LA Lakers Need to Stop Wasting Steve Nash's Offensive Game

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LA Lakers Need to Stop Wasting Steve Nash's Offensive Game
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Steve Nash being hounded by Chris Paul.

Steve Nash is arguably the best NBA point guard of the last decade, but quite frankly, he has not looked as such in his stint with the Lakers so far, because it seems he has developed an allergy to shooting the ball. Consequently, on many nights it feels like the purple and gold are essentially wasting away possessions by allowing the wrong players to shoot the ball.

At first glance, this might sound ludicrous considering that Mike D’Antoni is coaching a team with the sixth-best offensive efficiency in the league, but if we dig deeper, it becomes obvious that the Lakers' offense is a messy portrait as opposed to a priceless piece of art.

Steve Nash has been incredibly indecisive so far this season, preferring to focus his efforts on setting up his teammates to a fault. The majority of his shot attempts come as a result of either a pick-and-roll or a spot-up attempt where he is wide open. MySynergySports tells us 52 percent of his shots are taken in the screen-and-roll action and that another 19.4 percent of his attempts are of the spot-up variety.

It’s worth pointing out that last season, only six percent of his field-goal attempts stemmed from spot-up situations. Let’s be honest, while he was in Phoenix, teams rarely dared to help off him given that he is such a deadly shooter, but this season, because he is surrounded by Hall of Fame-caliber players, defenders have cheated more off him and allowed him to get some open looks.

Kobe Bryant sets up Steve Nash with open shot.

One would be inclined to believe that with Nash getting cleaner looks at the rim that the Lakers’ offense would be unstoppable, but that just hasn’t been the reality.

Nash has been so focused on getting his teammates involved that there are times where he has forgotten how to be a point guard. Indeed, there are far too many instances in which he comes off ball screens exclusively looking to pass, only to realize he has a step on his defender and a lane to the hoop to take a floater in the paint. By the time he realizes this, he typically gets caught in no man’s land trying to make a pass but then taking a low-percentage shot.

The former two-time MVP just hasn’t been assertive enough this season, and needs to become a more permanent fixture in the Lakers’ offense. Have a look at the graphic below detailing the individual field goal attempts of Laker players per 36 minutes:

Player

FGA per 36 mins

Kobe Bryant

20.5

Jodie Meeks

13.5

Dwight Howard

10.6

Jordan Hill

12.2

Pau Gasol

12.1

Metta World Peace

11.7

Earl Clark

11.2

Antawn Jamison

11.1

Steve Nash

9.1

This is just a fancy way of illustrating that Nash hasn’t been aggressive enough this season and needs to call his number more often.

And keep in mind, no one is calling for the former Sun to start jacking up 20 shots per game, far from it. Instead, it’s simply a matter of becoming a little more assertive in terms of the opportunities that teams have presented him.

Nash runs pick-and-roll with Howard and makes open shot.

According to MySynergySports, Nash is converting 52.1 percent of his shots as a ball-handler in the pick-and-roll; hence, he has every reason to want to take shots, especially in the flow of the offense. Thus, when handling the ball, it’s extremely important for both Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard that Nash be aggressive and look for his own shot. This will progressively force rotating defenders to step up on him in an attempt to challenge his shots, which will result in his big men getting openings to roll at the basket, catch passes from Nash and finish.

Dwight Howard fakes screen and catches lob pass from Steve Nash.

As effective as the strategy has the potential to be, it may in fact work even better down the stretch of games with Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers like to run pick-and-rolls with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant late in games, to force a switch and allow the Black Mamba to operate against a smaller defender. The tactic obviously produces some quality looks at the basket, but for the most part those attempts end up being fadeaway jumpers by Kobe.

Again, Nash can be aggressive in these situations as well by turning the corner and creating a mid-range jumper for himself where he is converting 58 percent of his shots, per StatsCube. And keep in mind, with the Los Angeles Lakers struggling to produce points in late-game situations, calling up on Nash to make plays in the clutch can only benefit the team.

Nash runs pick-and-roll with Kobe.

So far this season, the Santa Clara product has only shot the ball six times in clutch situations (clutch is defined as the last five minutes of a game with the scoring margin within five points), according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, which is a preposterous figure. The more control the Lakers' point guard has, the better off the team might be on this side of the ball.

And granted, this may sound weird considering that the team’s problems are mostly on defense, but any improvement in the offense removes at least some of the pressure on a Lakers defense that just hasn’t been up to the task so far this season.

 

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

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