running those plays during his time in Denver. His speed allows him to split picks like few players in the league, and his jumper is solid enough that defenders will need to pay far more attention to him than they ever did to Rajon Rondo. Lawson doesn't have the incredible passing touch that Rondo does (although arguably no-one besides Chris Paul and Ricky Rubio does in today's NBA), but Lawson at his best is still one of the top passing point guards in the NBA.

The Kings are lucky in that they have very little to lose by giving out a contract to Ty Lawson. The deal is only for one year, and Lawson can be cut at any time if he falls off the wagon or starts creating trouble in the locker room. Garrett Temple may not have as high a ceiling as Lawson, but he certainly has a higher floor and can take minutes from Lawson even if Darren Collison misses a significant stretch of time.

However, Ty Lawson is still young enough that a return to his prime form (or at least closer to that level than he managed last season) is not only conceivable but entirely within reason. Even if he only manages to be slightly better than he was last season, Lawson is still a better bet than whatever D-League/fringe NBA player the Kings would probably have had to sign instead. The Kings are making a low-risk, high-reward bet that Lawson will be able to get back on track next season.

This season may be Lawson's last chance to regain a steady job in the NBA, and the Kings are in prime position to reap the rewards if he does.


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