LA Lakers: Is Steve Nash Really on the Decline?
No Los Angeles Laker has had to make more concessions to his game than point guard Steve Nash, and at first glance it would seem that his statistics have suffered tremendously from it.
Nash's 12.1 points per game this year is his lowest scoring average since the 1999-2000 regular season and his 7.2 assists per game is his lowest since 2002-03.
It's easy to understand the decline in Nash's numbers once you consider that he shares the backcourt with one of the most ball-dominant guards of all time in Kobe Bryant—but does the drop in Nash's numbers signal a drop in his game as well?
The 12.1 points per game is only slightly less than the 12.5 Nash averaged last season, and while his assists totals have decreased by more than three per game since 2012-13, his shooting numbers have remained pretty constant.
This season, Nash is the only player in the NBA besides Kevin Durant to average at least 50 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line.
And Nash is maintaining that efficiency by attempting 8.9 shots from the field, which is down from his 9.0 average from last season.
Based on that information, I wouldn't say that Nash's game is in decline at all, but his role on the Lakers certainly is different from what he's used to.
Nash has spent the majority of his career as the catalyst for his team's offense and the engine that makes them go—with the Lakers, Nash's shooting ability might actually be more important than his playmaking ability.
Nash's ability to break down opposing defenses off the dribble or choose the right option on the pick-and-roll is still beneficial to the Lakers, but his accuracy from three-point range prevents opponents from cheating down in the paint and double-teaming Bryant on the perimeter.
The biggest issue with Nash seems to be adjusting to having scoring opportunities created for him, rather than creating scoring opportunities for teammates.
The Lakers have other players who can shoot the three, like Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks—but neither of them are as consistent as Nash, and neither player has as much experience doing it on a grand stage.
And in order for the Lakers to make any noise in the postseason, Nash will have to fully embrace his new designation as the team's premier long-range sniper, which is something that he appears to be well on his way to doing.
Nash told ESPN in a recent article that he has no regrets about signing with the Lakers, and he admitted that it's been an adjustment going from the numero uno player in Phoenix to sharing the stage with Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
But Nash also welcomes the challenge—so far, he is the only 39-year-old in the NBA that is having a major impact for his team.
Is Steve Nash Just as Good This Season?
Naysayers may point to Nash's assist totals as evidence of his decline, but taken in a different light, Nash has managed to become the Lakers deadliest outside threat, while his 7.2 assists per game still leads the team.
That's not too bad for a point guard pushing 40, and considering Nash's conditioning and his professional approach to the game, we very well may be having this same discussion in the next few years when his game actually does begin to decline.
*All statistics used are current as of 3/4/2013
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