Steve Nash Will Have Plenty Of Options

Despite have a wonky back and being one of the oldest free agents in the NBA, Steve Nash will have plenty of options this summer.

And why not? Nash finished second in the NBA in assists last season and he has lead the league in assists five times over the past nine seasons.

Despite only averaging 12.7 points per game last season, he was effective shooting the ball as he made 53.7% from the field and 38.9% from three.

Nash clearly still has a lot of juice left in his tank.

Granted, his minutes will start to decrease over the next few seasons, but Nash still has the ability to put fans in the seats, and, more importantly for an NBA point guard, he still makes his teammates better.

His current team, the Phoenix Suns, have claimed they want to re-sign their legendary player. But, if talks break down and Nash wants to play elsewhere, there appears to be an agreement between the two parties that they will work together on a sign-and-trade that will benefit everyone involved.

But it isn’t the lock many assume it is that Nash will bolt the desert. People are quick to forget the Suns have more cap space than any other team this offseason and love having Nash as the face of their franchise. ESPN’s Larry Coon reported that the team will have $26 million to play with this summer without using the amnesty on anyone.

Clearly Nash has a bond with the fans in Phoenix and the training staff have done wonders preserving his body.

“It was amazing to get that type of reception and support,” Nash told The Republic after his last home game in Phoenix. “It’s very special because it’s not something I asked for or imagined. To get that kind of reaction means it’s authentic, the relationship I thought we had. It really feels special. The fans have been phenomenal and it’s meant a lot to me to play in a city like this as long as I have and to feel important to the fans and community. I just feel like a very lucky guy.”

Despite being 38 on opening night next season, the list of teams that covet Nash is long and there’s no doubt somebody will provide him with the three-year deal that he wants. Some NBA team will give Nash a huge contract despite his bad back and the fact he will be 42 when the deal expires.

One of the intriguing teams rumored to be chasing Nash is the Portland TrailBlazers. It would provide Nash with the chance to play closer to where he grew up and where most of his family still lives. They have an elite power forward in LaMarcus Aldridge, same talented player on the wings, and two draft picks in the lottery.

Plus, with just under $35 million in committed salary going into next season, they will have enough cap room to both re-sign Nicolas Batum and offer Nash considerably more than the mid-level exception.

The Toronto Raptors, a team many analysts feel is one of the front runners for Nash, doesn’t have nearly the same splashy roster, but they would provide Nash the chance to finish off his career in Canada.

With his new role as General Manager of Canada Basketball, that may also sway Nash’s decision towards Toronto.

The New York Knicks were long thought of as the ideal situation for Nash, but with the strong play of Jeremy Lin this season, the resignation of Mike D’Antoni and Carmelo Anthony dominating the ball, it no longer seems like Nash to Gotham is the slam dunk that many felt it would be. In fact, now it appears to be a long shot.

Another team that many people thought might intrigue Nash is the Miami Heat.

Not so fast, according to Nash.

“Of course I want to win a ring,” Nash told The National Post nearly a year ago. “But at the same time I’m like, ‘I don’t want to win it with those guys. Those guys have been the enemy for X amount of years.’ So I’m not quite in that camp yet — ‘I don’t care, put me on the best team and I’m going to try to win a ring.’ I still feel like kids from my neighbourhood want to beat the kids from that neighbourhood, like (when) we were growing up. I’m not ready to concede, ‘Well, they’re better than us, I’ll join them.’ I’m just not there yet. Maybe I’ll get there.”

It appears that time has softened his stance at least a little bit.

“I’d listen,” Steve Nash told Dan Patrick back in March. “I love what they’re doing there. A lot of people don’t like them because they put all that talent together. They’re professional, they play hard, they play together. Their coaching staff has done a great job. So, I have a tremendous amount of respect for them, and I would definitely listen.”

A dark horse to win the Nash sweepstakes are the Los Angeles Lakers. For the past few seasons they have lacked a legitimate, all-star point guard to run their offense. After coming close to trading for Chris Paul last winter, look for the Lakers to try and woo Nash to Los Angeles this summer.

The tricky part is creating a contract offer that would entice Nash. Even if Ramon Sessions declines his player option and his salary comes off the books, the Lakers would still enter the 2012-13 season with nearly $79 million in committed salary, leaving only the taxpayer mid-level exception ($3.09 million) for Nash. Nash can make a lot more money from other teams considering he made $11.6 million last season and teams like Toronto and Portland will be willing to pay close to that.

The Chicago Bulls, Knicks, Heat and Lakers will all be both over the cap and over the tax next season so the chance of them being able to add Nash appear to be slim to none. Sure, it makes great headlines, but the reality is Nash would need to leave a team he loves (Phoenix) or leave big money on the table from teams like Toronto or Portland.

Due to the new CBA, teams over the luxury tax can only offer the mini-MLE which probably won’t enough to lure Nash to their team. Plus, some of teams will need to start shedding contracts in order to avoid the massive new tax bill coming in 2013-14 season so Nash would end up with less money and talent around him.

Regardless of who Nash signs with, he should get a three-year contract and he will land with a team he feels will be competitive night in and night out.

Not bad for an old man with a bad back.

Toronto’s Offseason Starting To Take Shape

It has been an intriguing offseason thus far for the Toronto Raptors, that is to be sure. They haven’t even done anything yet and there has already been plenty of chatter surrounding the team and potential free agent signings since the day the season ended. Whether these rumours are based in truth or conjecture remains to be seen. Regardless of the eventual results, people are talking about the Raptors and fans are getting excited.

I’m not one to get caught up in rumours, but these rumours seem to have some weight to them and all of them could change the course of the Raptors hopes for next season as well as the long-term status of GM Bryan Colangelo, who has one year remaining on his contract.

First came the Steve Nash rumours. Now Steve Nash rumours are nothing new around these parts. He’s Canada’s greatest basketball talent ever and would look fantastic playing for Canada’s only basketball team. Over the years Toronto has heard lots about Nash coming to town, but there wasn’t really any way to get a deal like that done. But now the “Nash to Toronto” rumours have a certain weight to them.

He’s long been rumoured to be leaving the Phoenix Suns after this year and his recent appointment as President and General Manager of Canada’s Mens National Team would seem to indicate he wouldn’t mind spending more time closer to his homeland.

A Steve Nash arrival in Toronto would mean improved play on the offensive end and a whole lot of jerseys being sold at the ACC.

Nash would fit in swimmingly here in Toronto, despite the fact Jose Calderon already occupies the starting point guard spot. Calderon has been quite willing and ready to share time whenever necessary and the depth at point guard could give the Raptors a leg up on competition in the Atlantic division. Calderon seems better suited to the backup role anyway and could become valuable trade bait down the road with a large expiring contract.

The Nash rumours also have weight as his former Canadian National team coach, Jay Triano, is employed by the Raptors and Bryan Colangelo, the GM that drafted and then re-acquired Nash in Phoenix is currently the Raptors President and GM.

Nash has a knack for bringing the very best out of his teammates. Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudamire, Channing Frye, Jason Richardson all owe much of their success (and large pay cheques) to the point guard that gave them the ball.

Nash has always put himself second and his team first. His teammates were the beneficiaries on and off the court. How much could a point guard like Nash improve Andrea Bargnani’s game? or DeMar DeRozan’s? Makes you wonder.

Nash makes good players great. He brings the best out of his teammates and could certainly benefit some of the underachieving Raptor players.

Nash would therefore seem to be a perfect fit in Toronto. Unless, of course Jeremy Lin is. Lin is a restricted free agent and there are now reports from a host of sources claiming the Raptors will be very much in the mix for his services, should the Knicks decide to let him go.

Lin is much younger than Nash, could be cheaper and may fit better into the core that is developing in Toronto.

Jeremy Lin is a rumoured Raptor target this offseason. His acquisition could be the spark this young Raptor team needs.

He is a restricted free agent, so how much stalk can we put into these Lin to Toronto rumours? It is very possible that the Knicks get out-priced for his services. Lin is not a player that has been around long and therefore may not have earned the lucrative deal he seeks in the eyes of NBA GM’s. His stats are good, but the sample size is small, and he was never really able to mesh with franchise player Carmelo Anthony suggesting he may need to be a number one option.

Lin, who missed the Knicks’ run to the playoffs, could be the odd man out in New York, making him very much available to Toronto. A move for Lin would be very reminiscent of Colangelo’s other signing of a young point guard that changed his Phoenix Suns back in 2004. That, of course being, Steve Nash.

Lin has shown he can be a game changer, a superstar, a go-to guy. At the point guard position that is simply something the Raptors have never had.

It is clear that Lin’s stats are a small sample size and his median numbers are not nearly as good as his 2011/12 stats, but he could be worth the risk.

He is explosive and can certainly shoot the ball with confidence. He can drive the net and get his teammates involved in the offense. His defensive ability is weak but his deficiencies could be fit into Dwane Casey’s system. If Calderon worked out, Lin likely could too.

He would also become a big fan favourite here in Toronto, a city with a large Asian fan base. It could be a big marketing opportunity that the new owners at Rogers and Bell, simply cannot pass up.

Still, the odds of landing Lin rest in the hands of Glen Grunwald and the New York Knicks and what they are attempting to do this offseason. The Knicks maintain the right to match any offers the young point guard gets, meaning the Raptors will likely have to overpay to get him.

Lin presents an interesting option for the Raptors, but one that they ultimately don’t have complete control over.

Then there are the murmurs about Nicolas Batum. Now, none of these rumours are anything but pure and utter speculation, but he would fit very nicely into the Raptors lineup. A small forward with that kind of ability has alluded the Raptors since the days of Tracy McGrady. Batum would instantly become one of the best small forwards the franchise has ever seen. A great fit for the short and long-term. Plus his European background would be a plus in the locker room. He certainly won’t be cheap and the Blazers are very unlikely to let him go for nothing. Expect the Blazers to match everything and anything for Batum and then work out a trade with a team if they have to.

If the Raptors are serious about acquiring Batum, which they should be in my opinion, then they are going to have to put together a trade package that will make it happen. That is much more difficult than just signing a player, but if anyone knows how to work out a complicated off-season trade it’s Colangelo.

So despite the fact the Playoffs are going on without the Raptors, there is plenty for a fan to sit and ponder. This summer will be another chapter in the remaking of this Raptors team and it is exciting to imagine the possibilities. So far three of the most solid offseason rumours would offer the Raptors definite upgrades in talent at two key positions. All three rumoured acquisitions are big name players that would raise the talent level and profile of basketball in Toronto.

Like most Raptor fans, I can’t wait to see what happens on July first. Judging from the early offseason rumours, it is likely to be one of the more exciting ones yet.