I’ve made it very clear that I despise the L.A. Lakers. Even so, the Lakers are the NBA team I pay attention to most. It’s unavoidable. Any move they make, be it major or minor, is always over analyzed on SportsCenter. And to be a basketball fan in Southern California, you have to be able to at least talk about Laker basketball. You don’t have to like them, but you have to be knowledgeable in order to carry on a conversation. I know more about the inner-workings of the Lakers than most Laker fans because I don’t have the option of saying “WOOOOO LAKERS RULE” after I make a dumb comment so I can sweep it under the table. I need to know my shit, or else no one will listen.
With that being said, I have some bad news for Laker fans: Steve Nash isn’t the answer… Yet.
Steve Nash has shown over his years with Phoenix that he is an exceptional basketball player when penetrating and kicking to open shooters. It’s been a simple plan for the Suns for years: why try to score two points when you can get three? I love Steve Nash, I love his style, and there was literally nothing more fun to watch than his Phoenix Sun teams from 2005-2008. But unless the Lakers continue to make moves, he will not bring them the success that everyone thinks he will.
Why is this? The answer lies it what Steve Nash is good at: penetrating and kicking. Let’s look at the first part of that equation. Steve Nash has always had a knack for getting by people. He doesn’t have the flashy crossovers of Chris Paul or the (hopefully still) explosive first step of Derrick Rose, but he runs the pick-and-roll offense better than anyone, which allows him to get into the lane seemingly at will. Here’s my problem with that: no one on the Lakers knows how to play pick-and-roll. Not really. The Lakers played the triangle offense for years under Phil Jackson, and then had one year of whatever the hell that was last year with Mike Brown.
It’s not really the Lakers fault that they don’t know how to play pick-and-roll– they never had a point guard that could run it. Now they do. And it’s going to be tough to try to teach the players, especially Andrew Bynum and his Zen, how to play in a brand new offense. Which is why the next thing the Lakers should do is trade Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard. Just pull the trigger. Howard has played in a pick-and-roll offense his entire NBA career. He is the best finisher at the rim in the NBA. He’s much more athletic and mobile than Bynum, and is naturally a better fit for Nash.
Now let’s look at the other part of Nash’s game: kicking to shooters. Quick, name me someone on the Lakers that is a great spot up shooter. Anyone. One name? Exactly. The Lakers have ZERO spot up three point shooters. They shot 32.6% as a team from three point range. They only had 5 people on their team attempt over 75 threes on the year, and the best shooter of those five was Andrew Goudelock at 37.3%.And even with that, Goudelock only attempted exactly 75 three point shots. Kobe took 287 threes, shooting a 30.3% clip from range. Clearly, they need some shooters, and they need them bad.
So what does that mean? Pau Gasol is going to get traded. With Kobe and Bynum/Howard playing in the middle, it would be hard for Nash to find any space if Gasol is also sitting out there. If Jim Buss is smart, Gasol should turn into at least one reliable shooter. The problem is that the interest in Gasol from other teams has cooled considerably in recent weeks. If the Rockets happen to still have interest in Gasol, a three way trade with them and Orlando could work and kill two birds with one stone. Lakers get: Dwight, J.J. Redick, Kevin Martin. Magic get: Andrew Bynum, Luis Scola. Rockets get: Pau Gasol, Steve Blake. In this trade, the Lakers get the perfect pick-and-roll partner for Nash, while also securing Redick (40.0% 3Pt% career shooter, 41.8 3Pt% in 2012) and Martin (37.7 3Pt% career shooter, 34.7 3Pt% in 2012) to sink some open jumpers.
After the trade, they can invest the mid-level exception into someone cheap that can sink some threes (Vince Carter [36.1 3Pt% 2012], J.R. Smith [34.7 3Pt% 2012], and Courtney Lee [40.1 3Pt% 2012] are all pretty decent from downtown and won’t be too expensive.)
With those moves, the Lakers would have three new shooters (Redick, Martin, free agent x), the best pick-and-roll point guard in the game, the best pick-and-roll finisher in the game, and Kobe Bryant. That’s what the Lakers have to do. They have to spread the floor for Nash and let him be Nash. The same Nash that tore apart defenses and turned Jared Dudley into a viable offensive threat. The Lakers are good right now. They have the potential to be great.
Image by sidelinestoriez