Are Steve Nash and Pau Gasol Still Top 5 Players at Their Respective Positions?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer ISeptember 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 10:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns chases a loose ball against Pau Gasol #16 and Steve Blake #5 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 10, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 99-83. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Once Dwight Howard is finally healthy he will join one of the most formidable lineups in NBA history, one that features three other players who will likely join Howard one day in the league's Hall of Fame.

Los Angeles Lakers guards Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant are probably first-ballot members of the Hall and forward Gasol may not make it in his first bid, but considering his NBA and international success an argument can certainly be formed in his favor.

Based solely on history and reputation the 2012-13 Lakers should be one of the greatest teams to ever grace an NBA court, if you believe the league's newest super team still has the type of relevance that their legacies suggest.

Bryant and Howard unquestionably remain among the top five players at their position, and the high opinion of each player is well deserved, even though there are few others to measure Howard and Bryant against.

In fact Bryant and Howard can arguably lay claim to the top players at their respective positions, and each have the numbers to bolster their claims.

Some people like to say that Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat has surpassed Bryant as the NBA's top shooting guard, but that's only true if you worship at the altar of John Hollinger's PER system.

Player Efficiency Rankings are certainly good metrics if you are consumed by the technical aspects of the game, but for those who actually watch the drama unfold on the court the simple formula of points, rebounds and assists per game might be a little more helpful.

Wade may have been a little more efficient than Bryant, but how hard is that when you play sidekick to LeBron James, who just might be the most efficient player in the game, and a major portion of your own season is spent on the injured list?

Bryant averaged more points and rebounds per game than Wade and the same number of assists, but more impressively he was also the NBA's leader in points, rebounds and assists from the guard position.

And not just shooting guards either.

Bryant ranked first in a category that was completed by Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul in the top five which resonates since those four players just might be the top four point guards in the NBA.

The formula mentioned above suggests that Bryant is not only the NBA's top shooting guard, but he is also the game's most productive guard period.

Of course that recipe can be countered by Hollinger's PER system and numerous other subjective statistics that can be used to build an argument, but none of them will ever add up to Kobe being less than the second best shooting guard in the NBA.

And it doesn't matter what formula you use when it comes to Howard because he will be the NBA's top center regardless of opinion, theory or metric.

Sure, you may think Bynum is a better traditional center than Howard but he doesn't have the same commanding presence in the paint, he doesn't use his body as well and Howard trumps Bynum in every numerical category that counts besides free-throw percentage.

Howard and Bryant more than qualify for the title of two of the top five players at their positions, if not the NBA, but can their less-heralded star teammates make the same claim?

Even at 38, Nash is still considered to be one of the top point guards in the game, but most observers rank him behind Paul, Williams, Westbrook, Rondo and Rose.

Unfortunately, Rose has bowed out of the conversation for now due to the uncertainty surrounding his knee injury, and while Nash statistically trails Paul and Williams, his numbers compare very favorably with Rondo's.

Nash and Rondo were the only players in the NBA to average double figure points and assists, but Nash's 53 percent from the field actually led all guards with more than 12 shot attempts.

Twelve points, 10.7 assists and 53 percent shooting from the field are good numbers, but they look even better beside Gasol's equally subtle, but daunting numbers.

Gasol averaged 17 points, more than 10 rebounds and shot better than 50 percent from the field as the Lakers third option in 2012, yet he still managed to rank second in the NBA in double-doubles with 42 in 66 games.

Gasol also dished out more assists per game than any other power forward besides Josh Smith and he was fifth in efficiency among all the league's forwards.

Bryant and Howard will probably garner most of the attention entering the 2012-13 regular season, and based on their various accomplishments it's well deserved, but it would be silly to sleep on their equally effective teammates.

Nash and Gasol may not get the same top billing as their "A" list Hollywood mates but they may be just as important to the Lakers success, and they may be just as dominant at their positions as Howard and Bryant are at theirs.