The Los Angeles Lakers will owe Steve Nash almost $10 million next season, which is a lot of money for a player who only suited up for 15 games this season. They can use the stretch provision on Nash and spread his contract out over three years, reducing the cap hit for next season. While this seems like an attractive option to clear cap space, the Lakers should not use the stretch provision. Instead they should keep Nash, hoping that he either retires or is able to be more effective next year.
Nash proved that when he played this past season he can still be effective. He is a very good shooter who can create space for himself off of the dribble. He is terrific at setting up his teammates and getting everyone involved. He struggles on defense but works hard to cover up his mistakes.
The bigger problem is his ability to stay healthy. As he continues to get older, it is harder for him to deal with smaller injury problems. He needs as much rest as possible and can only play in limited spurts. But Nash also is known for taking care of himself, and he has a full offseason to get himself back into playing shape.
He will never be at an MVP level again, but if he can contribute 15 to 20 minutes off of the bench, then he can remain valuable to the team. He also represents a different style of leadership to help complement Kobe Bryant. He brings positive energy to his teammates and is constantly encouraging the younger players. This type of veteran leadership cannot be underestimated and is extremely important if the Lakers are able to make the postseason.
There is also the chance that Nash will retire, clearing his salary off the books entirely. While he has stated that he won’t do this, if he is unable to recover from his current injuries, it may be difficult for him to continue playing. He could use this extra time to slowly transition into a coaching career.
If the Lakers were to use the stretch position they would limit their flexibility after next season. The $3 million that they owe Nash could be better spent on adding another impact player to their lineup. The Lakers need to preserve as much salary cap space as possible and should think about the long-term instead of just one season. They should take a chance that Nash can contribute next season or possibly retire instead of paying him over multiple years.