It looked unnatural, like Adam Sandler in a Martin Scorsese flick. Steve Nash, the Suns' icon, the man who battled L.A. in 18 playoff games—on top of 28 regular-season meetings—over the last seven seasons, "a thorn in the Lakers' side most of this decade," as G.M. Mitch Kupchak put it, holding up a purple-and-gold jersey at a press conference last week. "It's a little surreal," said Nash, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal. "[But] it's a dream come true for a point guard."
Nash will instantly inject speed into a plodding Lakers attack; L.A. ranked 28th in the NBA in fast break points (9.3) last season. One of the best pick-and-roll players in the NBA, Nash will create easier scoring opportunities for All-Star center Andrew Bynum and power forward Pau Gasol in the paint.
As for any concern that Nash will get lost in an isolation-heavy offense—forget it. Nash's shooting is often obscured by his playmaking, but he is one of the most efficient shooters in NBA history, one of five players to shoot 50% from the floor, 40% from the three-point line and 90% from the free throw line in a season, and the only player to do it four times (most recently in 2009--10). "He is going to take so much pressure off of Kobe [Bryant]," says an NBA scout. "Watch Kobe late in the season and in the playoffs. His body will be much fresher because he won't have so much responsibility offensively."
Nash's switch is the most eye-popping transaction—so far, at least—of the off-season. Here's how the other major moves stack up.
DERON WILLIAMS, JOE JOHNSON AND REGGIE EVANS
Brooklyn re-signed point guard Williams—but only because it was able to acquire Johnson from the Hawks for a handful of expiring contracts and two draft picks. Now, the Nets will move into the $1 billion Barclays Center with one of the NBA's top backcourts. Johnson was miscast as a No. 1 option in Atlanta and his salary—he will make $89 million over the next four seasons—is exorbitant. But he is a versatile scorer who has averaged at least 18 points per game in each of the last seven seasons. Said Williams, "I've never played with a player of his caliber on the wing."
By improving its offense, Brooklyn (which also re-signed swingman Gerald Wallace) can safely give minutes to the offensively challenged Evans, acquired in a sign-and-trade from the Clippers. The Nets need a big man who can rebound: Before missing all but five games last year, center Brook Lopez averaged just 6.0 boards per game in 2010--11. Evans fits the bill. He was sixth in the league in rebounds per minute last season.
RAY ALLEN AND RASHARD LEWIS
The benefits of acquiring the two free-agent sharpshooters are twofold for the champs: Miami wants to play faster next season and envisions Allen and Lewis trailing fast breaks, knocking down threes. And in the halfcourt, the duo's presence will open up wider lanes for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to penetrate. "It's pick your poison," says a scout. "Double, and they make threes. Don't, and you get dunked on."