10 Western Conference Teams Steve Nash Will Give Matchup Nightmares
With the core group of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, the Lakers have been thrust back into the mix of possible title contenders. Although the Lakers did not get any younger by acquiring Nash, the two-time NBA MVP will certainly help the Lakers in their offensive efficiency, as well as by taking some of the offensive load off of Kobe Bryant.
Nash is easily the best point guard that Kobe has played with in his NBA career. With Nash's ability to play pick-and-rolls and orchestrate an offense, he will undoubtedly make the players around him better (i.e. Marcin Gortat). Nash is certainly poised to set matchup problems to teams in the West.
Here are the top 10 teams in the Western Conference, in no certain order, that will face a matchup nightmare against Nash.
10. San Antonio Spurs
Although the Spurs finished first in the Western Conference last season, their pick-and-roll defense was stagnant. Steve Nash is known as one of the premier pick-and-roll point guards, which poses a problem to the San Antonio Spurs.
Last season, the Spurs ranked dead last in the NBA in points per possession allowed on pick -and-rolls. Nash's ability to play pick-and-roll will only be escalated next year, as he plays with arguably the best frontcourt in the NBA.
With the Suns, Steve Nash helped Marcin Gortat score 15 points a game, as well as shoot 56 percent from the field. In his previous four years with the Orlando Magic, Gortat never averaged more than four points.
Now, imagine the damage Nash can impose in the pick-and-roll offense as he pairs up with All-Star center Andrew Bynum (18.7 PPG) and Pau Gasol (17.4 PPG).
9. Minnesota Timberwolves
A young team with a lot of talent, the Timberwolves have been in the bottom half of the Western Conference for many years now.
Minnesota also plays no defense.
Expected out of a young team, Minnesota ranked 25th in defense last season, as opposing teams averaged 100 points and 46-percent shooting against them.
In their frontcourt, Minnesota has nobody over 6'11", and one of the Lakers' strengths lies in their frontcourt with their seven-footers. With the advantage the Lakers possess with their frontcourt, Nash should easily be able to distribute the ball to his bigs with ease.
Steve Nash has a lot of new weapons to go to and will have no problem utilizing those weapons against teams that struggle on defense, like Minnesota. With a point guard who can raise a team's offensive efficiency significantly like Nash, the Timberwolves will have a difficult time stopping the new-look Lakers.
8. New Orleans Hornets
However, a veteran team like the Lakers should have no problem playing a team like the Hornets. The Lakers have a lot of veteran players on their team who have a great deal of NBA experience. The Hornets, however, have a core made up of young players, as the average age on their roster is 24.
The Hornets also have a lack of depth at the point guard position. As of now, the only point guard on this roster is Greivis Vasquez. (However, you can make the case for Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon).
Nash, who has played in the league for 16 years now, may know things about the game that give him an edge, that younger players may not know about. A player who has been around the league for so long has to have some "tricks up his sleeve" that will catch younger players off guard.
In short, the invaluable veteran experience that Nash possesses will make him a nightmare for the young, inexperienced Hornets squad.
7. Sacramento Kings
Sacramento is another one of those young teams that have a lot of talent on their roster. However, the Kings are also one of those teams who do not play defense.
The Kings ranked last in the league last year in defense, as they let opponents shoot 48 percent from the field as well as score an average of 104 points a game.
Last season, the Kings ran an interesting lineup, consisting of a three-guard set. Tyreke Evans was the small forward, Marcus Thornton was the shooting guard, and Isaiah Thomas ran the point guard. This made the Kings undersized, and the Lakers should succeed against undersized teams with their two big men in the paint.
Nash should have no problem going against an undersized team that struggles to play defense like the Kings. The Kings are another team that struggle to protect the paint and play pick-and-roll defense. Nash, one of the masterminds at running the pick-and-roll will have no problem running it against a stagnant defensive team like the Kings.
Nash's playmaking ability will be a nightmare for the Kings to handle as he will be able to exploit mismatches and should be able to make plays with ease.
6. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets had a very busy offseason. From free agency to trades, the Rockets have been making moves this offseason, resulting in what looks to be a whole new Rockets team next year.
Steve Nash will be able to exploit this defense because most of the players on the Rockets roster are playing together for the first time. Because their possible lack of team chemistry, their team defense may also take a hit.
On the other hand, the Lakers' core have been together for a couple of years now, and adding a player like Nash who can really fit into any offensive system will only enhance their team chemistry. Nash's ability to get everyone involved on the floor may exploit Houston's defense because of their lack of time together as a team.
Nash's experience in the NBA allows him to find holes in opponent's defenses, and because of the lack of time the Rockets may have to develop their team defense, Nash will be able to exploit the mismatches on Houston's defense with relative ease.
5. Golden State Warriors
Over the past few years, the Warriors have been known as a team that cannot play defense. Although they have made major improvements this offseason, none of the players they added can really help them defensively.
The Lakers have not lost a game to the Warriors since the 2007-08 season. Since, the Lakers have gone 5-0 against them.
As if the Warriors did not have a difficult time beating the Lakers already, the addition of Steve Nash only makes the Lakers better. Nash will only cause more problems for the Warriors and make it an even tougher task for them to beat the Lakers.
4. Denver Nuggets
It took the Lakers an unnecessary seven games in the playoffs to knock off the Nuggets. In what should have been a series that ended quicker, the Lakers failed to execute on offense. Their offensive efficiency took a halt, as Kobe had to once again carry the load offensively.
With the addition of Nash, that all changes.
Nash elevates the Lakers' offensive efficiency significantly and also takes an offensive load off of Kobe.
The Nuggets were tied for 28th last season in points allowed, as opponents scored an average of 101 points against them.
With the Nuggets struggling on defense and the Lakers' offensive efficiency only improving, it will definitely cause a nightmare matchup for the Nuggets.
Nash's ability to play as a true point guard and get everyone involved in the offense is sure to be a burden for the defensively struggling Nuggets to handle.
3. Utah Jazz
Not only are the Jazz undersized against the Lakers, they also do not possess a point guard who can play defense. Assuming Raja Bell plays on Kobe, there is really not anyone else on the roster who can play perimeter defense.
Remember, although Steve Nash is 38 years old, Nash was still able to average13 points a game last season, on 53-percent shooting. We all know that Nash is a great distributor, but sometimes people overlook Nash's ability to score, either by coming off a pick or shooting perimeter jump shots.
Because the Jazz fail to have a point guard that can play good defense, Nash should be a nightmare matchup, as he will be able to distribute the ball as well as score on his own.
2. Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers are another team that lacks depth at the point guard position. As of now, the two point guards they have on the roster are Ronnie Price and rookie Damian Lillard.
Offensively, Nash should be able to go off and put up numbers against either Price or Lillard.
Nash should also be able to work a nice two-man game with Andrew Bynum. The Trail Blazers have only one true center on their roster, rookie Meyers Leonard. Although a big body at 7'1", Leonard in no way has the defensive capabilities to stop Andrew Bynum.
Another team where Nash can either distribute to others or create shots for himself, the TrailBlazers will find it hard to stop Nash, as well as the rest of the Lakers' squad.
1. Phoenix Suns
Going up against his former team, Nash should know how to handle business. Having practiced with the players on his former team, Nash will be prepared and know the weaknesses in the other team. Nash will know how to exploit them, as well as call the right plays at the right time.
Because Steve Nash has played under Alvin Gentry, he is familiar with his system and will know exactly how to beat it. Depending on if the Suns make an adjustment in-game, Nash will be able to read the defense and beat it with the weapons on his new team.
Now that he is a member of the Lakers, it will make game-planning against the Suns more simple.