Which Roster Is Better, 2011-12 Lakers vs. 2012-13 Edition?
Maybe this isn't much of a question.
At face value, it's virtually impossible to argue that a team that exchanged Ramon Sessions for Steve Nash has done anything other than get better.
Yes, the Los Angeles Lakers will be improved next season. This much is certain.
But, that's not to say the refurbished roster will be significantly better.
As tempting as it may be to confuse big names and their accomplishments with future productivity, general manager Mitch Kupchak is doing his best to salvage what's left of Nash's brilliant career and Antawn Jamison's scoring ability.
Given the organization's limited options and non-existent cap flexibility, these two additions were nothing short of offseason alchemy.
As long as Nash's back holds up, he'll remain a poor man's version of Chris Paul. He keeps himself in incredible shape, and his shot is still a thing of beauty. In fact, the iconic point guard matched his career-high in shooting efficiency last season despite watching his overall production slip a bit.
You don't have to worry about Los Angeles' offense taking a big step forward.
The same can't be said about the defense.
Nash has never been a good defender. He has neither the physical tools nor the disposition to stop even middle-of-the-road opponents, and he gets burned by them regularly. The Lakers can attempt to hide him on the defensive end, but that would mean asking Kobe Bryant to run around chasing quicker scorers.
Yes, the Lakers needed a playmaker.
But, they also needed a stopper–especially in Mike Brown's system.
Ramon Sessions wasn't exactly a candidate for defensive player of the year, so it's not as if Los Angeles is any worse off for having Nash run the point.
The defensive deficit will still cause problems, though. In a conference featuring floor generals like Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Mike Conley, Ricky Rubio, Goran Dragic and Jeremy Lin, porous backcourt defense is a back-breaking liability.
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It's not especially comforting that Antawn Jamison makes Nash's defense look half-way decent.
He's a better three-point shooter than Matt Barnes, yes. But, at this stage of his career is a much less efficient overall scorer. He also exerts a fraction of the effort Barnes brings to the defensive end.
How much better are the new Lakers?
And, there's no telling how he'll play after taking on a reduced role on the bench. For long-range shooters who've spent their careers sustaining rhythm with ample playing time, coming off the bench isn't always an easy transition.
In the final analysis, the new iteration of the Lakers will be better-equipped to score points, but will struggle to prevent opponents from doing the same.
Los Angeles ranked in the middle of the pack last season defensively, just ahead of the San Antonio Spurs. The difference is that San Antonio scored over six points a game more than Los Angeles.
Playing at that kind of pace won't be easy for a team that's so dependent on a couple of All-Star seven-footers. It's doubtful this roster will ever be able to score enough points to offset its defensive shortcomings.
The new-look Lakers will be better at some things, yes.
Just not at the things it needs most of all.
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