Nash Should Come Off The Bench

It's an odd aspect in basketball and it's almost impossible to explain but that doesn't stop it from being real — some players, even star players, play better coming off the bench.

There are examples everywhere. Manu Ginobili from the San Antonio Spurs and James Harden for the Oklahoma City Thunder come to mind and both have said they prefer coming in and bringing a change of pace once the game has an established flow.

A college example is Oklahoma State's own Jean-Paul Olukemi last season, who flourished in a reserve role.

In all three examples, and numerous others in college basketball and the National Basketball Association, these players are often top five players on their team and some are even established or blossoming stars.

Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash might be one of the newest members to that club.

Nash was reinstated in the Cowboys' starting lineup Saturday night after coming off the bench four straight games but the production that earned him the right to be back in the lineup disappeared.

Nash hit his first shot, a 3-pointer that gave OSU a 3-2 lead in the game's opening minutes. That was it for the first half, as he finished 1-of-9 from the floor. The second half was the same story. Nash hit his first shot and then didn't hit another, going 1-for-6 in the second.

The Cowboys lost to the Lobos 66-56 in an ugly game in Oklahoma City and Nash finished with six points on 2-of-15 shooting with three turnovers.

All freshmen have bad games and Saturday night's performance was most certainly that but Nash hasn't really had bad games off the bench, from a strictly offensive vantage point.

In the four-game stretch where he came in at roughly the 15-minute mark, he shot 48 percent from the floor and averaged 17.3 points per game. He led the Cowboys in scoring on three of the occasions, including an impressive 20-point outing against No. 14 Pittsburgh in New York City.

In the games he's started, he's averaged 11.6 points and shot just 31 percent.

There is a pretty big disparity in those numbers, but it's not all about those.

There is already an enormous amount of pressure on the former McDonald's All-American to be "the guy" for Oklahoma State.

Whether that's fair or not, it is a fact on a team that can't find any other way to score consistently outside of Keiton Page. Evidence for that can be seen in the scoring output against the Lobos from the three starters other than Page and Nash. Philip Jurick: 0 points on 0-for-1 shooting; Fred Gulley: 0 points, 0-for-1; Markel Brown: 2 points, 0-for-2.

OSU absolutely needs Nash to score and that makes for a lot of pressure, and unfair pressure at that for a 19-year-old freshman, no matter how talented he may be.

That pressure seems to be relieved a bit when he has the opportunity to sit back and soak in the first few minutes of the game.

He can get a feel for the flow, he can look for areas where he can attack the defense and he can fit in. When he starts, that ability seems to go away and shots clang off the rim repeatedly.

This team can't score without him so he needs to be put in the best position to succeed and, at least right now, that place might be coming off the bench.


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