How Steve Nash Used Marcin Gortat and What It Means for Dwight Howard

Bryant Knox@@BryantKnoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2012

Mar. 16, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center (4) Marcin Gortat and guard (13) Steve Nash during game against the Detroit Pistons at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Pistons 109-101. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Marcin Gortat has seen a big-time turnaround the past two seasons, and a monumental reason for his success has been his partner in crime, Steve Nash.

Nash took Gortat from a good player with potential in Orlando to a starting-caliber center and one of the most improved players the past two years.

Even if you believe it was there all along with Gortat, you have to recognize that Nash helped bring it to surface.

Now just imagine what he can do with Dwight Howard.

Howard is set to join the Los Angeles Lakers this season, and while he is already widely considered the best big man in the game, it’s scary to think where he can elevate his game to with Nash on his side.

Gortat entered the Phoenix Suns organization as the Polish center who had most recently been Howard’s backup in Orlando.

The 6’11” center has a lot of talent. He’s mobile, can finish at the rim and is extremely effective as a pick-and-roll big man.

To say Nash is 100 percent responsible would be taking away credit from a very good NBA center. However, there’s one thing to remember.

Nash simply makes people better.                                                

The 38-year-old point guard has made a career out of finding his teammates—especially his big men.

When Gortat first arrived in Phoenix, he came from a system that played him less than 16 minutes per game and clearly kept him hidden behind Howard.

Throughout the years, Nash has made his big men look outstanding, and Gortat was no exception.

The pick-and-roll has to be considered Nash’s bread and butter. His ability to make a tough pass and put it in the right spot is up there with the best in the league.

Howard is considered one of the best pick-and-roll centers in the league. His athleticism creates for a unique yet lethal combination of strength and swiftness.

Gortat was very good in Nash’s pick-and-roll offense.

Howard will be great.

Nash doesn’t always need a pick-and-roll, though. His basketball IQ is high enough to know when his big man has perfect positioning.

Nash has one of the best basketball minds in the NBA. He’s proven to be a bit turnover prone at times throughout his career, but when it comes to making the smart pass, he’s the guy you want controlling the ball.

Howard is going to bully people in the paint as long as his playing days last, and Nash is the perfect player to drop it down low when the big man has his defender where he wants him.

But plays in basketball aren’t always that easy. Sometimes it takes more than one attempt to get the ball where you want it to go.

Nash is the kind of player you know will never give up on a play. If the first attempt doesn’t work, he sticks with it, which means his big man better be ready.

Nash’s ability to keep his dribble is one of his best assets, and Howard could prove to be a major beneficiary of that.

Where Nash really thrives, though, is in the fast break.

Up-tempo has always been the name of the game with Nash. His ability to get up and down the floor—and stay in control—has allowed him to play at a fast pace his entire career, even as he continues to climb the ladder in the age department.

Having an athletic big man makes it that much easier for him to find someone on the fast break.

Gortat benefited greatly from this, but an even more athletic Howard should thrive in up-tempo situations alongside Nash next year.

If Nash is good at only one thing, it's making difficult plays look extremely easy.

The future Hall of Fame point guard takes the impossible and makes it happen on a regular basis. You can draw up any play you want, but when things break down, Nash knows how to make something out of nothing.

Simply put, Nash makes things happen, and every big man in the league would benefit from his play-making abilities.

Gortat entered Phoenix and immediately bumped his point-per-game average from four to 13. His field-goal percentage increased as well, and last season, he averaged a career-high 15.4 points per game.

More minutes helped Gortat’s cause, but without Nash on his side, you have to wonder how much growth we would have seen over the past two years.

This, of course, isn’t to say that Howard’s numbers will increase as drastically. Howard’s averages last season of 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks—while shooting a league-high 57.3 percent—are about as impressive as they come.

While the stats are often a byproduct of what Nash does on the court, the impact on his teammates is felt mostly in his ability to make things easier.

“Having Steve going to the bucket every time hard, then I’m going to be open or the other way around, and I’m going to draw attention on my roll. That’s a pretty good combination,” Gortat told the Arizona Republic last season.

Nash can create in the pick-and-roll and in the fast break, but you have to remember that the veteran point guard is still a threat to score both on the perimeter and at the rim.

The 6’3” guard has never used his athleticism, yet he’s become one of the craftiest players in the league.

Getting to the rim opens up the perimeter, and with Howard’s ability to elevate, he can catch the ball anywhere inside the arch and attack if the defense collapses in the paint.

Nash’s shot is what will be truly deadly. If you don’t step out on him, he will make you pay. If you do, you leave players unguarded in pick-and-roll situations.

Pick your poison.

This Lakers squad has the potential for greatness, and Nash and Howard have the potential to become one of the best point guard-center duos that the NBA has to offer.


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