What Nash means to the Lakers.

A brief look at Nash’s career

What does the Steve Nash trade mean for the Lakers? Let’s take a look at Nash’s track record since 2000-2001. All numbers are courtesy of The NBA Geek:

Year PG rank WP48 WP
2001 8 .204 10.2
2002 6 .191 11.3
2003 2 .217 12.3
2004 1 .215 11.7
2005 1 .283 15.2
2006 1 .291 18.1
2007 2 .307 17.1
2008 4 .251 14.6
2009 7 .194 10.3
2010 3 .250 13.8
2011 2 .244 12.7
2012 2 .260 10.6

A history without a point guard

Now let’s look at the record for the Lakers’ starting point guards over that time:

Year Player WP48 WP
2001 Brian Shaw 0.120 4.6
2002 Derek Fisher 0.106 4.35
2003 Derek Fisher 0.090 5.3
2004 Gary Payton 0.154 9.08
2005 Chucky Atkins 0.064 3.9
2006 Smush Parker 0.123 7.1
2007 Smush Parker 0.029 1.5
2008 Derek Fisher 0.067 3.2
2009 Derek Fisher 0.102 5.2
2010 Derek Fisher 0.053 2.5
2011 Derek Fisher 0.048 2.3
2012 Ramon Sessions 0.178 2.6

The Nash effect

Over the past 12 years, Steve Nash has been well above average every single year. He only fell short of stardom (0.200 WP48) twice, and not by much. Leaving aside the lockout season of 2012 (where he once again excelled, with his best WP48 since 2007′s career peak), Nash has averaged 13.4 Wins Produced per season, and never failed to hit double-digits. And despite the fact that most players begin to decline precipitously after age 30, Nash has continued to produce at a Stocktonian pace.

In contrast, Lakers starting PGs have been below average in half of those years. The single best performance was Gary Payton’s much maligned 2004 campaign (which actually wasn’t bad). Nevertheless, even Payton’s 2004 fell far short of stardom (.154) and failed to reach double-digits in Wins Produced. The average Wins Produced by Lakers starting PGs in that time is 4.5.

What this analysis suggests is that Nash is likely to add 5-7 wins to the Lakers’ total. This year, the Lakers finished 3 wins behind the Thunder and 9 wins behind the Spurs. The addition of Nash should keep the Lakers in contention for the 2 or 3 seed in the West. The real opportunity lies in the possibility that Nash actually makes the players around him better. Amare Stoudemire, for example, has been average to below-average his entire career, with the exception of his years with Nash (Editor’s note: We also accept the fact that Stoudemire aged and had dealt w/ injury post-Nash). He had his best season in 2008, when he was post-microfracture surgery, and was actually a star (0.208 WP48).

Despite his gaudy scoring numbers, Kobe Bryant was a below-average player last year (.047 WP48, or slightly worse than Derek Fisher last year). If Nash can help reverse Bryant’s decline, and return him to even an average win producer, the Lakers could well gain another 5 games in the standings, which would make them a championship contender.

ESPNLA reported that the Lakers are likely to keep Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum now that they have Nash. This makes perfect sense. With Nash, Gasol, and Bynum, the Lakers would field a team with three real stars…and if Nash could rejuvenate Bryant to 2008 form, perhaps even a fourth. (As a Nuggets fan and anti-Laker fan I will say this is wishful thinking!)

-Chris

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