Just a few days into the 2012 NBA offseason, there might be a new favorite in the Western Conference.
The Lakers acquired Steve Nash on Wednesday in a sign-and-trade with the Suns. Los Angeles didn't have to part with any current players. They sent Phoenix a first rounder in 2013 and 2015, as well as second-round picks in 2013 and 2014.
The acquisition of Nash helps the Lakers improve the point guard position, which has been their biggest weakness for several years. L.A.'s point guards finished second-to-last in scoring and fourth-worst in assists for the lockout-shortened season. Nash should provide the team with a major upgrade.
Even at his advanced age, Nash is still one of the best players in the NBA. He finished ninth in the league in MVP voting for the 2011-12 Season. He was second in the league with 10.7 assists per game. He also averaged 12.5 points per contest, shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range.
Nash didn't just put up impressive stats in his 16th season. He helped keep the Suns in playoff contention for much of the year. Phoenix finished just three games out of the postseason, despite having one of the weakest rosters in the West.
With a core of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the Lakers will look to compete with the likes of the Thunder, Spurs and Clippers for the Western Conference Title.
Oklahoma City seems to be Los Angeles' biggest competition. OKC beat L.A. in five games in the second round of the playoffs and reached the Finals just a few weeks ago.
The Thunder still have the best player, besides LeBron James, in Kevin Durant. OKC proved to be a younger, more athletic team than L.A. Adding a 38-year-old may not help the Lakers keep up with the defending Western Conference champions.
Los Angeles may have aging stars, but they are stars nonetheless. Nash hasn't show many signs of slowing down, finishing in the top three in assists for each of the last nine seasons. He's notorious for being in great shape, and should still be one of the best point guards next year.
Bryant may not be as effective as he once was, but he's still one of the league's top scorers. He fell just one-tenth of a point per game short of winning the scoring title.
The Lakers two big men will probably benefit most from the Nash trade.
Bynum emerged as a star this past season, and will get a chance to play with a top point guard for the first time ever. Gasol struggled in 2012, averaging the lowest scoring output of his career. He's only 31 years old, and Nash should help him get back to where he was when the Lakers were winning titles.
Bringing in Nash won't help the Lakers on the defensive end. The two-time MVP is a poor defender and won't solve the Lakers issue of being unable to stop quick guards.
Still, the move gives Los Angeles four of the best players in the league. While having a Big Three seems to be the blueprint for current NBA teams, the Lakers have four potential All-Stars in their starting lineup. Even Miami can't make that claim.
Unless the Thunder make a splash in the coming months, the Lakers may have the best chance of dethroning the Heat in 2013.