Well with the Orioles and Nationals being the only local teams at the moment that are in season, it has been kind of slow here at the BSB so I thought I would delve into some more national news and discuss the most recent big NBA deal involving Steve Nash to the Lakers. This was a sign and trade deal where in return for Nash the Suns received four draft picks – first rounders in 2013 and 2015 and second rounders in 2013 and 2014. The deal that Steve Nash was signed to was a 3 year 27 million dollar contract and that is the only way the Lakeshow could have gotten Nash because they are way over the limit but have a 9 million dollar trade exception (I honestly don’t even fully understand how you get trade exceptions and why they exist) that they got from the Lamar Odom deal so in essence while the Lakers were thoroughly ripped last year for giving up Odom for nothing, they wouldn’t have been able to get Steve Nash this year without doing that deal.
First I will look at the Phoenix side of the trade. Nash was an unrestricted FA so they didn’t really have a choice if they wanted to part ways with him or not but apparently both sides agreed it was time to move on and thats the obvious choice from where both of them stand right now. The Suns aren’t even close to contenders (even with Nash they missed the playoffs) and Nash only has a few years left in his career so they just weren’t a good fit if Nash’s primary goal is to win a title. I was a little disappointed in the Suns haul in this one and thought they could have probably gotten more from somebody. It wasn’t terrible by any means but all four of these picks that they are getting are going to be from a Lakers team who with the addition of Nash will most likely be one of the best teams in the league.
That means almost certainly the 2 first round picks that they will be receiving are going to be in the 25 or above range while their 2 2nd round picks will be in the upper 50′s which is basically useless unless you can get lucky with one of your picks, but you really can’t count on those as quality assets. So in my eyes unless you get really lucky, you basically traded Nash for 2 late 1st round picks. Like I said not terrible (especially considering he was a FA), I just wonder if they could have gotten an Iman Shumpert type player from the Knicks (or something like that). If I were the Suns I would have much rather had a young somewhat proven player than 2 very low first round draft pick who you have no idea whether they will contribute or not. By obtaining a Shumpert like player, you are guaranteeing yourself a quality piece for the future rather than the crap shoot that is the NBA draft. Like I said the Suns should be happy that they got something for Nash and 2 first round picks isn’t a bad haul I just think they could have gotten more from a team like the Knicks.
As for the Lakers is obviously where this really gets interesting. The common basketball fan would say “hey you add a really good PG like Nash to the already good Lakers and you have a real contender”. The real question is what will Nash’s role be? Nash’s style is really completely different from what the Lakers have been the last few years in the Kobe/Gasol/Bynum era. While Nash is more of an up and down score quickly and score often type player the Lakers prefer to slow it down and pound it inside to their big men and isolate Kobe. I think both Nash and the Lakers will have to adjust somewhat because they are worlds apart right now. The other thing is who will dominate the ball? Like I said the Lakers love to run isolations in the post for Gasol and Bynum as well as wing isolations for Kobe while Nash’s best asset is creating off the dribble. For Nash to be at his most effective he loves to have the ball in his hands and work his way through the defenses whether it is through pick and roll or taking his man of the dribble. Like I said though that is not really how the Lakers operate as they are kind of a “do it themselves” type team. Not to say they are selfish (other than Kobe) but they are just very good one on one players while Nash is more of a team guy. It will be interesting to see how that dynamic works out.
Nash is one of the best pick and roll point guards in the history of the league (just ask Amare Stoudamire) and he will have a solid player to work with in Pau Gasol in that respect. So at the very least the Lakers will have another go to option in their offense that doesn’t include some sort of iso for Kobe or the bigs. Where Nash is really going to help the Lakers is with his outside shooting. He is probably the best shooting point guards in the league and you can’t help off of him at all. This will only create more space for those said isolations plays specifically for the bigs in the post. It will be nearly impossible for teams to double down on Gasol and Bynum with sharp shooters like Kobe and Nash on the perimeter. However if the Lakers want to be able to take it to the next level they have to use Nash to his fullest effectiveness and while he is a great outside shooter he has to be used as more than just an off-ball diversion/shooter.
Obviously where the Lakers didn’t help themselves is in the athleticism/defense/age category where they were already somewhat lacking. Nash is one of the worst defenders in the league and the Suns have done a decent job of hiding it throughout his career and the Lakers will have to do the same. Unfortunately the Lakers two biggest competitors in the West, the Spurs and the Thunder, both have point guards who love to run the show and can score in bunches. The addition of Nash will hurt the Lakers chances of stopping these guys so that will somewhat negate what Nash brings to the table offensively. Fortunately for Nash he has 2 seven footers behind him that do a decent job of protecting the rim so he will have some help but even so he will certainly be a liability on the defensive end.
Financially I am okay with this deal on the Lakers side. They are actually in a pretty unique situation right now as they have the highest salary cap in the league right now but in 2 years they literally have no one on the books. With Kobe and Pau’s age they are clearly in a win now scenario and Nash fits in perfectly with that plan. I would have preferred (if I were the Lakers) for Nash to only sign a 2 year deal as the Kobe and Pau are both on contract for 2 more years and thats when I think they will start a new era (possibly the Andrew Bynum era?) but its possible if that happens than Nash will just retire at the age of 40 anyways as he won’t to be on a non contending team. I say this because in 2 years Kobe will be 36, Pau 34, and Nash 40. I think it is fair to say that will be a good time to end this era and move on. However I am very much a fan of the win now philosophy that the Lakers will have for these next 2 years as the careers of these 3 guys wind down. Bynum’s deal will be up after this season so it will be interesting to see what they do with him and if they think he is the future or if they try to deal him. Either way though the Lakers are so much above the salary cap and luxury tax at this point that they are basically all in for these next couple of years either way and I am okay with that.
In the end I like this deal for the Lakers. While I am interested to see how how Nash coincides with Kobe and the bigs on the court with their differing styles I think he will definitely be an asset either way. At worst he is a great floor general and a knock down outside shooter that will limit the doubles on Kobe and the bigs. Obviously my 2 biggest concerns are on defense (the 7 footers should mask that to some degree) and who dominates the ball as Nash is at his best when he does but that will make the other big 3 less effective. They will have to work all of this out and I think it will take a while to get used to but they will improve because of this trade. I actually think this trade makes them the 2nd best team in the west behind the Thunder and if both teams stay healthy to the playoffs I think that would be a very good series. Now if the Lakers deal Bynum to the Lakers for Howard? Then the power in the West may have shifted…