L.A. Lakers: Steve Nash Deal Is Great, Landing Howard and Smith Is Better
I'm not sure how I feel about the Los Angeles Lakers' surprise move to acquire Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, as reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein, but the rest of the NBA should fear the Lakers' first volley in free agency.
Nash is certainly a superstar upgrade at the point guard position and might immediately make the Lakers a 2013 title contender, but consider how little effort the Lakers had to expend in order to land Nash.
In order to make the deal work, the Lakers reportedly gave up first-rounders in 2013 and 2015, second-rounders in 2013 and 2014 and $3 million in cash.
So in theory, the Lakers will begin their next campaign with their core of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum intact—but due to the ease with which the Lakers acquired Nash, I wouldn't expect that to last long.
Nash's presence in Los Angeles almost demands that another be moved in order for the Lakers to make a smooth transition to their new perimeter dynamo, and the axe will likely fall on one of the Lakers' seven-footers.
Coach Mike Brown will be compelled to push the tempo in order to fully maximize Nash's vision and skill in the open court, but that will be in direct conflict with the Lakers big men's tendencies (especially Bynum) to take up residence in the paint.
The Lakers offense will be much more fluid with Nash at the helm, but only if clear lanes remain open to the rim. I would say this reality might mean that Bynum's days are numbered in Los Angeles, and the Dwight Howard speculation that has been circulating through Lakerland is closer to reality than it has ever been.
Do you think it might be a little easier to convince Howard to sign long-term in Los Angeles if he knew he would be on the receiving end of Nash's passes for at least three seasons?
However, what should absolutely provoke spine-tingling terror among the Lakers contemporaries is the thought that there is a good chance that even if the Lakers manage to sign Howard to go along with Nash, there could still be more moves down the road.
Josh Smith for Gasol, anyone? Gasol fits into an offense with Nash much better than Bynum does, but not as well as Smith could.
Can you imagine opponents attempting to defend a pick-and-roll that involves Nash and Smith or Nash and Howard? Sounds like an endless highlight stream to me. And Bryant, Smith and Howard are good enough defenders to cover Nash's flaws in that area as well.
With one bold stroke, Lakers management has returned the franchise to the realm of title contenders, but general manager Mitch Kupchak's true brilliance is found in the options that are left at his disposal.
For weeks, Lakers fans have been forced to endure criticism concerning their sense of entitlement and the ridiculous notion that every big free agent is a potential target. Critics can find comfort in the fact that not every free agent is interested in playing in Los Angeles.
After all, Deron Williams did get away.
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