It’s fitting AJ Lawson’s first official NBA basket came off a cut.
AJ Lawson cutting dunk pic.twitter.com/a6dCGLaaPu— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) November 17, 2022
The 6-foot-6 wing signed a two-way contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this week. After the Timberwolves waived him prior to the start of the 2022-23 regular season, Lawson got off to an outstanding start to the G-League season with the College Park Skyhawks, averaging 22.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals across four contests.
What’s impressive about Lawson’s averages is he played primarily an off-ball role. He isn’t an overqualified player that felt comfortable chucking shots at the G-League level. Instead, he produced mainly off the ball with cutting, receiving handoffs, and crashing the offensive glass.
His activity without the ball on the offensive end fits seamlessly with what the Wolves need. He can come off hand-offs and flow into pick-and-roll or curl off screens and cut to the rim.
When playing next to an offensive hub like Karl Anthony-Towns, being able to make reads off the ball is crucial. Lawson provides connectivity to keep the movement churning.
Lawson can make the one-dribble-and-a-decision type of reads similar to the ones we love from Jordan McLaughlin.
The difference is Lawson is more of a scoring threat.
On albeit tiny volume, Lawson has made 52.9% of this threes on 4.3 attempt per game. It’s small volume, but he shot 35% at the University of South Carolina, so there is some floor as a shooter.
Last season at the G-League level, he shot 33.3% on 2.5 attempts. Lawson bumped up his volume and efficiency at the start of this season. If he can shoot the three at a high 30s-to-low-40s clip will be a large factor if he can crack Finch’s rotation.
The other aspect of Lawson’ scoring is his finishing. He’s converted on 21 of his 28 shots at the rim. In a game against the Greensboro Swarm, he attacked Hornets’ 7-foot, first-round rookie center Mark Williams and finished over his 7-foot-7 wingspan.
The team’s main two connectors, Kyle Anderson and McLaughlin, are adept at moving the ball and provide some defensive stability, but Lawson provides better spacing. If a team tries to sit in a gap and help off of him, he can attack the space or take the three.
Whether his shooting holds up will be something to monitor, but if Lawson can make shots and provide some ball movement juice, he could find a long-term home in Minnesota.
The Skyhawks deployed Lawson on the opposing team’s better perimeter players. He’s a decent on-ball defender, but good ball handlers can turn the corner on him. However, he won’t be tasked with high-level matchups in the NBA.
Off-the-ball he’s shown awareness in help. He’s not going to be a player that falls asleep and gives up backdoor cuts.
His overall motor is what stands out. Watch this play where he starts in the corner guarding Kobi Simmons. He stays attached threw the screen and stays with Simmons when he tries to reject the pick.
He isn’t the same level of impact defender as Kyle Anderson or Jaden McDaniels, but the tradeoff is Lawson provides more volume three-point shooting and can stay afloat on defense.
Lawson is a solid wing-flyer that fits the team’s roster composition. The Wolves have come out flat at times, but Lawson’s constant movement on offense and defensive awareness can give the team a jolt.
If there’s an injury to one of the Wolves’ veteran backup wings and his services are needed, Lawson plays a trustworthy style that can help him fit in a multitude of lineups.