Why the Los Angeles Lakers Would Be Better Off Without Steve Nash
By now we all know the Los Angeles Lakers were able to add point guard Steve Nash into the fold during the offseason. With the acquisition of Nash, Los Angeles is undoubtedly better off than it would have been having any of last year’s incumbents running the point.
But overall, the team would be better off with a different point guard than Nash.
Let's look at the good Nash brings to the Lakers.
First and most importantly, he's an upgrade—and a huge one at that—over any of the point guards L.A. would have had on its roster. Nash is way better than Chris Duhon, Steve Blake or Darius Morris. He's also obviously better than Ramon Sessions, if the team would have re-signed him.
Nash also provides the Lakers with the best point guard the organization's had since Magic Johnson was running the show. And with L.A. adopting the Princeton offense for the 2012-13 season, the team definitely will benefit from having a seasoned player such as Nash running the point.
Unlike other options the Lakers had on the roster or that were available in free agency, Nash is well-versed in postseason play. With his new team looking to win another NBA championship, someone needs to run the show who won't shrivel up when the bright lights of the postseason shine hottest.
Nash should thrive in a playoff atmosphere.
Nash also is a team player. That's a good trait to have as a point guard. He's always willing to pass the ball to open teammates. And with a better supporting cast than what he had around him in Phoenix, Nash will find plenty of opportunities to get others involved on the offensive end.
So, with all of the positives surrounding Nash coming to the Lakers, you may wonder why the team would be better off with a point guard other than him.
Well, there are a few reasons why.
For one, Nash is basically a turnstile on the defensive end. With interior defenders such as Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill on the team, Nash's defensive deficiencies shouldn't necessarily doom the Lakers. The problem is that, in the postseason, teams that play the best defense usually end up coming out on top.
Nash's Suns never emphasized—and were never very good at—defense, which partially explains their inability to get over the hump and win a championship.
If the Lakers had a strong backup defensive point guard, it would help mask Nash's problems in this area. Los Angeles could spell Nash late in games when it needs to buckle down on defense. But even then, you don't want to have a player who's a defensive liability, because it means you have to constantly juggle your lineup to get into favorable matchups.
Acquiring Nash also adds a lot of age to L.A.'s lineup. With Nash in the fold, four of the Lakers' five projected starters will be at least 32 years old. The youngest starter on the team—Howard—is coming off a back injury.
Aging players and players recovering from injuries have a tendency to miss games. If that were to happen, the Lakers would have to replace them with backups. That could pose a problem because the team’s bench, while much improved over last season, still isn't very good. Also, L.A. has a bench full of aging players, which could mean even more injuries.
Adding Nash to the mix has the potential to really boost the team's offense. However, for that to occur as efficiently as possible, Nash needs the offense to run through him. He's more than capable of getting the job done, but his teammates will need to give him room to work.
For the most part, this shouldn't pose a problem. The only concern is whether or not Kobe Bryant—who's used to having the offense run through him—will go along with it.
Kobe seems content to let Nash run the show right now. But the season hasn't started yet. And as we know, actions speak louder than words. Kobe can say that he'll defer to Nash, but actually doing it is a whole different story.
Kobe may in fact be at the point in his career where he needs to rely on those around him to get this team another championship. But he might be too proud to admit it. Oftentimes the mental toughness that allows a player to be as great as he's been throughout his career also prevents him from admitting that he can't do the things he once did.
Whether or not that's the case with Bryant remains to be seen, but if he wants this offense to run as effectively as it can, he'll need to allow Nash to do his thing.
Speaking of which, one of Nash's main things is his ability to execute the pick-and-roll. With bigs such as Gasol and Howard, the Lakers certainly have the pieces to make it work. The question is whether or not the Lakers have enough consistent outside shooters to make teams pay when running it.
Last year the Lakers hit only 32.6 percent of their three-point attempts. A repeat of that may not be enough to truly make the opposition pay when going under the pick-and-roll. The addition of Jodie Meeks should help in this area, and Nash himself consistently knocks down jump shots.
But Kobe, Metta World Peace and Gasol leave a lot to be desired when it comes to three-point shooting, and they figure to be some of the benefactors of Nash running the pick-and-roll. It will be interesting to see if they can shoot consistently enough to keep opponents honest.
So while the team's certainly stronger on paper with Nash in the fold, it remains to be seen whether or not it will fully translate to the court.
A lot of things need to fall into place for the Lakers to reach their potential with Nash in the mix.
They'll have to figure out how to make up for Nash's horrible defense; they'll need an aging roster to find a way to stay on the court; they'll have to consistently knock down three-pointers off the pick-and-roll, and, most importantly, they'll have to give Nash room to run the offense.
Those are a lot of scenarios that need to break L.A.'s way for Nash to work out well with the team. And given the expectations surrounding the Lakers, anything short of a championship is a failure. It could work out well with Nash, but it might be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
That's why the Lakers would be better off with a point guard other than Nash. Ideally, the team would have gotten Chris Paul, but David Stern made sure that didn't happen.
So the next best thing was the Lakers getting a solid point guard who wouldn't detract from the team but also wouldn't need to have the offense run through him.
After all, with Bryant, Gasol and Howard in the starting lineup, I'm sure the Lakers could find a way to produce more than adequately on the offensive end, even without a point guard like Nash.
The team would have been better-served using the same cap space to acquire a decent point guard who can actually defend, and then putting the remaining money into further fortifying the bench.
That would have been more helpful to the Lakers this season. It wouldn't have been the flashy thing to do, but it would have increases the franchise’s chances of winning in the postseason, which is really what it's all about.
Follow me on Twitter @SimRisso.
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