Steve Nash or Jeremy Lin?
NASH MAY BE THE SEXY OPTION BUT LIN IS THE RIGHT PLAY
Don't get me wrong, Nash would be a tremendous addition for next season. He can probably continue to play at an elite level into 2013-14, as well. But what about three years down the line? Will he still be the Steve Nash we've all grown accustomed to or will the Knicks be wishing they'd kept Lin?
I say this because I believe the Knicks, as currently constituted, have a three-year window to compete in the Eastern Conference.
Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are under contract for the next three seasons (Anthony and Stoudemire have early termination options in 2014-2015). Assuming all three players stay healthy (and that's a HUGE assumption), that should give the Knicks a legitimate three-year window to compete in the East. If they surround their three stars with the right pieces, they could even compete for a title.
One of the most important pieces in pursuit of that title is a point guard. Both Nash and Lin will likely test free agency this summer and the Knicks will probably have to use their midlevel exception to land either player.
If they sign Nash, they'll be heading into the 2013 playoffs (assuming they make them) with a 39-year-old point guard. Of course, one that currently leads the league in assists per game (11.3). So it would be a solid short-term investment. No argument there.
But looking further into that three-year window, Nash's age becomes more of an issue. Only one point guard in NBA history has averaged more than five assists after age 39 (John Stockton in 2001-02, 2002-03). So while Nash is playing at an extremely high level now, you have to wonder if he will decline in coming seasons.
Lin, on the other hand, is just getting started. Of course, it's unlikely he'll ever reach the level of Nash, who won back-to-back MVPs. But I think he will get more comfortable going left, cut down his turnovers and improve his jump shot this offseason (assuming he bounces back from knee surgery). And, most importantly, he'll be 26 in three seasons, when Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler are in the final years of their deals.
So Nash may be a sexy short-term option. But letting Lin go will look like an insane move a couple of years down the road.
LIN'S GOOD FOR BUSINESS BUT NASH IS BETTER ON THE COURT
Steve Nash has already had one foot in New York City for several years. He owns an apartment in TriBeCa, hosts an annual summer soccer event for charity called the "Showdown in Chinatown" and has even trained with the Red Bulls.
In the offseason, Nash, an unrestricted free agent, should take one more step and become a permanent fixture in the Big Apple as a Knick, which would be a better on-the-court move for the team than re-signing Jeremy Lin.
While Lin would mean international business, Nash's talents and experience would give the Knicks a better boost on the court.
The Knicks' marketing campaign goes by "You, Us, We, Now," and Nash represents that final word the best. The Knicks put most of the pieces together this season to compete for a championship. Unfortunately, injuries have set the team back a bit. Looking ahead, with the Knicks having one of the league's best frontcourts, featuring Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire (Nash's former teammate in Phoenix) and key contributors off the bench, Nash is the best free agent available for the Knicks who can tie it all together, quickly and effectively.
Nash has already proven he can lead a team far into the playoffs with a talented and deep bunch around him. Out of the five times the Suns have been to the playoffs since 2004-05 -- Nash's first season in Phoenix -- they reached the conference finals three times.
To prove Nash's value, look at what he's doing this season. With Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and Marcin Gortat filling out the Suns' starting five, Nash has led essentially a lottery team to a 26-26 record, and they have a chance to finish as the West's eighth seed. That accomplishment, as of right now, should automatically put Nash in the MVP discussion. And he's doing it at the age of 38, with no signs of slowing down, averaging 12.7 points and a league-high 11.3 assists per game.
Nash has already said he's "not coming back to the Suns if there isn't improvement." Now, the two biggest hurdles facing the Knicks are 1) his former Suns coach Mike D'Antoni is gone, and 2) Nash said he "would definitely listen" to an offer from the Miami Heat.
Once again, it could come down to Knicks versus Heat, but Glen Grunwald & Co. should make a big push for the two-time MVP.