In the midst of the Dallas Mavericks’ whirlwind of roster changes and offseason acquisitions, one player who might have escaped the attention of many Dallas basketball fans is A.J. Lawson. As we delve into the 2023-2024 NBA season, let’s embark on an in-depth journey to understand this intriguing player’s quest to prove himself in the world’s most prestigious basketball league.
A.J. Lawson’s Remarkable Odyssey
Standing tall at 6 feet 6 inches, A.J. Lawson had a memorable run during the 2022 summer league, impressing onlookers with his athletic prowess and skills. However, to the surprise of many, the Mavericks decided not to offer him a two-way contract at that time. Instead, the Minnesota Timberwolves swooped in and secured his services. Unfortunately, his stint with the Timberwolves was short-lived, as he was waived not once, but twice. After this rollercoaster experience, Lawson eventually found his way back to where it all began – the Big D.
During the 2022-2023 season, Lawson divided his playing time between the Mavericks and their G League affiliate, the Texas Legends. He made appearances in 14 games for the Mavericks and managed to average 3.9 points per game with shooting percentages of .488 from the field, .400 from three-point range, and .250 from the free-throw line. While his opportunities were limited, he showcased glimpses of his athleticism, defensive skills, and a reliable three-point shot. As the Mavericks transitioned into a ‘tank mode’ strategy towards the end of the season, Lawson ended the campaign on a high note with back-to-back games in double figures. Following a commendable performance in the 2023 Summer League, he now finds himself on the fringes of the Mavericks’ roster, with potential that defies the odds.
The Burning Question: Can Lawson Find Consistency Beyond the Arc?
The primary question surrounding A.J. Lawson revolves around his ability to consistently connect from beyond the three-point line. While his shooting form appears promising, the limited sample size from last season (10-25 from three-point range) leaves room for uncertainty. Lawson brings athleticism and tenacity to the defensive end of the court and demonstrates intelligence in his off-ball movement. However, given his other offensive limitations, his success in the NBA hinges on his ability to become a reliable shooter. Currently, the NBA lacks sufficient evidence to definitively answer this pivotal question.
Best-Case Scenario: Lawson’s Path to NBA Success
In an ideal scenario, A.J. Lawson experiences significant improvement in his shooting mechanics while continuing to excel defensively. Despite residing on the periphery of the roster, his versatility as a wing player could provide valuable depth to the team. There exists a plausible scenario where his shooting prowess becomes a genuine asset, and a year of continuous development propels him ahead of competitors like Derrick Jones Jr. and Dante Exum. For Lawson, the best-case outcome would be to demonstrate to the NBA that he transcends the limitations of a mere two-way contract.
Worst-Case Scenario: The Challenges Ahead
Fortunately, the stakes are relatively low for players like Lawson. In a worst-case scenario, he may remain an average player, his shooting proficiency remaining questionable, his basketball IQ stagnant, and his chances of cracking the rotation slim, even in garbage time. Such a scenario might lead to a series of transitions between the Texas Legends and the Mavericks, possibly culminating in a release that would free him to explore opportunities overseas.
Seasonal Aspirations: Turning Two-Way Contracts into Success Stories
For the Dallas Mavericks, the goal for this season should transcend the ordinary. It should be about breaking the trend of two-way contracts leading to minimal production. Historically, the Mavericks have used these roster spots for failed free-agent acquisitions and morale-boosting role players rather than genuine player development. However, it’s crucial to recognize that other NBA teams have successfully unearthed valuable talent from two-way contracts, with names like Alex Caruso, Lu Dort, and Duncan Robinson emerging from similar beginnings. A.J. Lawson represents the Mavericks’ most promising opportunity to discover their hidden gem and rewrite their own two-way success story.
The Overall Outlook: Navigating the Path Ahead
Realistically, the odds of A.J. Lawson becoming a prominent NBA rotation player this season are not in his favor, considering the historical track record of players on two-way contracts, especially within the Mavericks’ organization. However, Lawson possesses undeniable NBA-level skills, boasting the physical attributes, athleticism, and an unwavering work ethic. Like many young, scrappy wings, his fate in the league will ultimately be decided by his ability to consistently sink shots from beyond the arc.
At just 23 years old, Lawson remains a work in progress. However, time is of the essence, and if he doesn’t secure his spot this season, his path to an NBA role becomes increasingly uncertain. We hold out hope that A.J. Lawson and the Mavericks can defy the odds, working in tandem to achieve success on the grand NBA stage.