*This is the second part of three –changed from two to three — (part one can be found here) in which I talk about the role I would like Steve Nash to play next year. Sorry for the wait. I would have had this out sooner, but I got busy doing a bunch of draft profiles, free agency, Dwight Howard, Summer League, and just being busy.
In the first part of this, I talked about Steve Nash being like a used toy at a garage sale. Someone told me it sounded like Toy Story, so of course I went and watched Toy Story to make it into an analogy. This is what I came up with: Steve Nash is Woody, Kobe Bryant is Buzz Lightyear, Dwight Howard is Lotso, and Pau Gasol is Rex.
I know Kobe is the old toy and Nash is the new toy, but Kobe is the one everyone pays attention to. Nash has been the quiet, but consistently amazing player, where Kobe is the star that has all eyes on him in everything he does. Nash isn’t polarizing, the Black Mamba is. Woody isn’t flashy, Buzz is. Bryant wants to be the center of attention, so does Buzz.
No, I didn’t forget about Gasol and Howard. Pau is Rex because he freaks out about everything, just like Pau does when he hears his name in trade rumors. No, he doesn’t talk about it, but we see it on the court at times. This may be a bit of a sensitive spot for Laker fans, but I have to throw it in there: Dwight Howard is Lotso the Bear. Lotso was friendly towards Woody and the gang, just like Howard was when he first arrived on the Lakers; however, once the toys got to know him, they knew he was a jerk and a backstabber, just like Laker fans feel about Dwight Howard.
Anyways, enough with the analogies, let’s talk basketball. The Lakers were a train wreck this past season, we all saw it. Injuries, coach and players not being on the same page, and injuries were a big part of that. Did I mention that injuries played a big role in the season from hell? Injuries might play the same role next season in the form of Kobe Bryant. He tore his Achilles tendon at the end of the season, and we don’t know when he will come back.
Kobe said he will be ready by the start of next season, but no one knows what percentage he will be able to play at. If he ends up being like Dwight Howard was at the start of the season, then he needs to come back later in the season. If he does come back later in the season — which this piece is based on– Steve Nash is going to need to play a larger role in the offense.
Nash’s usage percentage was 17.8 percent; that was the lowest of his career since 1999-2000. His career average is 21 percent, and I would like to see his higher than that this coming season — at least until Kobe comes back. What I want is a heavy dosage of Steve Nash and Pau Gasol pick-and-pop where he pops around the free throw line for a mid-range jumper.
Lets take a look at the advanced stats for a second, shall we? According to Synergy, Nash was used as the pick-and-roll ball handler 53.3 percent of the time last season. In that time he was used, he averaged .87 PPP (Points Per Possession). Out of all the players evaluated, Nash ranked as the 30th best. Unfortunately, that only accounts for shooting, and doesn’t include passing. I’m sure he would rank higher if passing was part of the equation (at least for the level I have). As far as shooting goes, Nash shot 48.9 percent from the field, and 31.8 percent from three.
What’s weird about those stats is that Nash is a much better shooter than what the percentages show. For his career, Nash is averaging 42.8 percent from three and 49.1 percent from the field. One reason his three point percentage went down is because he only shot 22 times as a pick-and-roll ball handler. If Nash would have hit just 10-22 from beyond the arc, his percentage would have increased to 45.5 percent — three more conversions, and his percentage raises by 13.7 percent. There’s a reason I’m not too worried about his low percentage — small sample sizes aren’t very useful. (Hint: Part three may be how his shooting will be affected by the new toys)
For some visual examples of what a Nash/Gasol pick-and-pop would look like, I put in some tape down below.
This first play is pretty basic; Nash is bringing the ball up, and Gasol sets him a pick at the top of the key. Jarrett Jack gets stuck on the screen, which lead to Carl Landry having to hedge hard on Nash. Jack then goes to try and guard Nash, but Landry can’t switch because Nash would have had an open jump shot. Because of this, Pau Gasol is wide open for the mid-range jumper, which he nails.
This second play is pretty similar to the first one. Nash is bringing the ball up at the top of the screen, while everyone but Gasol is on the other side of the court. When Gasol sets the screen, and then slips it, there is no one to guard Pau once Ray Allen and Joel Anthony try and guard Nash, much like Jack and Landry in the video above.
The pick-and-pop can be a deadly play for the Lakers this coming season, especially when Gasol plays center. With Pau playing center, his defender will have to come out of the paint, which would then allow the Lakers guards an easier path to the basket.
With Woody’s partner, Buzz Lightyear, most likely not being at 100 percent by the start of the season, he will need to become a larger role in the offense than he was last season. There are a couple different ways Nash can become a bigger part of the offense, and I have total confidence in the tandem of Kobe/Mike D’Antoni/Nash figuring out a way to do it.