The Los Angeles Lakers mortgaged the future of their team for the opportunity to team up two league MVPs at the twilight of their careers to make another run at a championship. The Lakers gave the 38 year old Nash (not a misprint) a 3-year contract which will make him 41 at the end of the deal.
Let’s examine where how this deal affects the Lakers:
Where Nash is:
While Nash was still able to carry (literally carry a punch-less, starless Suns team) to playoff contention, he is not the player he was when winning back-to-back MVPs.
While he was able to shoot a career-high 53% from the floor in 2012, his 3-point percentage has steadily decreased over the past four years from 47% in 2007-08 to 39% the past two years. Nash can still drop dimes and make his teammates better, as his assists per 48 minutes continues to be extraordinary (16.3 per 48 minutes played).
His basketball IQ is gifted and his ability to make a plays in pick-and-roll situations is unique and beautiful to watch. While he is not the most gifted athlete at this point of his career, he is still smart enough to cut the angle on the pick-and-roll to create space and/or set up a teammate with a crisp pass.
Defensively, at his prime, Nash was a poor defender, and now he is a liability. He has neither the quickness to stay in front of quick guard nor the strength to defend 1-on-1 if they take him in the paint. If you watch a Suns game, it’s curious to see a player of his caliber to be late or non-interested in defensive rotations.
Where this puts the Lakers:
Westbrook is both too fast and too strong, while Parker will have his way with him whenever he wants to. This will put a lot of pressure on Kobe and whomever the Lakers find to back up Nash (which is important considering Nash only plays 31 minutes a game) to shut down the elite point guards in the Western Conference (Don’t sleep on Chris Paul of the Clippers either).
Offensively, Kobe and Nash are an interesting pair. Nash needs the ball in pick-and-roll situations to be effective while Kobe needs the ball whenever he DEMANDS the ball. Kobe has played most of his career without a true point guard, as Ron Harper and Derek Fisher didn’t dominate the basketball, as Phil Jackson’s “triangle offense” made a true point guard moot.
Kobe has been free to have the ball whenever he felt he needed it, and when Shaq challenged him on that concept, Shaq was shipped out of LA. Now, Kobe will be off-the ball and it will be interesting to see how the two of them will coexist.
Obviously, Kobe was the “recruiting coordinator” in his transaction, but can Kobe really play off the ball? Nash will get the Black Mamba the ball in the right spot if Kobe “wants to be in the right spot”.
This is a serious concern that true basketball fans will enjoy studying throughout the course of the season as the two future Hall-of-Famers learn to play together.
This is not a slam dunk move to me. The Lakers have become even worse defensively, have a point guard who won’t play all 82 games and can’t play more than 32 minutes a game.
He’s also 38 going on 50. The Lakers still haven’t figured out their most troubling aspect of their team, which is the Andrew Bynum/Pau Gasol “space controversy”. While Nash will make both of these big man better in the pick-and-roll, the spacing for such sets will be condensed.
In Phoenix, Nash was surrounded by shooters and just one post (this allowed for tremendous spacing in the lane for Nash to work his magic). As they are presently construed, the Lakers with two legit post players would not be able to space the floor properly.
But despite Nash’s age, the cost of four draft picks for a point guard who can make people better is worth the roll of the dice. While many in NBA circles will sing how this move makes the Lakers a threat in the Western Conference, I firmly believe the Lakers need to move either Bynum or Gasol for shooters to space the floor.
Otherwise, Nash’s creativity and effectiveness will be compromised. Since Nash will not be a defensive impact, the Lakers need to be sure to maximize his offensive genius.
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