Here are some things we know about the Lakers after their blockbuster heist of Steve Nash:
• They will be fascinating to watch on offense. The Lakers have four mammoth stars, and regardless of who the fifth starter is and how awkwardly some parts might mesh, this should be a top-five offense from the minute it takes the floor. The Lakers were an inconsistent offensive team last season, but they took off after the Ramon Sessions deal (how’s that look now, by the way?) and finished a strong 10th overall in points per possession. A finish outside the top five next season would mean that either one of those four stars suffered a long-term injury or that the players and coaching staff suffered a near-complete failure in integrating the roster.
It will be a challenge, though, especially as the Lakers compete against the league’s very best teams. The Lakers now have two stars, Nash and Pau Gasol, whose default mode on offense is to move quickly — fast dribbling (Nash), smart cuts, passes a step ahead of the defense and shots that come on the move (Nash) or immediately upon receiving a pass (Gasol). Those are generalizations, of course; Gasol is a gifted post-up player who can play the back-it-down game if needed. But these guys play with pace and movement, even if one of them (Nash) has the ball most of the time.
Kobe Bryant and especially Andrew Bynum have tendencies to hold the ball, survey the defense and look for their own. That is not to say they are selfish. Bryant is a gifted passer, but many of his best passes come after holding on the wing for a full four or five seconds, drawing extra defensive attention and skipping the ball to an open man. But not all of those hold-hold-hold possessions result in smart passes. Many end in terrible shots: Bryant has inexplicably and inexcusably led the league in usage rate for two consecutive seasons, even as his shooting percentage reached its lowest point since he was a teenager last season.
Bynum, too, has worked on his passing and has paired with Gasol to run a mean big/big pick-and-roll. But at heart, he is a back-to-the-basket-type player. He is not a pick-and-roll machine in the model of Dwight Howard or Tyson Chandler.
But that’s precisely why this Lakers team will be so fun to watch: It would be hard for Nash to go to any system more different than the one he played in Phoenix for the last eight years. The Lakers finished 20 percent of their possessions via post-up plays last season, by far the highest percentage in the league, per Synergy Sports. Only Utah had a smaller percentage of its possessions end with the pick-and-roll ballhandler finishing the play by shooting, drawing a foul or turning the ball over. No team had a lower percentage of its possessions end with pick-and-rolls in which the roll man finished the play. No team devoted a smaller percentage of its possessions to transition chances, per Synergy.