Ty Lawson and the Denver Nuggets appear headed for divorce, and we can be certain this rebuilding team will explore the trade market in an effort to turn the page to the next era.
After a midseason arrest on suspicion of DUI, Lawson told fans on Instagram that he wished he could be playing for the Dallas Mavericks. After that, Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post reported that Lawson’s time in Denver could be coming to a close:
Once considered an untouchable on the Nuggets’ roster, the point guard’s actions over the past two years have done everything to remove himself from that space. His new reality? He’s as susceptible to the next good trade offer as any other tradeable player in the NBA.
The Nuggets rewarded Lawson with a $48 million extension in 2012, but he hasn’t held up his end of the bargain. Now, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reports Lawson wants out if the Nuggets are embarking on a rebuilding project.
It’s a fait accompli for Lawson and the Nuggets. It’s time to officially move on, so where could he end up?
Lawson to Sacramento
Kings Receive: PG Ty Lawson
Sacramento has been in search of a point guard to replace the now departed Isaiah Thomas since the former Pizza Guy was still on the team, and while Rajon Rondo will undoubtedly be a prime target in free agency this offseason, Sacramento may have better luck in turning to the trade market to solve its obvious problem. After using two straight lottery picks on shooters—specifically on shooting guards in Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas—the Kings can afford to get aggressive in the pursuit of another star name to pair with DeMarcus Cousins.
Vivek and Co. would love to dispose of Carl Landry’s contract, and his inclusion here is really just to make the money work. Denver should be exhausting all avenues in an effort to improve its collection of tradeable assets, and moving Lawson to net two future first-round selections feels like a no-brainer. The Kings are desperate to land a big-time, marketable name that the club can pair alongside Cousins, and Lawson comes at a cost-controlled price signed through the 2016-17 season.
A starting lineup that includes Lawson, McLemore, Cousins and Rudy Gay promises to be packed with offense even if Jason Thompson somehow winds up as the Kings starting power forward once again, and although defense would continue to be a concern, this isn’t a club that’s just one man away from achieving real improvement on that end of the floor.
Lawson to Indiana
Nuggets Receive: C Roy Hibbert, No. 11 Overall Pick in 2015 draft, 2016 first-round pick (top 14 protected)
The Indiana Pacers have made no secret of their desire to rid of Roy Hibbert this offseason as the team redefines its identity, and the big man is on the outside looking in when it comes to his current club’s future. Once viewed as an untradeable pillar who’d be standing in Pacers Flo-Jos alongside Paul George for several seasons to come, Hibbert’s regression has pundits wondering if his archaic, outdated game has a place in today’s pace-and-space NBA. That’s a take that should come with oven mitts because it’s so hot since Hibbert is still an effective force on the defensive end of the floor as a rim protector, but there’s no denying that his overall value—especially his value to the Pacers—has taken a significant hit.
Although Denver has Jusuf Nurkic as its center of the future, the big man is uncertain for training camp after an offseason knee procedure, and Hibbert would offer one season of insurance behind the raw 2014 NBA Draft product. As an expiring contract, Hibbert would also provide the Nuggets with some flexibility, something this team needs to learn how to maintain going forward if it’s ever going to build anything worth sustaining. Getting the No. 11 overall pick in this draft would add to that considerably since it’ll be a skilled player on an affordable rookie deal to add to guys like Nurkic and fellow 2014 draftee Gary Harris, and suddenly the Nuggets would have the start to a very interesting looking future, especially if the club can cash in on the 2016 protected pick. Due to the Stepien rule, the Pacers would have to draft the No. 11 overall pick for Denver before announcing the trade since the 2016 first-round pick is involved, but that won’t be a concern if the two sides can come to terms on an agreement.
For the Pacers, this is pretty simple: Ty Lawson is going to be better than any player this team could draft next season at No. 11, and adding the speedy point guard to a roster that already includes (Paul) George and George Hill would go a long way toward Indiana’s desire to play faster next season. Indiana could trot up some interesting lineups centered around those three, and if the Pacers can nab a stretch 4 as a complement to that trio, the Pacers could once again rise to a top four team in a watered-down Eastern Conference in no time.
Lawson to Utah
Jazz Receive: PG Ty Lawson, 2016 first-round pick (top 14 protected)
This is the most intriguing of them all.
Would the Jazz, a methodical organization that makes low-risk, moderate-reward trades be willing to gamble on Lawson? Would that same team, known for building through the draft, be willing to move on from two of its recent lotto picks? Would Utah be willing to engage in a calculated gamble in an effort to make a real push up the Western Conference standings? The path to the postseason isn’t getting easier in an ultra-competitive conference, but at some point, the Jazz are going to have to make the decision to push forward with this extremely promising core.
Derrick Favors has transformed into a star with a superstar ceiling. Gordon Hayward is a legitimate star on the wing. And after Enes Kanter was dealt away at the midseason deadline, the world was introduced to Rudy Gobert and his monstrous potential and clear abilities to impact the game. Now with Dante Exum holding his own in his rookie season and Rodney Hood emerging as a very pleasant surprise, perhaps now would be the time for this club to put its foot forward and make an aggressive move designed to challenge for a playoff berth. And if it doesn’t work? In a worst-case scenario, the Jazz have two seasons of Lawson at a controlled price, secured an additional draft asset from the deal and will be able to recover.
Lawson, Exum, Hayward, Favors and Gobert with Hood as the sixth man? That looks like a pretty good start even it if does compromise some of the team’s depth, but those role players can be found during the offseason while shopping in free agency’s bargain bin. Denver would get two key cogs for its rebuild in Burke and Burks as the Nuggets look to rebuild their identity, and that’s some fantastic value for a player who has clearly worn out his welcome in the Mile High City.