Kobe Bryant has never played with a point guard of this caliber since he entered the league in 1996.
In comes Steve Nash, the dude who has averaged more than 10.5 assists in seven of his last eight seasons. Even at his age, he is still playing at a remarkable level. How great of an upgrade is this for Kobe and the Lakers?
First, Nash will likely be the first point guard to play with Kobe and average more than 8.5 assists a game. That hasn't happened once since 1996.
ESPN's player efficiency ratings, a model designed by John Hollinger to quantify a player's effectiveness, tells a deeper story about the Lakers' point guard upgrade. Here are the numbers from last year and the ranking of each respective category among the 67 qualifying point guards.
PER: 20.29 (8), TS%: .625 (1), Assist Ratio: 44.0 (2), Estimated Wins Added: 9.1 (5)
PER: 16.79 (23), TS%: .535 (23), Assist Ratio: 30.3 (20), Estimated Wins Added: 4.9 (22)
So roughly, based on these numbers, you are talking about the Lakers instantly going from having a "starting" point guard in the bottom third of the league to the top third.
How big of an upgrade is Nash?
Here's why I like these numbers, and why I think they tell an even better story for Los Angeles. Obviously, the high assist ratio shows that Nash is a great playmaker, and it defines his ability to create shots for his teammates. Considering he is playing with a much better supporting cast in Los Angeles, this will be beneficial because their offensive weapons will be able to take advantage of his playmaking abilities.
I mean, would you rather feed the post to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum? Or Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye?
Would you rather run a break with Kobe Bryant? or with Jared Dudley?
Despite a weak supporting cast in Phoenix, Nash's playmaking skills transcended his team's limitations. Now, he gets to play with better ones.
The other number I like is the TS percentage (True-Shooting Percentage) This aggregate takes into account the different types of shots players take (threes, twos, and free throws), and their percentage at each respective shot.
Simply put, a player who goes 2-for-3 from three-point land has just as high a TS percentage as someone who goes 3-for-3 from two-point land. Each player scores six points on three shots. It demonstrates how effective a shooter is from all spots on the floor, and doesn't discount their ability to knock down free-throws or hit three-pointers.
Nash has the best TS percentage in the league. The reason he doesn't average more points per game is because he doesn't focus on shooting. His primary concern is his playmaking ability and creating for teammates. He only took nine shots a game last year.
When he wants to shoot though, he is great. Nash has averaged over 90 percent from the stripe in his career and 43 percent from three while also shooting 53 percent from the field last year.
He essentially gives the Lakers a big competitive advantage. Do you stop him off the dribble and make him hurt you with his passing ability? Or, do you make him take his own shot?
Nash's career and numbers show that he can hurt you both ways.
Good luck to opponents trying to stop this Lakers team offensively next year.