The Other Shoe May Not Drop

Darius Soriano —  July 9, 2012

With the acquisition of Steve Nash, the Lakers’ landscape has shifted. They now have a point guard whose complete package of skills have been lacking in all of his predecessors and a floor general that’s respected as much as any other in the league. He alone makes the Lakers a better team. Kobe is happy, Gasol is happy, everyone is happy.

That said, with Nash now handling duties at the point, there’s a general feeling that the Lakers should get on to making their next move. And unless you’ve been hibernating, you know which move I speak of: trading for Dwight Howard. The bait would be Andrew Bynum (and potentially more) but that’s what a lot of people are clamoring for. After all, Dwight is the better overall player and whoever has him in-house when the season starts will have the inside track to keep him next year. So, no brainer, right?

Well, yes and no.

I’m all for the Lakers making a move for Howard from a talent standpoint. As I’ve written before, in the most simple terms he offers an upgrade. Improving on a strength is still improving and if you simply look at Howard as the best pick and roll big man in the league – on both sides of the ball, I might add – and add him to a team with Steve Nash on it, you’re coming out ahead.

However, that talent upgrade isn’t the only variable. The point is that the Lakers must still make a smart move for their franchise that effectively balances their desires to win now (and in the future) while being conscientious about their long term payroll concerns. Steve Nash effectively added $9 million of salary to the Lakers’ books for the next 3 years, dramatically raising their payroll due to increased luxury payments next season with even larger payments to be made the year after next due to hikes in the tax rates.

The Lakers must be cost conscious with how they fill out the rest of their roster. This team can’t be quick to simply add a bunch of payroll in a trade for Howard regardless of how much they may covet the big man. There’s no indication of who the Magic want to include in any trade of Howard but my assumption would be that they’ll be looking to off-load at least one (and likely more) of the Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Glenn Davis trio. All three of these players are over paid and both Davis and Richardson’s contracts run the same length as Nash’s contract, giving the Lakers less financial flexibility in the summer they’ll need to get under the luxury tax line to avoid the harshly punitive repeater tax.

Beyond the financial concerns though, the Lakers surely also look at Nash as the man that can help get the most out of the players they currently have on the roster – including Bynum – without having to make another deal. After all, Nash is the poster boy for “makes his teammates better”. If he can help improve the games of Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum the Lakers have already upped their “talent” level without making another big move.

Of course there will still be other, smaller, moves to make. They’ll need a legitimate back up for Kobe (and maybe even an additional wing beyond that player), can still improve in the front court behind Bynum and Pau, and can still seek out specific skill sets (namely shooters and/or high caliber defenders) to round out the team. Working to improve the bench is as a big a priority now as it ever was since the Lakers are simply too thin to win as currently constructed.

But, in terms of big moves, the Lakers should be patient. Surely they’d like to have the best players at all positions. If they can exchange the number two player at one spot for the number one guy, they should explore that opportunity and see what it takes to make it happen. However, they can’t blindly rush into the fray without examining the long term consequences nor can they discount how Nash can have an impact on the players they already have.

And, in the end, what’s not being said enough is that the Lakers have a fantastic consolation prize in house. If Howard doesn’t come, they still have Bynum – with full bird rights intact. They may be trying to hit a homerun, but if they fail they’re not striking out, they’re hitting a triple.


Darius Soriano

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212 responses to The Other Shoe May Not Drop

  1. Re “bigs blocking the paint” as a problem–some folks say two bigs creates a logjam for Nash, further exacerbated by Kobe’s proclivity for living in the post–the problem is a little more nuanced than that. The real issue isn’t Drew and Pau clogging the lane, its the extra defenders sitting in the lane, including wing and PG defenders because of no fear that one of our PG’s will start raining in jumpers–that fear will probably start to develop soon after teams feel the effects of sagging off Nash to protect the paint….

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  2. Aaron: I’ve knid of moved on the idea of getting Howard. All he has to say is send him to the Lakers and he hasn’t. And while I feel Bynum has a chance to continue to better his game being in so many trade rumors has him thinking of a future that doesn’t involve the Lakers.

    I’m just not counting on Bynum wanting to stay. He’ll be in the same position as Ray Allen next summer. A team with cap space like Dallas can sway him on him being their future.

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  3. Kevin,
    I think what many are missing – and I mentioned this when I discussed the acquisition – is that Nash isn’t coming here to run the Suns’ offense. He’s coming here to run the Lakers’. Now, there will be some adjustments to what the Lakers do and a better balance must be struck between featuring the strengths of the other players while catering to what Nash does best.

    But, last year, the Lakers ran several actions for Sessions that got gummed up simply because he’s not a prolific shooter and his best strength was still getting to the rim. So, picture Nash in the 1/2 P&R with Kobe. Picture him coming off pin downs by Bynum/Gasol and then popping to the wing. Picture him coming off double screens and circling to the top with Kobe on the weak side wing rotating to the top.

    These are all actions that must be treated differently by the defense than they were last year because it’s Nash instead of Sessions or Blake.

    I’m not predicting things being perfect out of the gate. I anticipate there being an adjustment period for them to get on the same page. But just as fans talk about spacing for Nash, think of ways to free him and the subsequent space created because of the respect he must be given when getting the ball in positions where he can be dangerous. And then realize that he’s dangerous in so many more places on the court than any of his predecessors.

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  4. Aaron,

    No deal wil be completed without a medical checkup for both players. Even Dwight himself must have considered the risk–and he’s been willing to play this upcoming season without a long term contract.

    If Dwight’s willing to bet a $100 million future that he’s going to be OK, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

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  5. Darius: You make good points. The pindowns would create open space for nash to shoot or if a defender big jumps out a easy post pass or lob to a big. Any time you can get Nash in open space giving him options is a great thing for the team.

    I just see some of the same problems as last year. Spacing and 3 point shooting.Nash by himself won’t fix that. Teams are still going to pack the paint daring Kobe/Ron/Pau from deep.

    Nash definitely makes this team better but there still somewhat one dimensional. Still going to have problems with transition offense and defense.

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  6. Darius

    I can see where your coming from in the context of how teams must adjust to a Nash handling the rock compared to what LA has had in the past. But you have to say if LA is to keep both bigs they will have to dominate( the biggest advantage) in order for LA too truly compete for a title.

    I also take into account that this will be a major adjustment for Kobe(alah Wade in Miami) to play off the ball and let someone else drive the train. That can be said about Nash as well considering that he has played his whole career at the same tempo and now you ask him to slow his game down to compensate for lack of team speed, and two back to the basket scorers. That is alot of adjusting for players that have been in the league a combined 32 years.

    I quess I am just nervous about depending on two players that have been the most inconsistent the past two years to be the driving force behind LA title hopes.

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  7. Funky Chicken July 11, 2012 at 9:51 am

    The only place I’ve seen Howard’s back injury referred to as “career threatening” is in Aaron’s posts. I think those comments should be placed in their proper context–that is, made by someone with absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of Howard’s medical condition, and someone who has repeatedly called Andrew Bynum the most dominant player in the NBA….

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  8. Funky-
    That is the absolute truth. When it comes to anything concerning Andrew Bynum, you have to take Aaron’s words with a grain of sand. By default, that applies to Howard’s back injury because he’s using it to bolster his agenda with Drew.

    Right now- at the age of 24/25- Bynum runs like an older Patrick Ewing. He labors up and down the court and has lost some of his athleticism because of the knee injuries. I’m more concerned about Bynum getting hurt again than I am about Howard’s back. I also think that Howard will fully invest in defense, rebounds, and being a team player. That is just an opinion though and should be taken with as much sand as Aaron’s.

    This is a moot point anyway…as all smart Laker fans know that we would never trade Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard. /sarcasm

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  9. The Lakers of last season were not that far from being a top contender. If you Nash’s three-point shooting to last year’s team, with the effect that would have on the double teams they faced, they would have been as good as anyone else. That’s not even taking the improved play-making into consideration. As is, they are a top contender this year. The real question is if Bynum/Nash/Bryant will stay relatively healthy for the entire season.

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  10. Funky,

    Aaron may get excited at times. But to be fair, it has been reported the Lakers have real concerns about Howard’s back. I have read nothing calling it career threatening. But it doesn’t have to be. If it keeps him from looking like the DPOY Howard we remember then all bets are off. Any Howard other than that one is not worth the time and effort.

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  11. Funky Chicken July 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    T. Rogers, I would be surprised if the Lakers or any other potential suitor did not have concerns about the health of a guy coming off back surgery, so I think that’s a very real probability.

    What I was calling out was the hyperbole about the “career threatening” nature of an injury that the poster has absolutely no knowledge of. Not all back surgeries are created equal, and nobody on this blog knows the extent of Howard’s injury, so it would be equally absurd to dismiss his injury as a non-issue.

    It surely adds to the complication of the proposed transaction, that’s for sure. If Howard was healthy, it would be 100% clear what the Lakers would do (except to a certain Bynum fan on this blog, that is).

    KenOak, I think your comparison to Ewing is a good one. At his best, Ewing was a plodding big guy who required his team to play in the half court. That’s not a criticism, per se, but a real observation, and one that is accurately made about Andrew as well.

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  12. You guys kill me. Drew stayed healthy the whole year. Why???? No one ran into his knees!!! Lamar and Kobe ran into Drew. Those weren’t freak injuries that happened when he fell awkwardly and twisted in an unnatural way. Howard and his extra large penitentiary top and skinny legs has back problems just like a woman with an overly large chest. Who is more injury prone right now? The guy with the bad back.

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