Starting off the season with Derek Fisher at point guard, the veteran struggled to the tune of 5.9 points and 3.3 assists per game. It was the fifth-straight season Fisher had seen a decline in his scoring, not surprising for a 37-year-old.
Knowing they needed help desperately at point guard, the Lakers traded their 2012 first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ramon Sessions. The 26-year-old brought some fresh legs to the point guard position, but fizzled in the playoffs averaging just 9.7 points and 3.6 assists on 37.7 percent shooting from the field.
It was clear the Lakers were still searching for an answer at point guard. With an elite core of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, L.A. didn't need another project point guard, they needed a winner.
What was once an anemic offense suddenly looks to be an unstoppable force with the addition of Nash and the trade for Dwight Howard.
Nash helps the Lakers offense in a number of ways, starting with his passing.
Last season with the Suns, Nash averaged 10.7 assists per game and has been in double digits in the category seven times the past eight seasons.
The Lakers best assist man was Sessions, with only 5.5 in the regular season. In the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder, it was actually Bryant who led the team with a measly 4.3 a game. Frighteningly enough, Pau Gasol was actually second with 3.7.
Nash's playmaking abilities will not only open up easier buckets for teammates, but will help take pressure off Bryant and Gasol and allow them to play their game without having to worry about facilitating for others.
As put by LakeShowLife.com's Chris Shellcroft:
Kobe Bryant isn’t going to have to consume 20 seconds of the clock just to get his shot off. Metta World Peace isn’t going to have to make any more awkward attempts to run the break. Pau Gasol isn’t going to have to camp out in the corner just to get a decent look at the hoop. Even Mitch Kupchak can rest easy knowing he won’t have to scrape the bottom of the NBA trade barrel for a suitable guard to run the offense.
Adding Nash will also help to preserve Bryant's body and keep him fresher during the course of the season.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Bryant has led the league in usage percentage (35.1, 35.7) the past two seasons. This stat is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor, meaning Bryant has been called upon to do far too much for a player of his age and mileage.
As a possible sign of this overuse, Bryant's field goal percentage has gone from 46.7 to 45.6 to 45.1 to now 43.0 the past four seasons while his usage percentage and three-point attempts have all increased over the same amount of time.
Playing alongside an aging Derek Fisher, the Lakers asked Bryant to do to much. With Nash, they no longer have to.
Three-point shooting is another huge aspect of Nash's game that he brings to the table.
Nash brings with him a lifetime 42.8 shooting percentage from deep. The Phoenix Suns last season, despite having a far less talented roster, averaged 19.6 three-point attempts per game on 34.3 percent shooting compared to the Lakers 16.8 on 32.6.
Nash consistently draws a double team due to his threat as a scorer and passer, thus opening plenty of shooters on the perimeter waiting for the ball. As a result of Nash, L.A. will have more shot attempts and open looks due to the pressure he brings on opposing defenses.
The third major facet Nash brings is the pick-and-roll. Terrorizing opposing defenses for years in Phoenix, Nash was at his best with athletic big man Amar'e Stoudemire setting picks for him.
The Lakers have two main options they can use to pick-and-roll with Nash in Howard and Gasol. While Howard is more Amar'e-like in his "get out of my way" two-step drives to the hoop, Gasol can be used in more of a pick-and-pop roll with his shooting ability.
Using either in a pick-and-roll situation will force at least one defender to temporarily lose his man, thus causing an open teammate for Nash to pass to.
If you can overlook his defensive deficiencies, Nash really is the perfect player to jumpstart the Lakers.
His overall offensive game and passing ability will not only make his teammates more effective, it will help save them for when games really matter in June.
Nash can make the Lakers an elite offensive team once again, simply by being himself.
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