Steve Nash: How He Can Keep Fellow LA Lakers Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard Happy
If you looked up the term "pure point guard" in an NBA dictionary, you'd likely find Steve Nash's picture. He is a floor general of the highest order, consistently controlling the game by dictating how offensive possessions unfold. He's not just a willing passer, but someone that actively seeks out the best shot and then sets up his teammates to take it.
These qualities will serve Nash well in joining the Lakers, as he has several mouths to feed on the offensive side of the ball. As Mike Brown said in his sit down with Brian Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles, Nash will quarterback the Lakers offense and will be expected to distribute the ball around to all his teammates, keeping the offense humming.
Ball distribution will be especially important in terms of making sure that both Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard get the scoring opportunities that will not only ensure the Lakers' offense performs at peak efficiency but also keeps his two superstar teammates happy.
Keeping Dwight smiling will likely be Nash's easiest task as the Lakers' lead guard. With Nash as one of the very best pick-and-roll initiators and Dwight the game's premier pick-and-roll finisher, they will have a symbiotic relationship from the moment they step on the floor together.
Nash's array of quick hitting dishes, pocket bounce passes, and lobs are sure to keep Howard more than satisfied.
This clip shows a classic Nash pass. Nash brings the ball up in semi-transition and Robert Sacre comes up to set a screen for him. Recognizing a pick is coming, the defense attempts to box Nash in by jumping up high on the screen man to negate the pick entirely. In this case, Nash does what he does best by attacking the big man to deny the paint while Sacre slips the screen action and dives right to the rim. Nash then delivers a perfect bounce pass between the legs of the defender to Sacre who finishes at the front of the rim.
Nash can also find ways to get Howard the ball in plays that don't involve the pick-and-roll. Howard is one of the best transition big men in the league and thrives on changing ends quicker than his opponents in order to get easy baskets. When paired with Nash, Howard can be rewarded for his getting out and running.
Here you see Channing Frye secure the rebound and outlet to Nash. Once Marcin Gortat realizes the ball is secured, he busts his tail down the court to get a pass ahead that he can finish and Nash obliges him. With the Lakers, it's easy to see how Pau Gasol could play the role of Frye by controlling the glass, allowing Howard to beat his man down the floor and getting the ball from Nash in the open court where he can finish.
The beauty of Nash's game is that he can also find his teammates when it looks like he's going to go after his own shot.
Here, Nash initiates the offense with a pass to Frye at the elbow and then sprints off his shoulder to receive the ball back via a hand-off. The way Nash is going full speed, the defense can only respond to him as if he's going to take the ball to the basket himself and try to score. However, Nash draws the defense in and then expertly finds Gortat diving behind the D. Nash could have easily looked for his own shot but instead sought out his teammate who scored an even easier basket.
With plays like these, Howard will surely be kept involved and thrive playing next to his new point guard.
In terms of making sure Kobe gets his shots, Nash can look to some of his experiences in playing with Grant Hill and Jared Dudley in Phoenix. Neither Hill nor Dudley approximate Kobe as a talent, but both found ample opportunities to succeed off the shots that Nash created for them.
Kobe is one of the best spot-up shooters in the game and playing with Nash should create many more opportunities for him to get open jumpers. In the above clip, Nash creates an easy shot for Grant Hill simply by attacking the lane and the dishing out to Hill camped behind the three point line. Kobe would be thrilled to get this type of open look simply by standing at the arc.
Nash and Kobe can also work two man games together. One of the Lakers pet plays down the stretch of the 2011-12 season was a pick-and-roll between Kobe and Ramon Sessions, where Kobe would set a pick and try to shake free for a good look. This is an action that can be duplicated between Kobe and Nash.
Here you see Nash set up in the corner and Hill run over to initiate the pick-and-roll. Instead of setting a firm pick, Hill slips the screen and Nash hits him with a tremendous around-the-back bounce pass that Hill catches and slams home. Kobe and Nash can work similar actions together and with Kobe's ability to read the D and Nash's ability to make pin point passes, they should have good looks most of the time.
Another one of Kobe's strengths is cutting off the ball into the creases of the defense, where he breaks open for only a split second in hopes of receiving a pass. In recent years he has not been rewarded often for this because he hasn't played with a guard who is as gifted a passer as Nash. That will surely change now.
In this play, Nash runs a controlled break looking over the defense. Jared Dudley has run to the three point line, initially looking for a skip pass from Nash for an open jumper. Dudley then decides that he would cut back door behind his man who is ball watching. Nash delivers a perfect pass between multiple defenders for an easy basket.
Kobe has rarely had another guard that could both occupy a defense off the dribble and deliver passes on the move to him in a position where all he had to do is finish. Most of the time, it's been Kobe creating for his teammates or, when he does get the ball from one of his teammates, he's in a position where he needs to create a shot for himself.
With Nash, though, this will change. And, ultimately, this is the larger point for Kobe (and for Dwight Howard).
Nash is a player that will seek out his mates and revel in their successes. He'll set them up for easy baskets and celebrate their two points as if they were the big deal, not his perfect pass. This mindset, on its own, will keep both Kobe and Howard engaged and happy with how the offense is running. But when you add in the fact that they will actually benefit from his play-making as often as they will, the most likely outcome is that they will be thrilled.
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