Lakers News: Why Steve Nash's Return Can't Come Soon Enough

Josh CohenCorrespondent IIDecember 21, 2012

Steve Nash has been out since October with a broken leg.
Steve Nash has been out since October with a broken leg.USA TODAY Sports

With the Los Angeles Lakers point guards struggling badly, Steve Nash's impending return is a godsend.

Ramona Shelburne of reports that Nash made it through his first full-contact practice and is looking to get back on the court.

Nash said that a Christmas comeback against the New York Knicks is "the most realistic" target; it would be his third game of the season, and his first in almost eight weeks after breaking his left leg.

This is certainly good news for the Lakers and their fans, who have been suffering through some truly abysmal point guard play in Nash's absence.

After Steve Blake suffered a torn abdominal muscle, Los Angeles was left with just two healthy point guards on the roster: Darius Morris and Chris Duhon. Those two guys simply have not been effective running Mike D'Antoni's offense, and some digging into the Lakers' offensive numbers reveals the ineptitude of their current point guards.

Los Angeles currently ranks ninth in the NBA with a .452 team field-goal percentage, but that figure is skewed.

With no worthwhile distributor on the court, the team has leaned on Kobe Bryant, the only healthy Laker who can really create his own shot.

It's no surprise that Kobe is attempting more than 20 field goals per game, hitting .477 of them. What's concerning is that Pau Gasol is a distant second in attempts with 11.7, followed by Dwight Howard with 11.2.

Howard has posted a .576 shooting percentage on physical dominance alone. Unfortunately, he and Bryant are the only guys who have executed offensively for the Lakers, ranking first and second, respectively, in field-goal percentage. Jordan Hill's .467 percentage is third on the team, an unacceptably low mark for such a star-studded offensive group.

Nash's forte is using the pick-and-roll to create uncontested shots for his teammates, so he will be instrumental in this regard. With Nash running the point, Pau Gasol should get more looks around the rim, while Metta World Peace and Jodie Meeks can just focus on knocking down open threes.

Morris and Duhon just have not been able to facilitate at the offensive end. The Lakers are tied with the Indiana Pacers with a 15.7 percent assist ratio (the percentage of a team's possessions that end in an assist). That mark is good for fifth-worst in the league.

In fact, a look at Morris and Duhon's combined stat line shows how unproductive they've been: 9.9 points and 6.3 assists in 43.8 minutes per game.

Nash wasn't very effective either earlier in the season, but a two-game sample under Mike Brown and his Princeton offense is not significant. Reunited with D'Antoni, Nash will step back into a system he mastered years ago.

He will immediately provide the stability that Morris and Duhon could not. A Nash return against the Knicks would truly be the best Christmas present the Lakers could ask for.