Back during the summer of 2012, there was a widespread expectation that Nash could be headed to the Raptors. The idea made a lot of sense—Nash is a Canada native, and is also part owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team. Instead, he signed with the Lakers as part of a vaunted would-be championship run.
Nash was the complement to the larger Dwight Howard signing and was expected to deliver the ball to Howard’s low-post sweet spot, as well as take ball-handling pressure off Kobe Bryant. The plan seemed even better when Mike D’Antoni came aboard five games into the season. D’Antoni was, of course, Nash’s coach during the Phoenix Suns’ glory years.
Everyone knows how the Lakers’ season turned out—abysmally. This year has been seen as the lead-up to the 2014 season when the Lakers’ financial books will be essentially clear. Nash will be due $9,701,000 next year, the final year of his contract.
The question with any trade deal for the Lakers, is how it impacts their long term goals. Everything during the off-season was predicated on a perfect storm of cap room—the contracts of both Kobe and Pau are coming off the books and management has been strictly limiting future commitments.
Nick Young holds a player option for $1,227,985 next year. Utility center Robert Sacre will be due $915,243, and Elias Harris is signed for $816,482 which is believed to be non-guaranteed.
Under new general manager Masai Ujiri, the Raptors are looking to make some moves. What could they offer in a swap?
Rudy Gay has been rumored to be on the block but there’s no way the Lakers will touch his nearly $18 million price tag. Shooting guard DeMar DeRozen’s $9.5 million matches well with Nash this year, but his contract runs through the 2016-17 season. Again, highly unlikely.
That would leave a mixture of lesser deals, such as combining Amir Johnson, a rangy, athletic wing, with someone like second-year center Jonas Valanciunas. Johnson is making $6.5 million this year with a team option for next season. The price tag for the talented seven-foot Valanciunas is modest and the Lakers would love to find their future big man. Unfortunately, the Raptors are reluctant to part with him.
The Raptors have long had their eyes on Nash but he’ll be 40 in February. It’s doubtful that they’ll trade anything that they truly value for their ongoing rebuild. Still, the Nash rumors are flying now and once they start, they aren’t apt to go away.