Is Kobe Bryant a Better Point Guard Than Steve Nash?
According to Eric Freeman at Yahoo! Sports, the Los Angeles Lakers may be failing to utilize the greatest strengths of point guard Steve Nash by handing over the reins of the Lakers offense to Kobe Bryant.
I guess that's one way to look at the situation since Bryant has assumed the role as the Lakers' primary facilitator, but a more conclusive view would include the Lakers record over that five game span.
Since Bryant decided it was better to give than receive the Lakers have gone 4-1, and the team has looked more balanced and cohesive than at any other point this season.
Nash has been relegated to the role of a spot up shooter, but is that so horrible considering he is the only other player in the NBA besides Kevin Durant to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three point range and 90 percent from the free throw line?
Freeman insinuates that the Lakers may be suffering since Nash has been deprived of probing opposing defenses with his dribble and creating scoring opportunities with his court vision, but Freeman fails to mention that the Lakers tried that approach and it wasn't working.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni had full faith that the Lakers offense would improve and his system would be vindicated once Nash returned from a leg injury that sidelined him earlier in the season, but he was wrong.
Nash could never seem to find a rhythm with big men Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, and while Bryant was certainly benefiting on offense from Nash's presence it was to the detriment of the team.
Scrapping D'Antoni's flawed system may have been the best thing the Lakers have done so far this season, but putting the ball in Bryant's hands for the majority of the time is a close second.
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Lakers in the preseason was how Bryant and Nash would coexist since it was widely assumed that both players needed to dominate the ball in order to be effective, and it was equally assumed that Bryant would have to change his game more to accommodate Nash.
That theory has proven to be true over the last five games, but it hasn't exactly played out as most people have expected.
Kobe has dominated the ball like usual during the last five games, but in the process he has also proved that he runs the offense and the team more effectively than Nash.
Nash's struggles running the Lakers offense was mostly a result of being surrounded by the wrong type of personnel to complement his skills, but it was also an illustration of Nash's inability to make adjustments to his game.
Is it a coincidence that Nash's greatest career success came during his days running D'Antoni's system in Phoenix? Is it also a coincidence that Nash looked lost when it was finally revealed the scheme wouldn't work in Los Angeles?
I am hesitant to say that Nash's hall of fame career can directly be attributed to thriving in a single system, but it's hard to draw many other conclusions based on recent events.
It's difficult to picture other elite lead guards like Chris Paul or Deron Williams struggling to find synergy with players like Bryant, Howard and Gasol, and Nash's failure to do so would indicate that his success was merely a byproduct of D'Antoni's scheme.
Under Bryant's direction the Lakers offense has found a distinct rhythm, and the team defense has improved since the pace of the game has slowed from D'Antoni's preferred chaotic style.
Bryant has brought a calming effect to the team, but more importantly he has brought out the best in his teammates by simply catering to their strengths.
Bryant has helped Gasol find his game, Howard find his offense and Nash find his shot. Bryant is also partly responsible for the emergence of Earl Clark by recognizing and utilizing the forward's versatility around the basket and on the perimeter.
This doesn't mean that Bryant is a better point guard than Nash, but the Lakers have been more effective on the court and in the win-loss column with Bryant running the show.
Bryant's ability to adapt his game to changing environments is an example of why he will eventually be recognized as one of the game's greatest players regardless of position.
Nash's overall body of work will likely lead to him being recognized as one of the greatest point guards of his generation, but what is that really saying when he's not currently the best point guard on his own team?
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