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Los Angeles Lakers: 5 Reasons Why Trading for Nash Won't Work

Joshua J VannucciniSenior Analyst IIIJuly 5, 2012

Los Angeles Lakers: 5 Reasons Why Trading for Nash Won't Work

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    The NBA free-agency period is always exciting and unpredictable. Concordantly, the world exploded when the Phoenix Suns sent Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers, their long-time rivals.

    The deal cannot be officially completed until July 11th, so there is a minute possibility that it could fall through.

    However, this trade will not work out as many expect it to.

    Adding a player of Nash's caliber is certainly a bonus for any team, but in Los Angeles, it will create more problems than it will solve. 

Salary

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    The deal, first reported by Marc Stein of ESPN, is a sign-and-trade agreement, giving Nash almost $25 million over the next three years. In return the Suns received two future first-round picks and two future second-round picks.

    L.A. was able to add Nash to the payroll due to the trade exception from sending Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks last December. 

    Immediately, this places the Lakers in a world of hurt for the future.

    Before adding the point guard, L.A.'s payroll comes to a whopping $79.8 million this year, according to HoopsHype. Assuming Nash's contract tops out to be approximately $8 million for this season, that number elevates to $87.2 million—$16.9 million over the luxury-tax limit.

    His contract will call for an additional $17 million over the next two seasons after that, which does not bold well next to Bryant's albatross of a salary, which mandates $30.4 million next year.

    Thus, the Lakers will roughly have $39 million locked up in just two players for the 2013-14 season.

    Here comes the tricky part: Andrew Bynum's $16.4 million deal expires this season.

    There is news of a possible Dwight Howard trade, yet even so, either player will require a contract extension, as Howard's deal finishes at the end of the season. 

    Let us assume, optimistically, that their contracts will come to $17 million per season. That trio of salaries will give the Lakers absolutely zero flexibility to add complimentary pieces. Let us not forget Pau Gasol, either. The $38.2 million he is owed makes this situation even more complicated.

    Nevertheless, even if L.A. can find a suitor to trade the big man, they will undoubtedly take back some salary.

    Regardless of this amount, the Lakers will remain restricted for the future.

Play Style

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    Salary problems aside, a starting lineup of Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum looks potent on paper. All five have playoff experience and have been All-Stars throughout their careers.

    Yet when it comes to combining them on the court, it will take a major commitment to account for the drastic alteration in style of play.

    It is safe to say that L.A. has not had a point guard of Nash's standard since Magic Johnson. Adding him will require an entirely new offense to accommodate the excellent ball-handling and distributing of which Nash is capable.

    It will take a large adjustment for Bryant to make this work.

    His heavy possessions aside, Kobe is one of the best all-around scorers in the league. One of his favorite and preferred methods of scoring is in the mid-range area. Whether he backs down defenders in the post or pulls out on drives, that is where he is most efficient. 

    Nash requires the ball to be effective. He weaves his way in and out of the defense, drawing players until he either scores or dishes to an open teammate.

    However, he is most effective in pick-and-roll situations.

    But only Gasol possesses enough mobility to pull this off, which forces Bynum to clear the paint and Bryant to hover on the perimeter.

    The offense must run through Nash.

    It is easier for Bryant to play from the perimeter and score, rather than controlling the ball and running sets while Nash waits beyond the three-point line.

    Nash has not shown an ability to play off-the-ball, and he deservedly shouldn't. He is one of the top point guards in league history.

    It is a scorer's job to adjust, and it must come from the leader of the team in Bryant. It will be challenging as he ages and his athletic abilities begin to fade, but if anyone can pull it off, the Black Mamba can.

    It can certainly work and would be extremely difficult to control, but to make it work will require the utmost dedication and hard work.

    This was a major issue for the Lakers last season and has not been addressed. 

Trading for Nash Did Not Fill a Need

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    The largest problem for the Lakers last season was their lack of help on the perimeter. The team has one of the best frontcourts—if not simply the best—in the NBA.

    A combination of Gasol and Bynum can become excessive for opponents to deal with, as they are exceptional on both sides of the ball.

    Despite this, L.A. could not keep up in the playoff race and was subsequently defeated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round.

    World Peace's career-worst 39-percent shooting did not help the Lakers offense. Neither did Derek Fisher's 38-percent shooting in his time with the team. He was consequently traded away, but this was not L.A.'s problem.

    Granted, Fisher lacked the playmaking skills that Nash will bring to the team.

    Yet Nash does not upgrade Los Angeles' wing players. The team has only World Peace and Cristian Eyenga at small forward and the undersized Andrew Goudelock and Darius Johnson-Odom to back up Bryant.

    There is a plethora of competent wing players in free agency, and the Lakers must use its mini mid-level exception to bring someone to the team.

    Even then, it may not solve their problem.

    They need a long-distance threat, a player Nash or Bryant can feed the ball to who can knock down jump shots. Adding such a person would help space the floor and allow both guards to run the offense.

    Trading for Nash was somewhat redundant in this scenario.

    Rather than saving money and re-signing Ramon Sessions, management acquired Nash at a high price tag, meaning any other signings will push the payroll further above the tax threshold.

    Obviously, this can be fixed by trading Gasol or Bynum for a combination of players, but that would counter-act the singing of Nash. Moving one of them for a wing player not only decreases how effective Nash can be, but it also limits the overall potency of the team, on both ends of the floor.

    In this aspect it creates another problem, instead of solving one.

    Playmaking was never L.A.'s biggest flaw, and was not the reasoning behind trading Fisher.

    It was another issue.

Defense

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    Steve Nash is one of the best offensive players in league history.

    Apart from his outstanding distributing and ball-handling skills, he is one of the greatest shooters ever to step into the NBA.

    His career shooting percentages of 49, 42 and 90 from the field, three-point line and free-throw line, respectively, are exceptional and will rank as paramount once he retires.

    However, Nash has never been a spectacular defender.

    This is not entirely his own fault. Throughout his career, he has mostly played for up-tempo, high-scoring teams that rack up points before the defense can even be set. These teams were never too fazed about defense. It was more of a beat-the-opponent-with-our-offense style of play.

    Coming to the Lakers, this will become a problem.

    Fans and the media harshly criticized Derek Fisher for his poor defense, which was the driving force behind his trade. L.A. received Sessions in his place—a younger, faster and, while not a lockdown defender, a better defender at that. 

    Trading for Nash places L.A. in the exact same situation.

    Perceptibly, Nash's positives on offense will outweigh his negatives on defense. Yet this does not serve as justification to rule out the concern altogether.

    The NBA is all about defense; the phrase "defense wins championships" summarizes it perfectly. Miami locked down OKC in the NBA Finals and walked away successful.

    LA has instead re-created the issue the team had at the beginning of the season.

    Going forward, it was questionable just how successful they would be with Fisher at the helm. Nash is an obvious upgrade, but their defense is about equal.

    Facing point-guard-driven teams like OKC, San Antonio and the L.A. Clippers will be interesting for the Lakers going forward, specifically for this reason.

Age

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    This is perhaps the largest issue of them all.

    While it can be argued the Lakers will have one of the best backcourts in the league, there is no question it is the oldest. Nash will turn 39 in February, while Bryant will hit 34 next month.

    Both are experienced, talented players, despite their ages. Both have adjusted their games to adapt to this impending issue and have continued to play at high levels.

    Nonetheless, it is difficult to imagine L.A.'s keeping up with the rest of the league, for this reason.

    The NBA is undergoing a significant change in how the game is played.

    It is becoming faster, and those with the most athleticism, stamina and quickness are the most successful. More and more players are emerging as extreme physical specimens. 

    Considering that the teams that are threatening to L.A. are built on this system, a Nash-Bryant pairing will be troublesome.

    As aforementioned, they are both spectacular, legendary players, and their positives outweigh the negatives, but the problems still remain. L.A. has a young bench, but it is not experienced enough to effectively sub in and help out efficiently. 

    Opposing teams just have too much firepower for the Lakers to keep up. Against the Thunder in the playoffs, Bryant averaged a stellar 31.2 points per game for the series, albeit on 42 percent shooting.

    But the defense of the younger, faster Sefolosha counteracts Bryant's offense. Russell Westbrook is not known to be a lockdown defender, but he will have a palpable upper-hand on Nash.

The Verdict

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    Steve Nash is one of the most liked and skilled players in the league. He is the embodiment of professionalism and consistency and is a great addition to the Lakers.

    However, this will generate a larger number of issues than it will repair.

    If L.A. were willing to gamble that high on a guard, it should have been for someone younger who can help the team without forcing it to re-organize its style.

    Signing Nash will mean huge adjustments for the team, on both sides of the floor.

    In addition, it freezes the team's movement salary-wise. Keeping in mind that Nash will turn 39 in February, his new three-year, $25 million contract will expire as he turns 41.

    Paying a player approximately $8 million per season for that long is fine if you know that he will be able to earn it consistently.

    In this circumstance, it is a question that Nash can continue to produce, rather than a definite circumstance.

    All in all, adding him to the Lakers should be intriguing to watch.

    The team could very well pull an upset in the Western Conference and return to its usual dominance.

    However, it is far more likely that the team will continue to struggle.

    No needs have been filled, the team's defense will remain satisfactory and their payroll is still abnormally large.

    The positives might outweigh the negatives, yet these issues are consistent problems that will leave L.A. in a position identical to that of last season. 

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