Searching for Steve Nash

Courtesy: Getty Images

Courtesy: Getty Images

 

To be back in a position to win again is a phenomenal feeling, and I’m really proud to be a Laker today.

When the Lakers introduced Steve Nash back on July 11th of last year, the overwhelming majority of Laker fans felt that on that day, the Lakers had finally acquired a game-changing point guard. After years of role players at the one, the Lakers had finally picked up a pass-first point guard to make Kobe’s life easier and help close the gap on the other contenders in the West.

However, as has been the case with most of the Lakers expectations from that beautiful July, things haven’t exactly played out as expected.

Nash has become more of a spot-up shooter than playmaking wizard, and watching him play has been a bit frustrating for Laker fans and Nash alike. The majority opinion on the topic is that Kobe Bryant has rendered Nash obsolete by having most of the offense run through him, a fear many had when the Lakers acquired Nash.

But is Nash really struggling as much as we’re made to believe? The idea was that he would make things easier for Bryant, but it seems that Kobe has had to do more work this season than any before. But when it comes to Nash and Bryant is perception really the reality?

While it does seem that Nash has struggled shooting the ball this season, take a look at his shooting chart this year compared to his last season as a Sun in the 2011-2012 season.

Nash in 2012-2013:

Courtesy: NBA.com

Courtesy: NBA.com

 

Nash in 2011-2012:

Courtesy: NBA.com

Courtesy: NBA.com

Two things immediately stand out from looking at those two shot charts. First, in 45 games this season Nash has made almost as many three’s as he did in the 62 games he played for Phoenix last season. Second, Nash is shooting about 11% worse in the paint this season than he did last season.

Courtesy: Getty Images

Courtesy: Getty Images

So then Nash has been relegated to a spot up shooter while Kobe dominates the ball right? Not exactly. It’s easy to look at the numbers and assume that Nash is no longer creating shots for himself and others effectively, but watching the games tell another story. Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have ran a lot more pick-and-rolls with Nash and Dwight Howard. This has resulted in Nash shooting a lot of open shots as Dwight dives to the hoop and really helped him become a great offensive weapon.

Since the break Nash is shooting 80/171, good for 46.7% from the field. While the shooting percentage may not seem that great, the fact is teams have had to try stopping him, which has made Kobe and Dwight’s lives much easier.

But what about the argument that Nash has become an after-thought when Kobe is on the court with him? The numbers seem to show that is not the case at all. Take a look at what Nash has shot this season in games with Kobe, and his numbers in the three games since Kobe sprained his ankle.

With Kobe:
195/389, 50.1% overall
49/113, 43.4% from 3

Without Kobe:
18/42, 42.9% overall
3/6, 50% from 3

Nash has had to become more of a scorer since Bryant went out, and his numbers have clearly taken a hit because of it. Much has been made of the threat of Nash shooting allowing Kobe to see less defenders, but the fact is that Bryant also allows Nash to get plenty of great looks in the offense.

The demise of Steve Nash has been greatly over-exaggerated this season. While Nash has had to adjust his role in this Lakers offense, he is still a very effective shooter who can make a huge difference in a game. Whether by running the pick-and-roll or by hurting teams with his spot-up shooting, the two-time MVP definitely can be an X-factor for the Lakers going forward.

Belal Abdelfattah is an NBA columnist and Laker fan currently suffering through a three year title drought. He also likes music and sneakers, a lot. Like, a lot a lot. Oh, and Twitter too. Follow me there.