The Immediate Influence of Steve Nash on the Los Angeles Lakers

So much for no major moves, right? The Los Angeles Lakers were able to pull off yet another magical trade by acquiring Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday afternoon that sent shock waves through Lakers Nation and rest of the basketball world. After days came and went, and Laker fans stood idly by while no real roster moves were made, it appeared too quiet in Lakerland. Shortly before it was time for fireworks on Independence Day, Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss gave Laker fans a real reason to celebrate.

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Adding Steve Nash to join Kobe Bryant in the Lakers’ backcourt has a ripple affect on the entire team. The Lakers had a dire need to improve outside shooting. While Nash solely doesn’t solve this problem completely, his presence on the court is a huge step in the right direction. Nash has always been a terrific shooter as evidenced in his statistics. Last season, the two-time MVP shot 53.2 percent from the field, while he has a 49.1 percent field goal average throughout his career.

The terrific ball handling and play-making skills that Nash consistently brings to the table will improve everyone around him. Let’s not forget his average of 10.7 assists last season. While plenty are concerned of how Kobe Bryant will play with Nash, as Kobe has notably controlled the ball for years, I believe Kobe is at that point in his career, and his increased maturity will allow him to be able to adjust to Nash’s presence.

Bryant and Nash will benefit each other, as they both will be able to get higher percentage shots by moving away from the ball. For years, both Bryant and Nash have had the responsibility of creating plays on essentially every single possession. Now, this will change as the two will be able to play off each other, as well as Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum (assuming they both return to LA). Additionally, Nash will automatically allow the Lakers to spread the floor, which was an area of struggle for the Lakers last season.

Remember when Blake Griffin proclaimed that the Clippers are going to be “Lob City” last December when Chris Paul was acquired, even though the Lakers had more alley-oops than the Clippers last year? Of course you do. Well, may I proclaim that the Lakers will be “Pick ‘n’ Roll City” next season with Nash?  Nash is a wizard at the pick-and-roll, and employs this classic basketball play with absolute ease.

It appears that Pau Gasol has a better chance of remaining in purple and gold with the addition of Nash. Gasol’s game will be most benefited by using the pick ‘n’ roll with Nash, which should please him as he will get back to the low post. Bynum still has some work to do with the pick ‘n’ roll on offense. However, consider this. Steve Nash made Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez look like stars on a nightly basis. Remember, Nash makes everyone around him better.

Of course, Nash comes with a little baggage as well. He is 38 years-old, has back problems and lacks solid defensive abilities. The last issue will most likely be scrutinized by the media. It will be the responsibility of Mike Brown to limit his defensive problems. However, the Lakers could always take a page out of the Suns’ book to limit this problem. In Phoenix, Grant Hill would switch with Nash on defense when facing elite point guards. Kobe Bryant, who remains a solid defender, could employ a similar maneuver.

Of course, acquiring Steve Nash gives everyone the feeling that this is the first shoe to drop. I hate to bring it up, but when the Lakers traded for Chris Paul last year (before it was nixed), it symbolized the first move of a bigger change. I get a sense, and I know I’m not alone, that the Nash deal is the Lakers first chess move. We all know and have frankly grown quite tired of the Dwight Howard situation. The probability is that he wouldn’t be returning to the Orlando Magic.

The Magic have favored the Lakers as their suitors for a Howard trade because of Andrew Bynum. Howard has remarked that he doesn’t want to be a Laker and won’t sign an extension. However, that was before Nash came to Los Angeles, and Howard has remarked before that he would enjoy the possibility of playing with Nash. This doesn’t mean that acquiring Howard is a done deal, but it doesn’t hurt.

As Ramona Shelburne of wrote:

If Ramon Sessions was an idea, Steve Nash is an answer.

An answer for how the Lakers can win now.

An answer for critics who wondered whether the franchise had lost its luster.

An answer for Kobe Bryant, who was beginning to lose faith.

The Lakers had several fundamental choices this offseason:

Get older or get younger? Live for the now or the future? Swing for the fences or play Moneyball?

After trading for Steve Nash, they’ve made their choice. The Lakers are all in.

The Lakers still have moves to make. As I said before, the Lakers play chess not checkers in operating their organization. The bench still needs much improvement, which should be the Lakers’ next priority. However, the Lakers have three of the highest basketball IQ players on the same team in Kobe, Pau Gasol and Nash. Buying into to the Lakers just got more valuable.

Does the acquisition of Steve Nash automatically make them the favorites to win the Finals next season? Not necessarily. Yet, it definitely puts them in the hunt and it does create a push for the other shoe to drop in Los Angeles.

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