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How the Denver Nuggets mismanaged Ty Lawson... and got burned

Kalen Deremo Avatar
July 20, 2015


A few days ago when news broke about the Denver Nuggets attempting to shop Ty Lawson despite his recent assignment to a California rehab, I had this to say on Twitter:

So as you can imagine, when I received texts about Lawson being shipped to the Houston Rockets I was immediately jubilant. I was familiar with each of the Rockets’ many young, talented assets and jumped straight into wondering which ones the Nuggets received in exchange for Lawson. And then I received the news:

While first rounders are always nice and while I really liked Nick Johnson coming out of college, I also understand how the NBA works, how the principle concept of “value” works and how over time value fluctuates dramatically based on consumer demand, surplus and other outside influences? And this is the unfortunate part of this whole situation — the fact that common NBA fans are nonsimian enough to process the basic fundamentals of good trade. Because if they weren’t, the Nuggets would probably look like geniuses right now having just dumped a problematic scourge like Ty Lawson. Instead, it’s painfully obvious to anyone with an elementary grip of generic NBA trades that the Nuggets got absolutely fleeced.

There is, as there always is, lots of blowback from Nuggets apologists about how Denver got a good deal all things considered, how all that matters is that Lawson is gone and so forth. And while I could address these ignoratio elenchi arguments individually I will instead take the high road (a rarity for me) and present a three-pointed thesis as to why the Nuggets completely botched this entire situation…

1. The Nuggets literally waited until Lawson’s trade value was at its absolute nadir in his entire career before moving him

This is the bottom line, the overwhelming point of my entire argument, whereas everything else drips down from this rooftop. No matter what side you take on this issue you cannot deny the truth of this statement: The Nuggets waited until the absolute worst possible time to move Lawson. They had months to formulate deals when his value was much higher than it was just days after being relegated to rehab. And rather than capitalizing on a good trade with a few idiosyncrasies, they waited for the absolute perfect deal and ignored the fact that the whole reason they were pursuing trades for Lawson in the first place was because he simply could not stay out of trouble!

There is a misguided notion amongst NBA fans that patience is always a virtue. Unfortunately this just isn’t true. Patience is often a virtue, but not all situations in life — or in the NBA — call for patience.

For example, if I’m astride a crosswalk and I look up to see a Mack truck barreling down the middle of the highway straight for me at 100 miles per hour, patience is not a virtue!!!

If I’m atop an 80-story building whereupon breaking news flashes across the office TV screens to announce how a 7.5 magnitude earthquake is heading directly in my direction, patience is not exactly a virtue!!!

In life, each situation is unique and must be addressed individually to ensure the most beneficial outcome is achieved. In the case of Ty Lawson, it was abundantly clear from season’s end that he needed to go and that with each passing day his value ran the chance of drastically decreasing thanks to the lifestyle he was clearly committed to leading. For whatever reason the Nuggets chose to disregard this basic fact and have now suffered the consequence.

2. The Nuggets have had a misrepresentation of Lawson’s value for months, overvaluing him when they should have undervalued him and vice versa

As the 2015 NBA Draft approached and trade rumors began fizzling, all we heard from various media outlets was how the Nuggets were overvaluing Ty Lawson. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, however, as this has been a common vein with the Nuggets organization concerning their roster for the last few years. Over and over we’ve heard of certain instances where the Nuggets have discussed trades with regards to Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and other less glittery names on their roster, and yet over and over again nothing has ever come to fruition thanks largely to the fact the Nuggets have overvalued their own assets.

You see, the NBA is often times a giant billion-dollar game of poker, and for a long while now the Nuggets have been the guy with the neon wayfarer sunglasses at the table who thought it’d be a real good idea to fold a bunch of solid hands in the hopes he’d eventually strike gold with a flawless one. But as he got further and further behind he suddenly realized he had some catching up to do. Thus, the point where a frustrated Joe Sunglasses places his hand down on the table showing a two of spades, four of hearts, seven of clubs and a few other cards of complete insignificance is exactly where we’ve landed in our Lawson scenario. Instead of making moves when the Nuggets had a bevy of nice hands for months, they waited until the absolute worst time imaginable to decide they were gonna go Rainman on the competition and beat the entire system. But as we all well know, even Rainman can’t reverse time or think his way out of a downwardly spiraling situation with no possibility of a more fortunate outcome in the future. That’s just not how life works.

3. The Nuggets failed miserably to read the tealeaves of Lawson’s off-court troubles as they clearly began to snowball

For the life of me I will never begin to understand the argument that the Nuggets couldn’t have foreseen Lawson getting yet another DUI and ultimately being assigned to a celebrity rehabilitation facility in California. Perhaps they couldn’t have predicted he’d go to celebrity rehab, or that’d it be in California, but to assert they were blindsided by Lawson’s compiling legal troubles is completely and utterly assanine. I’m not sure what your reaction was when you learned of Ty Lawson’s most recent arrest, but mine was pretty much along the lines of, “Oh… that makes a lot of sense.” I imagine the Nuggets’ wasn’t much different.

The fact is, people who have two to three DUIs under their belt are kinda prone to getting another one. And those same people who repeatedly make boneheaded mistakes in life tend to continue making boneheaded mistakes in life unless some outside force intervenes and prevents them from continuing to do so. While I’m no mathematician I generally tend to believe that when things are going a certain way and have for a while, they’ll probably keep going that way. When Sir Isaac Newton developed his laws of motion, stating in his first one how, “When viewed in an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force,” he probably spent a lot of time observing things as they were in the natural world before officially formulating his theory, and my guess is he kinda caught on to the idea that things going in a certain direction at a rapid pace don’t just suddenly stop.


I could go on and on about how disappointing it is that the Nuggets couldn’t even pry at least Sam Dekker, Clint Capela, Donatas Montiejunas, Terrence Jones, K.J. McDaniels or Montrezl Harrell away from the Rockets. I really cannot emphasize enough how many young, talented, intriguing prospects the Rockets possess of whom the Nuggets received almost zero. Many of the above-mentioned guys weren’t even consistent rotation player for the Rockets last year yet the Nuggets couldn’t even convince the Rockets that Lawson was worth a single one of them. This fact alone is just incredibly disconcerting, especially considering how Lawson’s never had any problems on the floor. Sure he’s a basket case with regards to his personal life, but when it comes to games, you’re talking about one of the fastest players in the league, a borderline All-Star who’s just entering his prime and a guy who’s dealt out more assists in the last two years than LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry. And the best player the Nuggets received in exchange for this type of production: Nick Johnson — whom I like! — but still… Nick Johnson.

The only real lesson I hope Tim Connelly and the Nuggets front office learns from this whole debacle is simply the concept of learning. The Nuggets front office is still in its infancy where learning is most critical, so it is important to examine situations like these and ask what you did wrong, what you could have done better and what you will do better when faced with similar instances in the future.

Not all situations call for given actions based on prior confrontations with a similar foe — each requires unique and individual examination to progress fruitfully. And sometimes, haste is more valuable than loitering, especially when a situation only continues to decline. But above all, I hope the Nuggets learn to eventually master the art of clairvoyance, to be able to understand the direction of an asset in particular based on its current trajectory and the path it’s traveled before. This of course is much easier said than done, but even a basic understanding of this concept can go a long ways in the NBA.

Because lord knows, if the Nuggets ever again have to surrender their best player for a few waiveable contracts and the 13th man on their counterpart’s roster, they might themselves have to dial up Ty Lawson and inquire about the steps required to overcome a crash landing preceded by a self-induced tailspin.

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