When starting this weekly ‘Top 5’ blog I could have decided on a simple subject matter to kick things off. Something like ‘the top 5 players in Suns history’ or ‘the top 5 things Charles Barkley said that shocked people’. You know, things that are easy and obvious. Instead I decided to save those for a week or two that I need to mail it in and not really think. (Memo to my bosses: don’t worry, I’ve never mailed anything in other than bills and the occasional magazine subscription.)
Instead of taking the easy road, I decided on something a little more challenging. As you can guess, thanks to the title, the first edition of ‘Top 5’ tackles why Steve Nash is the greatest point guard in Suns history.
When the season starts Monday, Steve Nash will tie Kevin Johnson for the fourth most games played (683) in Suns history. While staying in one place for a long time doesn’t make you great — if it did, the garbage can on the curb in front of my neighbor’s house would be a Hall of Famer — the health that he has exhibited throughout those 682 games as a Sun does.
Unlike Johnson in his time with the Suns, Nash has rarely missed extended time. As a matter of fact, as a member of the Suns he has never played fewer than 65 games, with his fewest number of appearances coming in his rookie season. In contrast, KJ only played 65 or more games seven times in his 12 year NBA career.
For as much as we’d like to remember Kevin Johnson as one of the greatest point guards – not only in Phoenix but in the entire league – he only made three NBA All-Star games in his 11 full seasons as a Sun. Nash, on the other hand, managed to make five All-Star appearances in his nine years as a member of the Suns (and we all know it should be six, but he got robbed last season.Yeah, I’m looking at you online voters).
While All-Star selections are not the end-all-be-all of an NBA career, they are a mark of consistency, and Nash’s level of play has rarely wavered.
3) Point (and Free Throw) Shooting Percentage
Although Thunder Dan Majerle may be the Sun who is most associated with hitting the long ball and evoking a loud ‘Shazam’ from the golden pipes of Al McCoy, it’s actually Steve Nash who has made him utter his distinguishable catch phrase more often than any other player in team history. Not only has he made the most 3-pointers in team history (996), he’s also hit a higher percentage (.438) than any other Sun in history (Kevin Johnson isn’t even in the Top 10 in either category).
To go along with his lethal eye from downtown, he is also pretty good from the free throw line. He’s hit 90.8 percent from the charity stripe as a Sun. He is the best in Suns history by over two whole percentage points.
Accurate three point and free throw shooting can be the difference between winning and losing. Nash has made the difference on numerous occasions.
The Suns have had two league MVPs in their history. Charles Barkley and Steve Nash.
Nash won it back-to-back.
Unless it’s a Razzie, winning an award two years in a row is a Michael Clark Duncan-sized achievement (sorry for using a Lakers fan as a comparison). Tom Hanks won the best actor Oscar in back-to-back years for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Those two performances single-handedly made us forget about his cross-dressing days on television in Bosom Buddies and more importantly made him one of the best actors of our generation.
Nash’s back-to-back MVP seasons helped redefine the point guard position in the NBA. What had become a score-first and me-first position was transformed into a distribution center on par with the US Postal Service. Those two season by themselves made Suns fans forget about the point guard’s jaunt to Dallas and made him one of the best players in his generation.
A point guard’s job is to run the offense and get everyone else involved. Five different times in his career Nash has accomplished that better than anyone else in the NBA. It’s something KJ failed to do even once in his career.
Despite Johnson having the highest single-season average in assists by a Sun (12.2), Nash has averaged over 11 assists three more times as a Sun than him. The questions becomes, would you rather be Sir Mix-A-Lot or Sir Paul McCartney? (OK, it’s not a fair analogy, but it gets the point across.) One season doesn’t make a career and over his time in Phoenix, Nash has had a higher assist average than any of his contemporaries.
Despite being a child of the 1990s, knowing more about Saved By The Bell than Hell’s Bells and the 1992-93 Suns being my first love, the statistics prove it. Steve Nash is the best point guard of all-time in Phoenix. There’s five strong reasons to back it up.