Steve Nash is still producing at an enormously high level. There has not been much drop off in Nash’s game, despite his age (turning 39 next summer). He is averaging 12.8 points and 11.3 assists this year. He has averaged double digit assists in 7 of the last 8 years (including this year). The only year he did not average double digit assists was in 2008-2009 where he still averaged 9.7 assists. Nash has aged like fine wine. Gracefully. It’s hard not to think that he will still be able to produce for at least three more years. Yes, his scoring average has declined in the past three years going from 16.5 to 14.7, and now to 12.8. However, that should matter little as a PG’s job is to pass and Nash is essentially getting a double double every night. His age and the fact that he may not want to come to the New York Knicks since Mike D’Antoni is no longer there are the biggest knocks against him. Nevertheless, Nash would bring veteran experience and leadership instantly to the Knicks. He would be able to work seamlessly with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, allowing them to get the ball in their sweet spots.
On the other hand, Jeremy Lin is a much less proven commodity, but the business he generates would alone make him worth the signing. Before his injury, it looked like he was settling in and proving that he could play in another system besides Mike D’Antoni’s. Yes, the turnovers have been high, but the stats have also shown they have been steadily declining since he first made his mark on the world in that game against the New Jersey Nets. He’s already shown to be clutch with that game winner against Toronto and the 16 fourth quarter points against the 76ers. He has plenty of upside as he was a SG at Harvard, not a PG. This mean he’s still learning the position. However, unfortunately, the sample size for Lin has been small as his breakout season has been cut short by a small meniscus tear. It is still unknown whether Lin will merely be an average PG or an all-star. Some have pointed out that other point guards in D’Antoni’s system have had their points and assist averages raised by playing in that system. These have included guys such as Raymond Felton and Chris Duhon. What they fail to acknowledge is that both of those guys had a ton more experience than Lin who is pretty much a rookie in playing time before they were inserted into D’Antoni’s system so comparisons to those guys are relatively unfair.
It’s a difficult choice and before you say they should try and get both so that Lin can learn on the bench and develop behind Nash, consider that it will be nearly impossible to do so without the Knicks giving up the deep bench they currently have. The front office would have to get incredibly creative as Lin is going to take up nearly all of the MLE (mid-level exception) and it is almost certain that Nash is not going to sign for the veteran’s minimum. With that in mind, do the Knicks want to mortgage their future in an effort to win now, or see if Lin can develop into an all-star caliber point guard? Do they go all in with Carmelo and Amare and bring in Nash knowing then you have a three-year window before you have to start rebuilding again if you don’t get it done within that time frame?
I wish it were possible to take both. It might be possible, but I think it’s highly unlikely. If it were up to me, I’d go with the riskier, but younger choice in Lin. You want to build with younger talent as age can hit quickly. The Los Angeles Lakers when making a choice between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant eventually chose the younger guy in Kobe and were rewarded with two more championships when Pau Gasol was traded to the squad. You want to end up in the position where you can compete for the next 7-10 years if your young talents like Lin and Iman Shumpert develop, not just the next three because you could end up not winning the championship and then be forced to start from ground zero all over again. In the past, before the new CBA, it might have made more sense to go after Nash when the luxury tax penalties would not have been as harsh. Unfortunately, since Melo and Stoudemire take up a good portion of the salary cap already, to me, it doesn’t seem feasible to bring in Nash who has stated recently on ESPN that he wants to play at least three more years. It’s a murky choice with no real clear-cut answer, but ultimately I think Lin is the option the Knicks should pursue. For both business and basketball reasons.