Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
If Deron Williams is the NBA offseason's most coveted free agent point guard, Steve Nash is a close second.
Nash already has two MVP awards in his trophy case and his 9,916 career assists are the fifth-most in NBA history. Even at age 38, the 16-year veteran still tallied 10.7 dimes a game for the Phoenix Suns last season.
Nash is sure to have an impact wherever he ends up next season. The question is, how big will that impact be?
Well, that all depends on which team he plays for.
Right now, there are about four teams in the running for Nash and each one poses a different set of opportunities and challenges. Which one is the best fantasy fit for Nash's skill set? Well, let's take a look.
Brooklyn Nets: The odds of Nash coming to Brooklyn seem slim. Though the Nets held a meeting with Nash on Monday morning, he's always been the team's backup plan in case they are unable to bring back Deron Williams (21 ppg, 8.7 apg). Now that Brooklyn just traded half its team for Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Joe Johnson (18.8 ppg), the implication is that Williams is staying put.
If for whatever reason Williams skips town and Nash decides to go to the Nets, there's a lot of fantasy potential here.
Nash and Johnson actually played together in Phoenix for a year in 2004-05. Johnson established a new career high of 17.1 ppg for the Suns that season in no small part due to the chemistry that he and Nash shared.
In order to rack up big assist numbers, a point guard needs a big target to throw to in the low post. Brook Lopez fits that description perfectly.
He's a big body (7 feet, 265 pounds) with a soft touch around the rim and his 20.4 ppg in 2010-11 (he was limited to only fives games last season because of a broken foot) was the third-highest among NBA centers. Williams averaged 12.8 assists per game playing alongside Lopez two seasons ago and I'd expect Nash to collect a similar total if he and Lopez pair up in 2012-13.
Dallas Mavericks: With free agent guards Jason Kidd and Jason Terry likely headed elsewhere, the Mavericks definitely have a hole to fill at guard and Nash could fit that need. Remember, Nash played six seasons for Dallas between 1998-2004 and remains close friends with power forward Dirk Nowitzki.
The "run and gun" style of play the Mavericks employed during Nash's first stint in Dallas may not work anymore now that he and Nowitzki are both in their mid- to late-thirties. But I think Nash would still have a chance to be productive if he ends up in the Big D. In the 408 games he played with Dallas earlier in his career, Nash averaged 14.6 ppg and 7.2 apg.
Still, with Nowitzki (age 34), Vince Carter (35) and Shawn Marion (34) returning as the team's leading scorers, this is an aging team with tired legs and probably not the place where Nash will maximize his fantasy potential.
New York Knicks: Nash signing with the Knicks would probably help the NBA's TV ratings, but I don't think it's an environment he can thrive in from a fantasy perspective.
If Nash signs with New York, he will be reuniting with his teammate of six seasons, Amare Stoudemire. Both players contributed to each other's success when they were playing together in Phoenix (Nash's two MVP seasons occurred while Stoudemire was on the team) and they were perfect fits for coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced style of offense.
Unfortunately for Nash and Stoudemire, D'Antoni isn't running the show anymore. This is Mike Woodson's team now and he's made it clear that if he's in charge, Carmelo Anthony will be the focal point of the Knicks' offense.
Anthony (22.6 ppg) is a terrific scorer, but when the ball is in his hands, the game slows to a snail's pace and that's never been a style in which Nash is comfortable.
Point guards have never had much success playing with Anthony. The most assists per game any point guard has averaged while playing with him is 9.1, a standard set by Andre Miller when he and Anthony were teammates in Denver back in 2006-07. The last time Nash averaged fewer than nine assists per game was back in 2003-04 during his final season in Dallas.
New York just isn't a good fit for Nash and I'd expect his numbers to drop in every category if he plays there.
Toronto Raptors: The Raptors are going all in for Nash. They've already offered him a three-year, $36 million contract, a pretty hefty amount of loot for a player who is about to enter his 17th season in the league. They're so committed to Nash that they are already shopping their starting point guard, Jose Calderon (10.5 ppg, 8.8 apg) ... and Nash hasn't even said yes yet.
Toronto's pieces are similar to the ones he had in Phoenix last season, but I believe the thrill of leading a new franchise in his home country of Canada will cause his statistics to rise next season.
The Raptors don't shoot the ball that well (they were 23rd in the NBA in field goal percentage last season), so if Nash played for them ,he might have to take on a lot of the scoring burden himself. Nash was very content as a distributor last season and shot the ball fewer than 10 times per game for the first time since 1999-00. With Toronto, I see him as a 15- to 16-point scorer while taking 11-12 shots per contest.
Even if Nash takes on more of a scorer's role with the Raptors, I wouldn't expect his assist numbers to change too drastically. DeMar DeRozan (16.7 ppg) is an athletic scorer who seems to be just coming into his prime and Andrea Bargnani (19.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg), when healthy, is one of the elite centers in the Eastern Conference if not the entire NBA. So we know that Nash will have at least two capable scorers alongside him.
The young up-and-coming vibe fits Nash and that's why I think he'd succeed in Toronto.