The Los Angeles Lakers’ revamped roster is poised for a championship run. With four Defensive Player of the Year awards on the roster between Dwight Howard (three-time winner) and Metta World Peace (one-time winner), the Lakers have the potential to become a potent defensive team. The defense is sure to be solid even with Steve Nash as a weak link, but is this team’s offense the most explosive Nash has ever played with?
The Lakers are a team loaded with superstars and scorers. It’s certainly a formidable squad that’s sure to be among the best Nash has ever played beside, but the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns would disagree.
Following a year in which they went 29-53 under head coach Frank Johnson, the aptly named run-and-gun Suns went 62-20 under head coach Mike D’Antoni. That 33-win improvement from the season before was due in large part to D’Antoni’s offensive system, team chemistry and the masterful play of Nash out of the point guard spot. The Suns averaged 110.4 points per game that season, which was the best mark in the NBA by nearly seven points.
Amar’e Stoudemire led the team in scoring with 26 points per game, Shawn Marion averaged 19.4, Joe Johnson notched 17.1, Nash added 15.5 and three-point sharpshooter Quentin Richardson chipped in 14.9 and set a Suns franchise record with 226 three-point makes.
Well-oiled machine doesn’t even begin to describe the Suns' efficiency on offense during Nash’s first MVP season. No team in the NBA could stop the Suns except for the defensively-inclined San Antonio Spurs.
The Suns could score in a multitude of ways. They were efficient from beyond the arc, utilizing the pick-and-roll and implementing backdoor cuts.
The Lakers may become the most explosive offense Nash has ever been a part of, but the Suns had virtually no offensive holes. Unless World Peace returns to his offensive form of old (unlikely given his drastic decline over the past four seasons), the Lakers won’t be able to be as formidable offensively as the run-and-gun Suns.
With one of the best scorers in NBA history in Kobe Bryant, as well as two potential pick-and-roll partners down low in Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, Nash has plenty of firepower to work with. Where the Lakers are truly lacking, however, is behind the three-point arc.
In contrast to the 2004-05 Suns, a team that had multiple three-point shooting threats, the Lakers struggle mightily from beyond the arc.
Last season, Bryant shot just 30.3 percent from downtown. World Peace was worse shooting 29.6 percent. And although new addition Antawn Jamison will be a key component to the Lakers' range moving forward, he shot 34.1 percent from beyond the arc last season, which wasn’t even in the top 90 in the NBA.
The 2012-13 Lakers will be a powerful scoring juggernaut, but they aren’t as multi-talented as the Suns teams of old from a purely offensive standpoint.
With that said, the Lakers can still eclipse Nash’s best record in Phoenix by winning 63 games over the course of the regular season. Although the Suns teams were offensively seamless, their lack of defense prevented an NBA Finals appearance.
The 2012-13 Lakers can change Nash's fortunes by using a balance of offense and defense to get him that elusive championship ring.