By Brandon Niles, Explorebigsky.com Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES – After the Lakers lost in the second round of the playoffs earlier this year, NBA fans have been speculating over what the team will do next to compete for a title next season. Always at the forefront of trade rumors, the Lakers have yet again made a splashy transaction, adding two-time MVP Steve Nash to the team.
Nash, a perennial All-Star point guard and long time Phoenix Sun, will join shooting guard Kobe Bryant on the Lakers backcourt. Combined with Bryant and fellow All-Stars Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the front court, Nash should be able to revive a Lakers offense that too often relied on isolation plays last season and was snuffed out by a younger, more athletic Oklahoma City team in the playoffs.
The Lakers will still need to contend with age, as the addition of the 38-year-old Nash does nothing to help the team get younger or more athletic. Bryant is an old 33 (he entered the league straight out of high school), and Gasol is 32. Bynum, at 24, is the only young star on the Lakers squad.
What the Lakers will lack in youth, they’ll make up for in experience and basketball IQ. Nash is one of the smartest distributors in the league and will instantly improve the Lakers’ pick and roll offense, helping to improve Gasol’s offensive efficiency. Additionally, Nash will relieve pressure off Bryant, allowing him to save energy and perhaps prolong his career.
The Lakers gave up very little to get Nash, just four likely low future draft picks. What he adds should be well worth the reported $27 million he’ll receive over the next three years. The team has long been in search of a high-impact point guard, and Nash has been one of the most prolific and dominant players at his position over the past decade.
How much time he has left is a mystery, but Nash takes excellent care of himself and he has the skill set that allows for a longer career. Rather than relying on athleticism, Nash uses pin-point passing and deadly shooting to set up his teammates and keep opposing defenses honest. Nash averaged over 12 points and nearly 11 assists last year for a Phoenix team with far less talent than the Lakers. While perhaps not the MVP candidate he was several years ago, he should have more than enough gas left in the tank to help his new team advance further in the playoffs for the next couple of years.
Some fans question whether a different offensive system will be conducive to Nash’s talents; others wonder if Bryant’s effectiveness will be diminished by the arrival of another player who excels with the ball in his hands. Most likely, these issues will be minimal to non-existent.
While accustomed to dominating the ball, Bryant has repeatedly mentioned his respect for Nash’s ability and will likely appreciate the backcourt help he’s been lacking throughout most of his career. Nash on the other hand, has the kind of work ethic and selfless mentality to work in any system and make those around him better.
Nash’s presence should take pressure off Bryant, providing him with more open shots and opportunities at the basket. In other words, Nash will allow Bryant to take better shots, rather than consistently having to create his own opportunities.
Ultimately, this is a low-risk move for the Lakers that pairs up two of the best backcourt players from the past decade as L.A. makes a final push to get Bryant a sixth championship (and Nash a first). Only time will tell if the plan will work, but it’s clear that the road to the finals in the Western Conference just got a little harder.