There certainly was no shortage of hype surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers’ offseason this past summer. Acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard seemed as though it would vault the Lakers back into the league’s elite. One of the greatest point guards of all time in Nash would be paired with Kobe Bryant, one of the most lethal scorers in the league. Dwight Howard was expected to come to Los Angeles and turn around a struggling defense. However, the results have been anything other than expected.
The team did not gel early, the defense was poor and Mike Brown was fired early in November. Now the questions about the Lakers revolve around what the problems are and how to fix them. Perhaps, one of the many answers is that the players the Lakers acquired are simply overrated.
If that is indeed the case, then who is the most overrated player on the Lakers? That answer seems rather easy. It’s Steve Nash.
A quick glance at Nash’s stats this season and one can easily see he is having his worst season since the turn of the century. That can be accredited to number factors, including having to share the ball with Kobe Bryant, but Nash’s offensive impact has been limited so far this season.
The hire of Mike D’Antoni brought expectations of Nash and Kobe fitting into a system they both thrived in previously. Nash won two MVP awards under D’Antoni, and Kobe fit in very well on the past two Olympic teams under D’Antoni’s tutelage. Not to mention there are more possessions in his up-tempo offense, therefore more shots are available.
Nevertheless, Nash has only been able to get off 8.7 shots per game despite those extra possessions. This is certainly not a knock on Kobe Bryant, who is having an amazing season and has thrived in a new system. The problem seems to revolve around Nash.
Perhaps he is still not fully 100 percent, but he just does not look like the Nash of two seasons ago. Although he is shooting over 40 percent from three and 51 percent from the field, Nash does not pass the eye test. He has his moments here and there, but his overall impact on offense has definitely diminished and is something worth keeping an eye on during the second half of the season.
To make matters worse, according to Basketball-Reference, Nash’s assist percentage is 35.1 percent, 6.6 lower than his career average. Even more discouraging is his usage percentage, which is a mere 16.3 percent of the team’s possessions. While this was expected to dip due to the simple fact he would be sharing the ball with Kobe, Dwight and Pau Gasol, it is far too low.
Nash needs to demand the ball more and continue to create while looking for his own shot. A team that is fighting to reach the playoffs is going to need more of an impact from Nash than what he is currently providing.
Defensively, Nash has never been very good, but he is being exposed even more this season. According to 82games.com, Nash is allowing opposing point guards a PER of 16. Combine that with his diminished offense, and Nash is only outperforming his counterparts by 1.3 PER points. That is simply unacceptable.
Obviously, Dwight Howard not being fully healthy has impacted how the Lakers expected to cover Nash’s defensive deficiencies, but Nash simply cannot guard athletic guards. Sure, the Lakers can attempt to hide Nash on a team’s weaker offensive guards, but smart coaches can easily run plays to force switches or take advantage of Nash off the ball.
One of the real culprits here is D’Antoni’s offensive pace. For as good of an offensive system that he runs, it also allows the opposing team more possessions. That was not a big problem in Phoenix, where D’Antoni had a plethora of long and athletic players who could cross-match in transition, but it was a problem in New York and is a major problem in Los Angeles.
The Lakers are not suited to give up that many possessions because their transition defense is poor and takes away from their best defender, Dwight Howard, and his strengths. Furthermore, Nash is typically the first, and sometimes only, player back on transition defense. The team’s worst defender is stuck trying to play transition defense.
Finally, for as great as Nash has been, every player begins to decline at some point in their career. Unfortunately, this is currently the case with Steve Nash. This is not to say he cannot make a major impact on the Lakers offense, but those expecting to see the former two-time MVP running the Lakers offense are grasping at thin air.