In his prime, Steve Nash is one of the best point guards I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. On the court he was a conductor with the basketball, orchestrating the pace of the game, and elevating his teammates’ play.
Injuries have cost him the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and, although he is clearly past his prime, the Lakers need more than someone playing out his contract ($9.7 million). Steve Nash needs to step up in his final season utilizing his experience and on-the-court leadership to give a lift off the bench to help turn around a 27-55 season. When the Lakers traded for Steve Nash during the 2012 offseason, the initial thought was that the Suns had lost out on their franchise cornerstone. Little did anyone know that an injury in his first season with the Lakers would reduce Nash’s ability to play with the explosive speed like the younger point guards that are creating havoc around the league (e.g. Chris Paul, Stephen Curry).
Giving up 2013 and 2015 first round picks along with two 2nd round picks will be one of the worst gambles of Mitch Kupchak’s illustrious career. The Lakers were expecting to inherit a point guard to lead them to another championship, but Nash clearly wasn’t the same player who averaged 10 assists and 16.6 points per game the previous 11 seasons. He was limited to playing less than 30 minutes per game in just 65 games with the team, averaging 11.4 PPG and 6.4 APG in his two seasons with the Lakers.
At 40 and playing in his 18th and final season, the Lakers desperately need to get something out of what is expected to be a 100% healthy Steve Nash. It is unrealistic to think that he can dominate the point guard position like he did in his prime. The hope is to have Nash come off the bench for probably about 15-18 minutes a game and add a veteran presence to a team desperately in need of leadership.
With the signing of Jeremy Lin and the emergence of Jordan Clarkson in the summer league, Steve can mentor both while helping to give the second unit a hall of fame playmaker. His minutes will clearly need to be limited as he has been very injury prone over the last few years. If Nash can give them 6-7 APG and 9-10 points per game while keeping his turnovers down, he will shake the sentiment of being one of the most overpaid players in the NBA this fall.
Steve Nash badly wants to end his career on a strong note, contributing with impact minutes off the bench to help the Purple and Gold return to the post season. Nash could clearly retire tomorrow and be known as one of the best point guards in the game, but if he can embrace his new role as a mentor to the younger players while giving them quality minutes off the bench, it will be a great end to a hall of fame career. The Lakers need Steve Nash to step up this season if they are going to return to the top.