As part of our weekly Article of the Week Cash Giveaways Nic Farnan asks the question whether the active off season by the LA Lakers has been good enough to give them the nod for NBA favourites this season.
Steve Nash may not be the biggest acquisition for the Lakers this offseason, but he may well be the most important.
Dwight Howard is an upgrade for the Lakers at centre, although to what extent, that remains to be seen. There was legitimate discussion around the league last season as to who, Howard or Andrew Bynum, deserved to be regarded as the game’s premier big man. The fact that Howard is returning to action after season ending back surgery, and the fact that his game is predicated on athleticism, there is a very real possibility that we have already seen the best of Dwight.
Nash however is a huge upgrade for the Lakers at point guard. Despite entering the 17th season of his career and the notion that he will be 42 by the completion of his current three year deal (which expires in 2015) his experience, leadership and ability to distribute the ball makes the Lakers a better team, and possible adds another 3 season’s of Kobe being able to play at an All-Star level. Mind you he is still one of the better conditioned athletes in the sport.
There aren’t many playmakers in NBA history that have operated better out the high screen and roll than Nash. With Howard and Pau Gasol at his disposal, he projects be unstoppable in these situations. It’s no coincidence that Marcin Gortat posted career high numbers at the offensive end of the floor, when he teamed with Nash in Phoenix last season.
The big question, and key for the Lakers success this season will be Kobe’s willingness to relinquish his dominance of the ball. Throughout his career, Kobe has played with point guards who have been happy to give him the ball and get out of the way. Playing with an elite point guard, who excels with the ball in his hands, will be a new experience for Bryant. What will be stronger Bryant’s ego or his ability to commit to team principals, accommodating Nash and Howard is a question the NBA will pay just as much attention to as LeBrons “Decision” two seasons ago.
Although Nash has been a defensive liability in recent times, combining him with three-time NBA defensive player of the year Dwight Howard goes a long way to alleviate that. Opposing point guards may still be able to blow by Nash, as they have in seasons past but dealing with two seven footers’ in Howard and Pau Gasol will be difficult for even the most aggressive point guard to deal with.
Nash controlling the ‘Lake Show’ also makes life easier for head coach Mike Brown. Brown has never been considered an offensive guru, or at times a capable NBA coach, but with Nash and Kobe in charge he won’t need to be. Brown, to a large extent, can turn the offense over to his veteran backcourt, and focus on making the Lakers the formidable defensive unit that they are capable of becoming.
The Heat and Thunder still deserve to be rated above the Lakers. The Thunder are a year older and the experience of playing in the Finals (as well as the Olympics for many of them) can only make them stronger. The ability of Lebron James to entice almost every free agent to sign in Florida puts them clearly at the top of the East. This season Lebron and co will be playing without the pressure of chasing their first ring, and have bolstered their roster with the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
Therefor the Lakers could be considered a safe third option for the NBA Championship. Title or not they promise to be one of the most intriguing storylines in season 2012-13.