Steve Nash's Return Will Help the Lakers Offense, but Will He Hurt the Defense?

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Steve Nash's Return Will Help the Lakers Offense, but Will He Hurt the Defense?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

In spite of everything that has transpired over the first 26 games of the 2012-13 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers have to be feeling a little better about their prospects going forward.

The Lakers have won three games in a row for the first time this season, and two of those wins came on the road, where the Lakers have been dreadful. It doesn't hurt that point guard Steve Nash will likely make his return on Christmas Day, when the Lakers face the New York Knicks.

Head coach Mike D'Antoni finally gets to see if Nash can cure what has been ailing the Lakers offense as of late.

Unfortunately, Nash will not make the Lakers better on defense.

In fact, even if Nash can help the Lakers cut down on their 16 turnovers per game and improve their 44.5 percent shooting from the field, I'm not sure it would make much difference when it comes to defense, because the defensive issues are harder to identify.

By all means, the Lakers have the look of a good defensive unit since they hold their opponents to a lower shooting percentage, grab more rebounds and block more shots. But they still ultimately score less points than their opponents.

Most of the Lakers' struggles on defense seem to boil down to breakdowns on the perimeter. But how does Nash help this problem?

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Nash is a much better point guard overall than Chris Duhon and Darius Morris, but those players are much better defenders than Nash. And that's not really saying much.

It seems like the Lakers expected Dwight Howard to be the plug to a leaky perimeter defense. For the most part he has, but Howard can only do so much, especially since he's not yet fully healthy. And Nash may actually make the issue worse.

At least Duhon and Morris give the impression that they're trying on the defensive end.

Nash has never been known for his attention to detail on the defensive end, and under D'Antoni in Phoenix, he never previously had any reason to devote any energy or effort on that end.

If the Lakers struggle defensively against the likes of the Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards, how can they hope to compete against teams like Miami and Oklahoma City?

I have no doubt that Nash has the ability to bring cohesion and stability to the Lakers offense, but even if that unit develops into the NBA's very best, will it be enough to offset the lapses on defense?

Despite their inconsistency, the Lakers are already one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA to watch on TV. And they should be even more enjoyable with Nash at the helm. But I'm not sure if being fun to watch will cut it in Los Angeles.

That may have worked in Phoenix, but Lakers fans like a little substance behind their flash. And unless D'Antoni can prove he has the ability to tweak the team's defense to go along with the expected offensive boost from Nash's return, then the Lakers' run will still end far short of the NBA Finals.

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