While the Toronto Raptors pursued free agent point guard Steve Nash, the Los Angeles Lakers have completed a sign-and-trade deal to acquire him from the Phoenix Suns.
Numbers Game breaks down the Lakers' acquisition of Nash.
The Lakers Get: PG Steve Nash.
Nash, 38, is obviously nearing the end of his career, but he remains a premier playmaker. In the last seven seasons, there have been a total of 18 point guards to average a double-double (points and assists) for the entire season and Nash has done it seven times. Deron Williams, with four, has the second-most in that time.
Even at this stage of his career, Nash is a remarkably efficient shooter. His .532 field goal percentage last season tied the best mark of his career, though 9.0 field goal attempts per game was his fewest since 1999-2000, the last season that he wasn't a full-time starter. Last season's 31:36 per game was also Nash's lowest court time per game since 1999-2000.
There are additional signs that age is catching up to Nash. After more than a decade of hitting better than 40.0% of his three-point attempts, he's fallen below that threshold the last two seasons, with last season's 39.0% the second-lowest percentage of his career. Nash also hit 89.4% of his free throws -- which is still great -- but it's his second-lowest percentage in the last 10 seasons.
These ever-so-slight declines in shooting could indicate that Nash is slipping as he hits his late thirties and, at this age, it isn't likely that the trend will reverse itself. The question now is how gradual the decline will be. With a strong supporting cast in L.A., it should be slow enough for Nash to remain productive into his 40s.
A legitimate area of concern is that Nash, who has battled a wonky back for years, has thrived in Phoenix, in part, due to the Suns' superb training staff, so if the Lakers' staff can't keep Nash on the floor, that obviously will limit his effectiveness.
Going to the Lakers, fewer shots for Nash shouldn't be a problem, since he will be paired in the backcourt with one of the game's most prolific shooters, Kobe Bryant as well as frontcourt scorers that will get a lot of touches. From the Lakers' perspective, Nash will be a massive upgrade on Ramon Sessions, who was the starter at season's end, but opted out of his contract at season's end.
While Nash is often considered a liability defensively, the pressure he puts on opposing point guards at the other end of the floor tends to result in Nash not being exposed as often. For example, according to www.82games.com, with Nash on the floor, the Suns outscored opponents 110.2-102.5 (+7.7) per 100 possessions. With Nash on the bench, the Suns not only scored less (106.2), but allowed significantly more (109.5) points per 100 possessions (which is a net -3.3).
That isn't all due to Nash, of course, but it shows how effective he is, even if he doesn't have the strength or quickness to keep athletic point guards out of the paint.
Nash will make $27-million on a three-year deal with the Lakers.
The Suns Get: Two first-round picks (2013, 2015), two second-round picks (2014, 2015) and $3-million.
Getting Nash doesn't guarantee that the Lakers will be picking at the end of these drafts, but it's pretty safe to project the first-round picks falling from 21-30. In the 60 picks in that range from the drafts from 2005 through 2010 (allowing time for the 2011 class to sort out career paths), 15 are starter-calibre, which would equate to a 50% chance of landing an NBA starter with one of those two first-round selections.
The second-round picks are, naturally, less valuable, with six of 60 selections in that time frame becoming regular parts of an NBA rotation, equating to a 20% chance that those picks ultimately yield an NBA player.
Without Nash, the Suns will have to address their point guard position. That could include trying to sign free agent point guard Goran Dragic, the former Sun who played for Houston last season. In the short-term, though, it's virtually impossible to conceive how the Suns will be nearly as competitive next season. They haven't been good enough to make the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and they've just lost their best player.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.