INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- The expectation of the Indiana Pacers is that Ty Lawson will be a floor general for the second unit. It is no secret that the Pacers have been searching for a floor general point guard to effectively make plays and run their offense. If this situation pans out for both parties, then perhaps Lawson could end up being the point guard of the future for the Pacers. That would be key since the free agent market for floor general point guards is dry as can be outside of Mike Conley. It is never a good idea to try and rely on a rookie point guard to be a floor general either, especially with the caliber of player that the Pacers would likely be getting with a late teens first round pick. If the Pacers truly want a floor general in their starting lineup, then getting this Ty Lawson situation to pan out is practically a must.
Ty Lawson 2014-15 Highlights
Projected Bench Unit
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Rodney Stuckey
SF: C.J. Miles
PF: Lavoy Allen / Solomon Hill
C: Jordan Hill
Driving The Lane
Ty Lawson is one of the best players at driving the lane. In fact, he led the NBA in drives per game (11.9) during the 2014-15 season. Lawson not only attacked the lane frequently, but he did it effectively. Lawson shot 46.8% and averaged 4.9 points per game on his drives. Lawson can do much more than simply score on his drives too. He averaged 6.3 passes and 2.0 assists on his drives per game. This goes to show that he can not only create his own offense, but he can create quality shots for his teammates from lane penetration. Lawson was able to get to the free throw line frequently by driving, he generated 2.3 free throw attempts per game from drives. Unfortunately, Lawson didn't shoot very well on those created free throws as he shot just 72.5% and made 1.7 free throws from drives per game. A bonus is the fact that Lawson was careful with the ball when driving the lane, he had a turnover percentage of just 6.5% and that happens to be an average of just 0.8 turnovers per game.
The Pacers are not good at driving the lane as a team. This is the biggest area where Ty Lawson's impact can be seen. Indiana averages only 21.4 drive attempts per game and that ranks 26th in the league. The Pacers shoot just 45.1% on drive attempts, which ranks 19th in the NBA. Indiana is 29th in points from drives per game with an average of 13.6 per game. Pacers pass the ball just 6.5 times per game off of drives, which ranks 24th in the league. Indiana averages just 1.9 assists off drives and that ranks 18th. Pacers generate only 5.3 free throw attempts per game on drives and that is 22nd in the league.
There are various contributing factors to the lack of volume and quality drives by the Pacers. Poor floor spacing throughout the season has been an issue. However, the Pacers have done a better job of moving without the ball and spacing the floor since the All-Star break, so that has given their play-makers more quality opportunities to drive the lane. There are times when their play-makers can get past their man, but then are met with either a single help-defender or a wall of defenders. Indiana's key players have done a quality job of finding the open man, but their supporting cast has done a considerably poor job of executing on the created shot attempts. This is why Ty Lawson's impact could be cut short in terms of simply getting to the rim and finishing. Indiana has periods of bad floor spacing which limits opportunity and their floor spacing options struggle to make jump shots. Regardless, Lawson should be able to frequently get past his man, get to the rim and finish, and find the open man when the help-defense over commits to stop the drive.
Pull Up Jumpers
Ty Lawson isn't an elite pull-up jump shooter, but he is effective. Lawson shot 39.5% on pull-up attempts and 34.9% on perimeter pull-up attempts. That is a respectable percentage considering the fact that he averaged 6.2 pull-up jumper attempts per game. Lawson's pull-up game was a large part of his skill-set since he averaged 5.3 points per game on pull-up jumper attempts. Lawson's perimeter pull-up game isn't a large part of his tendencies, he averaged only 1.1 perimeter jumpers per game. In contrast, the mid-range pull-up jump shot is a large part of his tendencies as he shot 5.1 attempts per game. Lawson is going to have plenty of opportunity to utilize his mid-range pull-up game, well, even his perimeter pull-up game too since they let Monta Ellis have the green light from deep too.
Indiana relies on pull-up jump shots for a large component of their identity. The Pacers rank 7th in the NBA in points per game from pull-up jump shots at 20.0 points. That volume of success is largely because of the fact that the Pacers average the 4th most pull-up jumper attempts in the NBA with 24.8 attempts. Efficiency has been somewhat of an issue considering the fact that the Pacers rank just 16th in the league in pull-up jumper efficiency. The Pacers shoot just 36.1% on pull-up jump shots. That is certainly not ideal considering the fact that they take such a volume amount of pull-up jump shots.
As previously mentioned, the Pacers have had a reoccurring theme of poor floor spacing. This has caused their key play-makers to settle for pull-up mid-range and perimeter jump shots. Often times, when teams play with a physical approach, or even a trap scheme, the Pacers' play-makers are forced to shoot difficult pull-up jumpers because there isn't really much else to attack. Also, their supporting cast struggles to execute on jump shots, so that amplifies the issue. But luckily, Ty Lawson is an effective pull-up jump shooter from mid-range and a decent pull-up jump shooter from the perimeter. This shouldn't be as big of a problem anymore since the Pacers have improved their floor spacing, but it could still be a necessary component to Lawson's success in a Pacers' uniform.
Passing and Facilitation
Ty Lawson had a sensational 2014-15 season in this area. Lawson was 3rd in the NBA in assists per game with a 9.6 average. There are a few advanced metrics that show Lawson’s effectiveness passing the ball. Lawson was tied with Chris Paul for 3rd in the NBA in free throw assists with a 1.0 average. Lawson averaged 1.3 secondary assists as well. But the most important metric in analyzing facilitation would be the potential assist category. Lawson led the NBA in potential assists with a 19.3 average. Another important area would be the points created by assists category, this is another area where Lawson was elite. Lawson ranked 3rd in the NBA in points created by assists per game with a 22.7 average. Lawson probably could have done better in this area if he had better teammates, but it is what it is. This goes to show that Ty Lawson was an elite familiar during the 2014-15 season. If given the ball, Lawson is among the best at making something happen with it.
The Pacers struggle to facilitate for their teammates and they are even worse at executing on the potential assists that they do create. The Pacers are 23rd in the NBA in assists per game with a 20.6 average. Indiana is a below average team at creating potential assists off of their passes. The Pacers rank 17th in the NBA in potential assists per game with a 43.4 average. Oddly enough, the Pacers are amongst the league’s best at free throw assists. They rank 3rd in the league in free throw assists per game with a 2.6 average. A telling part about the offense for the Pacers is that they struggle at making the extra pass and at executing their shots from the extra pass. Indiana ranks 18th in the league at secondary assists per game with a 5.1 average. These statistics weren’t meant to say that the Pacers have selfish players, that wasn’t the intended point.
Ty Lawson is among the NBA’s best at creating quality shots for his teammates, so that shouldn’t be a concern. Indiana needs to make sure that they are spacing the floor well enough for Lawson to not encounter a wall of defenders when he drives the lane. That way, Lawson will be able to get to the basket, pull-up in mid-range, create open shots for his teammates, and create chain reaction ball movement to continue the progression of their offense. Indiana doesn’t have a lot of players that can effectively create motion in their offense by dribble penetration. Paul George and Monta Ellis can do this well, but there really aren’t many play-makers outside of those two that can be consistently dynamic enough to create that necessary motion in their offense. That motion is necessary because it causes over commitments in the help-defense, which results in a pass to either an open man, or a pass that triggers chain ball movement by a series of passes. But typically, that penetration will result in a quality shot because the defense can’t effectively recover since they are far out of rotation from stopping the initial drive.
Catch and Shoot
Ty Lawson is not a good catch-and-shoot player by any stretch of the imagination, but he can contribute in this area. Frank Vogel stated that Ty Lawson will have the ball in his hands a lot, so he might not have to worry too much about off-ball scenarios. Lawson shot 35.6% overall on catch-and-shoot jump shots in 2014-15. Specifically, Lawson shot 42.1% on 2-point catch-and-shoot field goals and 34.5% on perimeter catch-and-shoot field goals. This is not a big aspect of Lawson’s skill-set considering the fact that he only averaged 1.8 catch-and-shoot attempts per game. He will mostly be breaking his man down off the dribble and creating plays with the ball, rather than spacing the floor. Essentially, Lawson is not a very good catch-and-shoot player, but he is capable of making them if needed.
Indiana can use all of the help that they can get in this area. They struggle to generate open catch-and-shoot opportunities and they struggle to make catch-and-shoot jump shots as well. The Pacers are currently 25th in the league at catch-and-shoot efficiency with a percentage of 37.1%. This is concerning considering the fact that the Pacers rank 11th in catch-and-shoot attempts per game with a 25.0 average. Lawson might not be able to improve this category by actually making catch-and-shoot jump shots, but he can improve the efficiency of his teammates by setting them up for quality shots. His lane penetration could also result in quality ball movement for an open shot. It is truly an asset to have a good lane penetrator on a team.
It is deceiving to look at the overall defensive metrics of Ty Lawson. Lawson’s man averaged an overall 43.3% field goal percentage, but here is the breakdown by distance: 34.7% from 3-point range, 36.5% from greater than 15-feet, 53.8% from less than 10-feet, and 59.4% from less than 6-feet. Lawson’s further out numbers show that he is capable at contesting jump shots and staying in front of his man, but he didn’t have a quality rim protector or help-defense around him. That’s different on the Pacers, they will be able to provide him with rim protection and help-defense. Lawson is a solid pick-and-roll defender and off-ball defender, but he just needs help with rim protection since he doesn’t have the height or length to contest shots near the basket.
With a defensive mind like Frank Vogel at the helm, it should be expected that the Pacers will get the most out of Ty Lawson on the defensive side of the ball. This is especially the case since Lawson has almost all of the desirable intangibles in a point guard. He has great quickness, speed, explosiveness, and has the necessary strength and size to hold his ground. Lawson’s intangibles will help him in pretty much all facets of defense at the point guard position. He should be able to play quality on-ball defense, help-defense, pick-and-roll defense, and off-ball defense. All signs point to Lawson having the ability to step right in and contribute on defense as an energetic pest.
As previously mentioned, Lawson has all of the tools to be an effective defender, so his personal results will come from his personal determination and dedication to defending. In major need of a career turn around, Lawson should be looking forward to this opportunity to showcase all of the ways that he can valuable to a team. Indiana has turned around the defensive effectiveness of players with poor defensive reputations, Monta Ellis is the biggest example. The best part is the fact that Lawson doesn’t have a poor defensive reputation, he’s just not known for his defense. If Lawson manages to be a good defender for the Pacers, then he could truly be a sensational all-around addition to their team.