How Steve Nash Is Transforming LA Lakers Offense

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterDecember 27, 2012

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 26:  Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks as they face the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 26, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 126-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Lakers are 2-1 with Steve Nash back. Though that's a small sample size, the team certainly appears more offensively organized than before Steve's involvement. Some of that is related to the things Nash traditionally does well, and some of it can be traced to the inventive ways that Mike D'Antoni is using his point guard.

Many expected Nash to supercharge the offense with his passing and shooting. Few expected him to help so much off-the-ball, though. In his time back with the Lakers, Nash has been a willing, crafty screener. His picks were huge in ensuring victory Saturday night against Golden State. 

You can see his impact in the below play, with 5:45 left in the fourth quarter. Steve Nash hands the ball off to Pau Gasol, before targeting Steph Curry for a screen. 

Jarrett Jack is wholly invested in following Steve Nash, as Steve is one of the best shooters in NBA history. When Curry gets screened, Jack is more inclined to focus on Nash than to switch onto Jodie Meeks. The result is a backdoor layup for Jodie. 

Now, you might notice that Nash's arms are extended, which isn't, technically, legal. He's been getting away with some dirty screens of late, but so long as they aren't called, these plays are helping LA's cause. 

In another play against Golden State, you can see how Nash is content to try his screening prowess on big men. This was all set up to be similar to what sprang Meeks for a quick layup, only this time with Kobe Bryant in the Meeks role.

 

Nash's mission appears to be screening Harrison Barnes, but Steve changes plans at the last instant. The perceptive point guard notices that Warriors center Festus Ezeli can be back-screened, thus springing Dwight Howard.

The play results in an easy alley-oop conversion for Dwight.

Steve Nash's basketball skill can't just be reduced to passing and shooting. He exhibits an all encompassing awareness that can help a team in subtler ways. His primary value is, of course, in the pick-and-roll game.

Nash's pin-point passing is on display on his back-to-back assists here. The first is a perfect lob entry for a Kobe Bryant entry. The second should become a staple of what Los Angeles will do: 

Expect to see a lot of Dwight-Nash pick-and-rolls like the one featured above. Few point guards are so able to exploit open space, and few big men are athletic enough to provide the amount of open space Dwight does with his speed and hops.

So far, Steve Nash has done much of his damage off the ball, with his incredible screens. That's been a transformative addition, but I expect to see more on the ball success in pick-and-roll as the season trundles along.