If You Thought Kobe Was MVP, Wait Until He Clicks with Returning Steve Nash

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterDecember 22, 2012

ONTARIO, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers runs the offense against the Portland Trail Blazers at Citizens Business Bank Arena on October 10, 2012 in Ontario, California.  Portland won 93-75.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Steve Nash might not be the MVP he once was, but his presence should aid a teammate in his race for the prestigious title. 

Kobe Bryant is playing at the highest individual level. He leads the NBA in scoring at 29.5 points, and whether he feels like it or not, he doesn't look like he's aged a day.

But over the past month, he's been riding the bus without a driver.

Steve Nash's ability to control the tempo of the game and put his teammates in the best position to make a play will be a huge pick-me-up for a team that's been switching between Chris Duhon and Darius Morris at point.

Some wonder whether two ball-dominant guards can co-exist in the same backcourt. With Kobe at 34 years old and Nash at 38, I don't think either will mind giving up an extra few dribbles a game.

One of the reasons this can work is because of an underrated part of Nash's game that rarely gets recognition: his thee-point shot. He's actually one of the best shooters of our generation, finishing above 39 percent from downtown in every season but one (37 percent in 1999).

The Nash-Bryant duo could end up being lethal in the drive and dish game, with both capable of penetrating and making spot-up open looks.

But what will really help out Kobe Bryant is Nash's ability to make everyone else around him better. Most of the time you wouldn't even realize it; it could be a dribble-hand-off to free up a shooter, a ball reversal or something as simple as an entry pass.

By getting guys like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol consistently involved, it will free up Kobe on the perimeter. And if it doesn't, that means Howard and Gasol should be getting plenty of opportunities to operate one-on-one in space.

Nash will provide the Lakers with a more balanced offensive attack—having Bryant take the ball up the court is a waste of his offensive talent. He shouldn't be the one setting up the play, but rather the recipient of the setup.

In the long run, having someone like Nash take over as the orchestrator could end up doing wonders for Kobe's aging body. He's taken a lot of hits over the years as an aggressive scorer who gets to the line. Nash's presence should keep Kobe fresher, who can now rely more on finishing as opposed to creating.

And Steve Nash will help Kobe Bryant improve his chances of winning the league MVP because he'll improve the Lakers' chances of winning games. Kobe could score 40 points a night, but if the Lakers are the seventh seed, don't expect anyone to take his name seriously as a realistic candidate.

Bryant's numbers might go down with Nash, but his MVP chances won't.