Nash addition a worthwhile risk for Lakers
In adding Steve Nash, a two-time MVP and one of the smartest players this game has ever seen, the Lakers have added the prototypical point guard they have lacked during the Kobe Bryant era.
But Nash is 38, and the Lakers are going to be paying him until he's 41, so both Nash and Kobe have limited time to win a championship. They've lost two straight years in the second round (1-8 in those games) and I think Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss should be commended for having the guts to go out and get Nash.
This is not a traditional move, this is a win now move — which is what the Lakers have always been about. His addition brings excitement and re-energizes the Lakers organization. The Lakers have plenty of ability — especially across the front line — but I think they need a little shot of adrenaline and I think Nash can bring that.
Nash has made an indelible mark on the game as we see it today and has redefined the pick-and-roll. He has an excellent shot and even in his late 30s, you can't really guard Nash. He fits that traditional point guard role, but he can also play off the ball, something a lot of other point guards who need the ball struggle with.
There are a lot of great players in this league, but only the true superstars make everyone better just by being on the court. Probably the biggest compliment to Nash is he's made a lot of people a lot of money. If you look at the Phoenix roster over time and the players he has played with, there is no other way to put it other than he has gotten those guys paid. He's a guy that I think every player loves to play with. He did wonders for Dirk Nowitzki when he was in Dallas and obviously continued on with Amar'e Stoudemire in Phoenix. Nash makes everyone better. He is going to be able to spread the floor and take pressure off any of the other players whether it's Bryant, Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol.
The Lakers have been without a quality point guard ever since Kobe entered the league. They played with Derek Fisher for the most part, who was not a prototypical point guard even in the triangle offense, and last year, you saw Ramon Sessions come in and he was able to push the ball and get to the basket. Nash can do both of those things, plus he can shoot. Just having Nash on the floor is going to elevate everybody's game: Kobe gets to rest more in that he doesn't have to take on point guard duties; Bynum needs room to operate in the post area and Nash can spread the floor and is one of the best at feeding the post; and Gasol can be wonderful on the pick-and-roll, especially up high.
The Lakers have so many weapons that I think Nash's role will naturally change to more of a shooter and offensive initiator.
With Mike Brown's more traditional offense, which emphasizes pick-and-rolls and isos for Kobe in that mid-post and elbow area, Nash really fits the bill. The acquisition of Nash allows Bryant to really operate off those elbows and midpost area and allows Nash to spread the floor. Kobe is perhaps the best one-on-one player over the past decade that this game has seen and he continues to this day to defy age and elevate his game.
The obvious detraction is Steve's age. Although Nash is one of the best-conditioned athletes in the world, you know father time unfortunately leaves nobody behind and catches up with everybody at some point. At 38, I don't think we can expect him to do the things he could do at 27 or 28, but we can expect him to shoot the ball well, make great passes and he's still a great dribbler. Nash's nearest likeness is probably John Stockton, who incidentally played until 41 and it wasn't until Stockton's last year that you could really tell there was a fall-off. I think Steve is one of those very rare players that will continue to defy age.
The one problem with older point guards is trying to do too much, and when they're trying to do too much they end up injured. And that would be my big concern with Steve. I think you're going to have to watch his minutes and he's going to be excited coming to Los Angeles where he might want to prove himself again and really take this team to the next level. I would caution Steve to not do too much, not try to be the player he was in his mid-20s.
Now what you see great older point guards do is they change their game a little bit and play with their head and not totally rely on their athletic ability. Nash is a very smart basketball player and to me that will allow him to play at least through the first two years of his contract at an extremely high level. He has adjusted his game as he has aged and lost a step or two.
But that could be an issue in the West. If you look around the league — especially out West — every team has a quick, great point guard. Just look across the hallway at Staples Center and the Clippers' Chris Paul, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook or San Antonio's Tony Parker — those are the teams and players you have to go through to get back to the finals and even in his prime, defense was not necessarily the strongest part of his game.
But I think again the Lakers are a great fit because you drive by anybody on the Lakers and you are running into two 7-footers down low. Even a great defensive point guard in his prime would have trouble staying in front of today's great guards, so to me I think although you could count Nash's defense as a negative, I think it's mitigated by the fact the Lakers have those two big 7-footers and really an all-time defensive great in the backcourt in Bryant as well.
Nash makes the Lakers instant championship contenders, even if just for the next year or two.