Nash the Forgotten

The slick passer from Santa Clara who fell to the 15th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft had a mesmerizing career that no one could’ve foreseen. The back-to-back league MVP and 8 time All-Star took the 50-40-90 club and made it his own, all while running arguably the most proficient offense the league had even seen. This offense was called “Seven Seconds or Less” and it revolutionized the offenses we see in today’s game. One of the keys to this offense was that you play offense before the defense can get set and in order to do that, you must push the pace. The Suns had their big men set on-ball drag screens to leave the screen defender in an uncomfortable position on how to defend it. Their uptempo style of play also led to many open 3-point attempts in transition which is what made this complex offense so difficult to defend. Now take into account Nash’s shooting and passing ability which are both rivaled by few players ever, and think about how difficult they were to stop. Nash shot over 50% from the midrange 6 times in his career and averaged 48.4% in his career. To put that into perspective, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and James Harden have never shot over 48.4% from midrange in a single season.

Nash went on to lead the league in assists 5 times while averaging over 10 assists per game 7 times in his career. His average offensive rating was 115.2, which is off the charts. He’s also one of the greatest passers ever, as third all-time with 10,335 total assists. In addition, the Suns finished top two in offensive rating every year from 2005-2010.

For his career, Nash averaged 14.3 points per game and 8.5 assists per game on 60TS% while his play improved in the playoffs averaging 17.3 points per game and 8.7 assists per game on 58.3TS%. Nash was the best free throw shooter in NBA history, averaging 90.4% from the charity stripe for his career while also being a top ten 3-point shooter ever with a career average of 42.8% from behind the arc. On the matter of his spectacular efficiency, Nash was a four time member of the 50-40-90 club (most all-time) and could’ve been a six time member but he was six shots off at age 36 and two shots off at age 38 from reaching the minimum shot attempts to qualify. Last but certainly not least, Nash received All-NBA honors seven times (3x 1st team; 2x 2nd team; 2x 3rd team).

Some people claim that it was D’Antoni’s system that made Nash, but D’Antoni was the coach the previous year in the ’03-’04 season and the Suns went 21-40 under him.

Nash had some of the worst luck when it comes to star teammates getting injured before or during the post season. In the ’03 Western Conference Finals, Dirk got injured in game 3. In 2005, Nash led the Suns to the Western Conference Finals without his starting shooting guard Joe Johnson. He also led the Suns to the Western Conference Finals in 2006 without having

Amare Stoudemire for the entire playoffs and they nearly made it to the finals. Had Raja Bell played all the games, they could’ve made it. In the same Western Conference Finals series against Dallas, the Suns were 2-2 with Raja Bell and 0-2 without him. Lastly, after Nash went to the Lakers in free agency, Kobe Bryant suffered a season ending injury towards the end of the ’12-’13 season and they went on to lose in the first round of the playoffs.

Nash is one of four players to average 20 points per game and 10 assists per game for a playoff run past the second round (The other three being: Magic Johnson, Kevin Johnson and Russell Westbrook).

A controversial topic that is usually brought up about Nash are his two MVP awards. There are many people who think that he didn’t deserve both of them, so here’s why he did:

After a disappointing ’03-’04 season, the Phoenix Suns finished 29-53 with an offensive rating of 101.4. Steve Nash then left Dallas in free agency to come back to Phoenix where he was awarded the starting role at point guard. After his addition, the Suns got rolling in the ’04-’05 season. They finished 60-22 with the best record in the NBA and an improved offensive rating of 114.5, while they lead the league in points per game with 110.4 as well. Nash’s impact alone made this team flourish offensively which goes to show his value in transforming a 29 win team to 60 win team, all while putting up averages of 15.5 points per game and 11.5 assists per game on 61TS%. There is no debating that Nash deserved the ’04-’05 MVP award.

Three games into the following season, Amare Stoudemire suffered a season ending injury and things were not looking good for Phoenix. The Suns now only had two players remaining from their starting five from the previous season after Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson left in the offseason. With Nash running the show with Shawn Marion at his side, people became very skeptical of how the season would turn out. However, Nash was not worried. Instead, he grabbed the reigns and averaged 18.8 points per game and 10.5 assists per game on 63TS% while leading the Suns to a 54-28 record. They finished with the second highest offensive rating in the league (111.5) and lead the league in points per game (108.4). With the team needing players to step up, Nash made it as simple as possible for them to be effective due to seven different Suns’ players setting their career high in points per game this season, which shows how unbelievably impactful his playmaking was. All of these reasons are why Steve Nash deserved the ’05-’06 MVP as well. He was truly the most valuable player in the league at this time.

The top 4 MVP candidates for the ’05-’06 seasons all averaged astounding numbers:

1) Nash: 18.8/10.5/4.2 – 63TS%

2) LeBron: 31.4/6.6/7.0 – 57TS%

3) Dirk: 26.6/2.8/9.0 – 59TS%

4) Kobe: 35.4/4.5/5.3 – 56TS%

Normally, one would look at these numbers and question why Nash won MVP, but the award doesn’t just go to who put up the best stats. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki all had the same issue. They did not lead their team to a high enough seed in their conference to have a realistic chance of winning the award (The Lakers finished as the seventh seed in the West, the Mavericks finished as the fourth seed in the West and the Cavaliers finished as the fourth seed in the East).

In essence, Steve Nash is the deserving recipient of both MVP awards and deserves a lot more credit than is given for his outstanding career. He will be a bonafide first ballot Hall of Fame’er and his legacy will live on for generations to come.

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