Steve Nash Traded to Lakers, Signs New 3 Year $28M Deal, His Impact on Lakers

ESPN’s John Hollinger on what the Steve Nash trade to the Lakers means for both Los Angeles and Phoenix:

Steve Nash of Canada poses with his new jersey at a press conference to announce his signing with the NBA basketball team Los Angeles Lakers in El Segundo, California, July 11, 2012.

Via Sports Media World’s Insider Account:

It’s a testament to Steve Nash’s amazing efficiency that, at the age of 38, five teams were fighting for the right to give him a multiyear contract for several million dollars a season.

And it’s a testament to the creativity of the Suns and Lakers that we got a surprise winner. Phoenix realized it had the ability to get assets back in a sign-and-trade deal when Nash unexpectedly developed a yen for the Lakers, partially redeeming the Suns after the scathing criticism the franchise took over the past year for not trading Nash before he hit free agency.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, gets a major upgrade and a few questions that go with it. On the one hand, Nash is far better than any predecessor at point guard in the Kobe-Shaq era. Also, Laker point guards spot up as much as anyone in the league, and nobody is a deadlier shooter than Nash. And if Nash plays anywhere near his level of recent seasons, the contract is a great value.

On the other hand, they’re wasting a lot of Nash’s talents if all they do is spot him up on the weak side. Nash is a brilliant pick-and-roll operator with the ball in his hands, but his game is an odd fit with the ball-stopping isos that Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum prefer. (Speaking of which, the first time Kobe yells at Nash should be a hoot.) Additionally, this doesn’t exactly solve the glaring athleticism deficit L.A. faced in losing to Oklahoma City in the second round a year ago.

Nonetheless, we can safely say that the Lakers look dramatically better than they did 24 hours ago. Their biggest weakness, point guard, is now a strength. I’m not sure it has the Thunder quaking in their boots, but we can probably pencil in L.A. alongside San Antonio as Oklahoma City’s strongest contender for Western supremacy.

So there’s the Captain Obvious stuff.

But let’s probe a little deeper. I have three major questions following this move that I think are still under the radar. Let’s bring them out into the light.

Will the Lakers actually keep the payroll this high?

This is a question one has to ask given all the shedding of salary the Lakers have done over the past two years. Is the deal for Nash, using the trade exception from last year’sLamar Odom deal, a sign that L.A. has made a U-turn in its financial philosophy and will open the floodgates again?

Or is it a prelude to other moves that will reduce payroll by an offsetting amount, using the cover of an upgrade at point guard to offload the more burdensome contracts of Pau Gasoland Metta World Peace?

Gasol in particular is a nagging problem; he will make $19 million each of the next two seasons but it is underutilized as a floor-spacing 4 so that Andrew Bynum can dominate in the paint. It’s hard to justify paying him that much money as a third option, let alone as a fourth with Nash on the floor. It’s fair to wonder if L.A. will look again at trading him, perhaps for a power forward who is less expensive and fits better with the pieces already in place.

Of course, it’s possible they could both trade Gasol and upgrade the roster; in particular, a trade of Gasol and Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu would accomplish that. I remain skeptical that Orlando would consider a Bynum deal when he could put the Magic through the same circus they’ve been dealing with — Bynum, like Howard, has one year left on his contract. And on the other side, Howard has stated his reluctance to go to L.A. Nonetheless, one must at least broach the possibility.

More likely, one suspects that the Lakers will use the amnesty provision on World Peace and sign longtime Nash cohort Grant Hill to play small forward. If Hill were to sign for the taxpayer midlevel exception, it would save the Lakers more than $10 million in salary and luxury tax each of the next two seasons, which would offset about half the financial hit to the Lakers from Nash’s deal.

It remains to be seen what team the Lakers will be putting on the floor when they open the season this fall. But the team they have on paper right now looks very, very good.

Where does Phoenix go from here?

The Suns have kept things interesting, agreeing on a max contract offer sheet with Eric Gordon and reaching a three-year, $18 million agreement with Michael Beasley. They also appear to have obtained a free-agent point guard, former Sun Goran Dragic, with four years and $34 million.

The Suns can’t do all three of these things simultaneously without both amnestying Josh Childress and renouncing the rights to free agents Robin Lopez, Shannon Brown, Aaron Brooks and Grant Hill. It doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will ultimately happen, though, as Phoenix can time the events sequentially so that Beasley and Dragic don’t sign until after the Hornets make a decision on matching Gordon.

If that happens, the Suns have enough room to “un-renounce” Lopez and either Brooks or Brown if the Hornets match the offer sheet to Gordon (you can do this for an offer sheet). But if the Hornets don’t match, it appears Childress will have to earn his first post-lockout free throws in some other uniform.

The Gordon decision is defensible; you knew it was going to take a big offer to pry him away from the Hornets, and he’s by far the best scoring wing the Suns could obtain in this market. If you’re going to gamble this way as a rebuilding team, gamble on young talent who can still get better. Phoenix is doing that, and the max contract for a fifth-year player isn’t that outrageous price-wise.

As for the Beasley decision, I’d like that a lot better if he were playing the 4, but it appears Phoenix signed him to play the 3. He’s played much better at the 4 his entire career but the Suns already have Channing Frye, Markieff Morris and Hakim Warrick at that position. Additionally, I’m not sure this is the environment where he can get his head on straight.

How do you get egg out of dinosaur hide?

And then there are the Raptors. Whoa, the poor Raptors. Toronto went for sentiment over logic, prioritized Nash over Dragic and Jeremy Lin and badly misread Nash’s desires. Patriotic sentiment was nice and all, but it wasn’t going to put Toronto any closer to his kids no matter how much the Raptors offered.

After 48 hours went by and the Raptors couldn’t get a yes, they might have gotten a bad feeling about this, but instead they doubled down by offering Landry Fields a ridiculous three-year, $20 million deal. The idea was to blow up any sign-and-trade deals the Knicks could offer Phoenix, with the assumption that the Knicks were the Raptors’ main competitor, but New York had another one lined up involving Iman Shumpert anyway. Meanwhile, Toronto never saw the Laker deal coming.

Now, at least, they won’t blow a huge pile on Nash, but there’s the little matter of the abysmal Fields contract — presumably the Knicks will be laughing too hard to bother matching — which will likely require them to lose Jose Calderon (to amnesty) and Jerryd Bayless (by renouncing his rights) to sign any other free agent of consequence.

Nonetheless, this probably saved the Raptors from a costly diversion on their road to rebuilding, and their books are clean enough that Fields’ contract won’t ruin their equally impressive cap-space hoard for next summer. Toronto can resume the slow, boring process of building a sustainable winner, an area in which it has already made considerable progress. Meanwhile, one hopes this setback will discourage the Raptors from chasing shortcuts so enthusiastically next summer.

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Posted on July 5, 2012, in NBA and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Steve Nash Traded to Lakers, Signs New 3 Year $28M Deal, His Impact on Lakers.

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