The Case Against Signing Steve Nash

Posted on July 2, 2012 | 16 Comments

So yesterday, Canada Day here in, well, Canada, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo and his band of minions will already have given free agent, odd commercial star and Canadian basketball saviour, Steve Nash, their $46 36 million over 3 years offer. In fact, by the time you read this he may even be a Raptor. It’s created a stir among not only Raptors fans, but among sports fans in general, in Canada. Signing Nash would be a marketing coup for the Raptors. He would bring fans, money and attention to a franchise that has done little besides lose in the last few years. In many ways, it would be like giving water to a man dying in the desert.

The problem is it’s not a particularly good idea if you want the team to be anything more than mediocre in the foreseeable future.

Now, I have absolutely nothing against Steve Nash. I’m a big fan, and like most Canadian basketball fans, relished the success he’s had in the NBA. The fact that he achieved such success in a sport dominated by players much bigger, more athletic and faster than him makes my admiration of him that much more (I too suffer from some of the physical “challenges”, but unfortunately without a fraction of the skill).

The problem I have is not necessarily with Nash, himself, but rather his age and the long term effect he will have on the franchise.

You see, by this time next year, Steve Nash will be 39 years old. I’m not an agist, or anything. To me, 39 is an age I was at one point not all that long ago. An age when I was in slightly better shape, had slightly more hair and slightly fewer wrinkles. I know, all too well, the effect age can have on you.

In the history of the NBA, there has only been one other point guard that has played at such a high level at 39 years old, and that point guard was the legendary John Stockton, possibly one of the biggest freak of natures in professional sports. A guy who, in 19 seasons in the NBA, played every single game in 17 of them. He’s 3rd all tIme in games played and 6th all time in minutes played. He really is a freak of nature.

And he retired at age 40.

I don’t think it’s a shocking thing to say that signing Steve Nash would be a temporary solution and he would likely retire at the end of his three year contract with the Raptors. The majority opinion seems to be in favour of signing Nash, feeling that the short term effect he would have on the team would be worth it.

I respectfully disagree.

And the biggest reason is the last one, but you’ll have to read the rest of them to get to it.

WOULD NASH MAKE THE RAPTORS A CONTENDER?

There are some Raptor fans who actually feel that Nash would turn the Raptors into contenders. To paraphrase Rob Reiner’s mother, in When Harry Met Sally, “I’ll have what they’re having.”

First off, Steve Nash is 38 years old and is not the same player that won consecutive MVP Awards. That was 7 years ago. Most players don’t even play 7 years. It’s a lifetime in the NBA.

That’s not to say that Nash still doesn’t have a big effect on an team he’s on. Phoenix wouldn’t have won 23 games without Nash, let alone the 33 they did won, this past season. The fact that Phoenix was vying for a playoff spot until the last few games is a testament to his impact.

The problem is that Toronto doesn’t have much more talent than Phoenix does, and arguably has less.

Let’s look at Phoenix’s starting lineup last season. Marcin Gortat is better than anyone on the current Raptor team and most likely Valanciunas in his rookie season. Channing Frye doesn’t have Bargnani’s offensive arsenal, but is just as good a three point shooter and a much better rebounder and defensive player. Grant Hill is not nearly the player he used to be, but his veteran savvy gives him more of an effect on the win column than either DeMar DeRozan or James Johnson. And while Jared Dudley is never going to be an All Star, he’s a solid role player that can hit the three and play defense. To say that Toronto’s roster is that much better than Phoenix’s is nonsense.

So if Nash can’t even get Phoenix in the playoffs in the West, do you really expect him to help them contend against team’s like Indiana and Atlanta, let alone Miami and Chicago in the East? That’s bordering on delusional.

WILL THE “NASH EFFECT” MAKE RAPTOR PLAYERS BETTER?

The Nash effect is a well known phenomenon whereby players look better, statistically and in person, simply by playing with Nash. If you’ve never heard of or don’t know what the Nash effect is, then you really need to become more informed about things around the NBA.

So the question is will Raptor fans benefit from having Steve Nash around?

Yes and no.

While he’s 38 years old, he’s still one of the best PGs in the game and can make marginal players look good and good players look great. The only time Boris Diaw ever looked like anything remotely like a decent NBA player was when he was playing with Steve Nash. And Shawn Marion made four All-Star games, the last of which being his last full season playing with Nash.

That’s not to say that makes everyone he plays with look better. Josh Childress has been a bit of a disastrous signing in Phoenix, producing nowhere close to what he did in Atlanta. And Hedo Turkoglu was as much of a failure in Phoenix as he was in Toronto. Possibly even more.

The types of players that seem to excel playing alongside Nash either are excellent catch and shoot players, are great at cutting to the basket at opportune times and have good, soft hands. Linus Kleiza is a guy who should benefit from playing with Nash. So too, should Amir Johnson. It’s hard to say whether a guy like DeMar DeRozan will, though, who has more in common with Josh Childress than Shawn Marion. And while Andrea Bargnani is a good outside shooter, and does benefit from others creating shots for him, one wonders whether making him more of a catch and shoot player might actually decrease his productivity. When Bargnani settles for outside jumpers, it usually means he’s not working as hard as he should be on the court.

Either way, though, it doesn’t matter. Even if all the Raptor players benefit from playing with Steve Nash, the effect is only temporary. Once Nash retires, his impact is gone.

WILL NASH HELP ATTRACT BETTER PLAYERS?

One of the mantras I’ve heard from fans is that Nash will help attract players to Toronto, something the Raptors have had difficulty doing in the past. Players love playing with guys like Nash, because he makes them look good. True. but there are two problems with this scenario. The first is that Phoenix was not able to attract one great free agent to play with Nash. A 35 year old Grant Hill being the highlight.

More importantly, though, I’m pretty sure the rest of the NBA knows that Nash is 38 years old. And most know that Nash will most likely retire when his contract is finished. So not only do they have to have faith that the 38 year old Nash will remain healthy but not decline very much in those three years.

Think of how many decent free agents Cleveland was able to attract during LeBron’s last years there. Anthony Parker was probably the highlight. And that’s to play with probably the best player in the game and a guy who could make just about any team into a contender just by playing on it.

Players who sign with teams are generally looking long term. They would know that Nash won’t be long for the Toronto Raptors, and looking at the rest of the talent, one has to figure they won’t be a whole lot without him.

Players want to play on contenders, not for mediocre teams with MVPs at the end of their career.

WILL NASH BE THE SAME PLAYER IN TORONTO AS HE WAS IN PHOENIX?

An argument I’ve yet to hear brought up is how Nash will actually fair playing in Toronto. This is a two-time MVP who has helped make two different teams contenders, so you might think it doesn’t matter WHO he plays for, he’ll still be great.

Unfortunately, one just has to look at the season when Terry Porter, a decent coach who stresses defense over offense, coached Phoenix and Nash, to give you pause. It was Steve Nash‘ worst season since his early, injury-ridden days in Dallas, and Phoenix ended up winning nearly ten games fewer than the season before.

What helped return Nash to his former self was Alvin Gentry going back to the same offense that helped propel Nash to the stratosphere in the first place, Mike D’Antoni’s fast paced one.

Dwane Casey has proven to be an excellent coach and, something I am thankful for, one that stresses defense. Under Casey, Toronto’s defense went from last to middle of the pack, but their offense went from middle of the pack to near the bottom. Will Casey focus more on offense in order to help Nash be successful in Toronto?

SUMMARY

So the question is, is a 38 year old Steve Nash worth a 3 year, $46 million contract when he a)won’t make the Raptors contenders, b) won’t attract talent c) will only have a temporary effect on the current talent and most importantly, d) might not even be the same player we all saw in Phoenix?

Is the temporary bump Nash will give the Raptors enough to offset the young talent they would get in the draft by finishing lower in the standings?

To me, the answer is a resounding and unequivocal no.

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Join the discussion: 16 Comments

Comments

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  • pran

    I think if we do sign nash, we have to do all we can to become a contender.

    what about this simmons/ford trade:

    raps: pau gasol, metta

    Lakers:jose, bargnani,derozan, 2013 first round selection.

    and then we could possibly sign ray allen

    leaving
    PG Nash/bayless
    SG Allen/Ross
    SF MWP/johnson
    PF Gasol/johnson
    C Valanciunas/davis

  • Bob

    Hi Tim! Love the blog.

    I agree with everything you say but unless the Raps get rid of Calderon and Bargs for picks and prospects (not going to happen) they are headed for the mediocrity treadmill anyway.

    BC wants to save his job and MLSE wants more money. I can’t really justify getting Nash but, what the hell, let’s see what he can do and maybe have some fun this year for a change. Bad basketball strategy but this franchise is a joke anyway.

  • Tinman

    Just to begin, Pran, how much do you value Pau Gasol and his salary? Your trade proposal makes absolutely no sense. As much as Tim wants to be rid of Bargnani, I am sure he will agree with me on this.

    Tim you have brought up a good point, his season with Terry Porter. All I can say about that is, lets let two grown men, Nash and Casey, figure it out.
    Clevelands management fucked up, pardon the language. You summed it up yourself, Anthony Parker. No comparison to BC.
    I believe I frequent the same sights as you, can you please quote me anyone on any sight that thinks this move makes us a contender for the title? Your argument is a valid one, you don’t need to be making things up.
    What it would do, and I would place money on it, is push us into the playoffs, anywhere from the 8th seed to the 3rd seed. Probably for the duration of his contract. You seem to think that BC will sit on his ass for them 3 years.
    Your main point is build through the draft, like titleless OKC. For every OKC, titleless I repeat, I can show you lottery dwellers for years that have never capitalized on their (mis)fortune. There are two teams that are contention that were built through the draft. San Antonio, the standard for all organizations, and the titleless Bulls, who are now going the FA/ trade route.

    Kobe nearly quit the Lakers until trades were made. Wade was almost in Chicago until trades were made. DWill and D12, its happening right now. Celtics? Was it not a trade that brought KG to Beantown? Most of todays contenders were built through trades and FA signings.

  • Rex

    The offer was actually 36M over 3 years, not 46M.

  • Stephen Waugh

    There are several point guards that weren’t drafted at all. Scott Machado (not Steve Nash) should be top priority on the Raptors list for so many reasons.

  • Rex

    Secondly, talking about how the current Raps roster will fare with the addition of Nash is unfair at this point, who knows who else Colangelo will add via trade/FA.

  • Tinman

    and there is a reason they weren’t drafted

  • Stephen Waugh

    @Tinmam: But Tomislav Zubčić should have been?

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

    @pran

    I agree that it’s an all in or all out scenario. The problem, though, is even with those deals, it doesn’t make the Raptors contenders, in my opinion. It makes them a good team, possibly a second round one. And their window is tiny, considering the ages of Allen and Nash.

    @Bob

    Thanks. Things are definitely not looking good for the Raptors, at the moment. And to me, a team without a chance of ever actually doing anything is not fun. It’s depressing.

    @Tinman

    Ya, I’ve got to agree about that deal. Not a fan.

    As for the “contender” thing, it’s not writers, but fans, that seem to think he will make the Raptors contenders. Read some of the comments on RaptorsHQ, but they are elsewhere, as well. I think it’s delusional thinking, quite frankly.

    Building through the draft isn’t a guarantee of anything, you’re quite right. But there are no guarantees in professional sports. And while lots of lottery teams remain in the lottery perpetually, a lot of that has to do with mismanagement. Even if you are lucky enough to draft a franchise player, your management has to be good enough to capitalize on it. I’m not suggesting that teams ONLY build through the draft, but Wade, Kobe, Pierce, Duncan and Dirk all joined their teams as rookies, either through the draft or a draft day trade.

    @Rex

    Yes, thanks. It was late when I wrote this and obviously my math was off.

    You have a point, but there isn’t a free agent out there that will make that much of a difference to the teams prospects, and unless Colangelo can blackmail some other GM, he has to send out talent to get it, so the chance of drastically improving the team through a trade is very slim.

    @Stephen Waugh

    The chance of an undrafted rookie having any impact is less than a team just missing out on the playoffs winning the lottery. But it might be worth it to bring one into training camp.

  • nikita

    WHAT’S WRONG WITH Calderon being the PG? Why replace him with a 38 yr-old who suffers from back pain constantly? He is not a bad PG. It’s not his fault that both DeRozan and Bargnani are hogging the ball all the time.

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

    I’d go far as to say that Calderon is actually a pretty good PG. RaptorsHQ had a good article asking whether Nash is that much of an upgrade over Calderon. They made a good point that it would make far more sense to upgrade the talent around Calderon.

  • DevilRStar

    I’ve been a believer in #8 ever since the CalderFord days, and would be happy to see him play for a team that actually wants him. Imagine the number he can put up with a quality team around him?

    I’ve never been a fan of the shoot 1st PG going back to the Iverson days, but I do realize that it makes for exciting basketball in today’s NBA.

    I understand WHY BC wants Nash (and everyone here does as well), and Tim, as far as TO sports go, I’m sure the plan in place it more to put the Raps back on the map attendance and “buzz”-wise, rather than win a championship.

  • Statement

    Tim, your point is well taken.

    However, realistically speaking, the Raptors will NOT tank to secure a chance at a very high pick.

    You may disagree with that, but that is the reality.

    So once (if?) you can finally get passed that, the question becomes, does Nash fit the parameters that MLSE will operate in, namely profit maximization? It’s an open question, but I’m sure the assumption at MLSE is that he will certainly pay for his salary and more.

    Some of us have accepted that reality. Us hardcore types who advocate tanking are not goin to impact the Raptors decision-makers, so why not enjoy the ride?

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

    Oh, I agree that Colangelo won’t tank, which is exactly why I wanted him to try and hit a home run in the draft.

    And unfortunately, my personality doesn’t allow me just to settle in and enjoy the ride.

  • Statement

    Fair enough.

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