How Steve Nash to L.A. Lakers Extends Kobe Bryant's Title Window

Ben ShapiroAnalyst IIIJuly 4, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 25:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns moves the ball upcourt during the NBA game against the San Antonio Spurs at US Airways Center on April 25, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Spurs defeated the Suns 110-106.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

NBA free agency. It's fantastic!

That's what they're saying in Los Angeles tonight. 

Los Angeles seems to be the "in" place for high-profile players to migrate to these days. Albert Pujols, Chris Paul and now, Steve Nash. 

Yes, Steve Nash is heading to Los Angeles, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, as part of a sign-and-trade deal which will net Phoenix a group of undisclosed future Lakers draft picks.

For Kobe Bryant, who was probably worried about getting back to the NBA Finals before his career came to a close, this deal ensures that the Lakers will be competing with the rest of the NBA's top teams for the next few seasons.

The Lakers gave up no players in this deal.

That means that the Lakers' starting five, as of now, would consist of Nash, Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

That could easily change with Peace, Bynum and Gasol all being linked to various trade rumors. But whether that lineup changes or not, the Lakers will have a formidable starting five.

Perhaps the offense, which looked predictable and stagnant at times last season, will take on a new energy and element of surprise. That would seem logical now that one of the best offensive point guards of the century has taken over.

In seven of the last eight NBA seasons, Nash has averaged more than 10 assists per game. The one season he missed the 10-assist mark, he still dished 9.7 assists per game. He has also averaged over 10 points per game for 12 consecutive seasons. 

Last season, Nash averaged 10.7 assists per game on a team whose leading scorer averaged only 15.4 points per game.

Phoenix did have six players average over 10 points per game, including Nash, who was one of only two players in the NBA to average over 10 points and 10 assists per game—the other being Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics.  

During the 2011-12 season, the Phoenix Suns averaged more points per game, shot a higher field-goal percentage and committed less turnovers per game than the Lakers. 

The Lakers played better defense, but the Lakers' defense wasn't strong because of their point guards. It was strong because of their low-post defense and the perimeter defense provided by Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace. 

Nash won't add much to the Lakers' defense, but on offense, L.A. will really notice a difference. The biggest difference will be felt by the biggest name on the Lakers, Kobe Bryant.  

Bryant averaged 27.9 points per game last season, but he shot only 43 percent, his lowest mark since his second season as a pro. Bryant was not an efficient offensive player last year, as his 23 shot attempts per game led the NBA.

Watching a Lakers game last season, the lack of easy baskets for Bryant was one of the things that really stood out. Some of that was probably due to a period of adjustment from Phil Jackson's triangle offense to Mike Brown's more standard types of offensive sets. 

Some of it was because of the Lakers' issues at point guard. Veteran Derek Fisher was too old to play the minutes needed in L.A., and backup Steve Blake is not suited to start and play 30-plus minutes a night. 

Los Angeles traded for Ramon Sessions in March to try to fix the problem, but the 26-year-old Sessions had never been a consistent starter in his career, and he seemed overwhelmed by the assignment of running the Lakers. 

At 38 years old, Steve Nash should not have too many problems adjusting to his new surroundings. In many ways, Nash is the perfect backcourt teammate for Bryant. By nature, Bryant is a shoot-first type of player. Nash is a pass-first guy.

Bryant creates his own shot, while Nash generally takes his shots when defenses leave him open lanes or open looks. Those openings are generally the result of his ball movement, and the reciprocal ball movement of his teammates. 

The arrival of Nash on the Lakers is like pressing a "reset button" on the Western Conference. 

Oklahoma City has already shown itself to be a team vulnerable to veteran teams, provided those teams are able to keep up with the Thunder's scoring attack. Last season's Lakers were never able to match the Thunder's scoring efficiency. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat were able to keep pace. The final results of the two matchups were quite different. 

Andrew Bynum, Paul Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. The Lakers are instantly title contenders again, and somewhere, Kobe Bryant has to be smiling.