No matter how you slice it, the Los Angeles Lakers added one of the league’s best point guards this summer. The Lakers shouldn’t care if Steve Nash is still considered a top-five point guard in this league, because he’s a colossal upgrade over the likes of Derek Fisher and Ramon Sessions.
Even so, the question remains. Is the 38-year-old Nash still a top-five NBA point guard?
Back in April, I wrote an article ranking the top 15 point guards in the NBA. At the time, Nash squeaked in at No. 5 on the list past other worthy candidates. However, now that Nash will be 39 years old by season’s end, is moving to a new offensive system for the first time in nearly a decade and will continue to see decreased minutes to ensure he stays healthy, his spot at No. 5 is far from safe.
Offensively speaking, Nash is still one of the best in the game. He consistently makes all of his teammates better, ranks near the top of the league in assists per game and shoots a high percentage from everywhere on the court.
Additionally, Nash averaged a miniscule 0.8 turnovers while ball-handling last season. That number, along with other interesting stats, helped rank Nash second on a list of the NBA’s best ball-handlers, according to Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Adam Fromal.
Nash is still a dynamic offensive talent, but last season Nash shot 39 percent from three-point range. That was his lowest shooting percentage from beyond the arc since 1999 (his first season in Dallas). This could be attributed to Nash’s age and nagging soreness in his back, which has been an issue throughout his career.
From an offensive standpoint, Nash’s numbers are primarily positive. On defense, however, Nash’s game leaves a lot to be desired.
Unlike notorious NBA pickpockets like Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo, Nash rarely comes up with steals. His steals-per-turnovers ratio of 0.17 ranked him 100th in the league…among point guards.
That lowly ranking doesn’t even include players at other positions. The only point guard with a worse ratio than Nash who also played more than 20 games was Cory Higgins of the Charlotte Bobcats.
Basketball is a two-way sport. You can be successful by being great on one end and poor on another (a la Ben Wallace and Nash), but "top-five" players are ultimately guys who can perform on both ends.
Yes, Nash is a former two-time MVP and one of the best offensive point guards ever to play the game. However, his defense often does more harm than good. He is simply incapable of defending against quicker guards, and as a result, Nash is often forced to guard the opposing team’s worst offensive player.
When healthy, the top four point guards in the NBA are Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and Deron Williams in some order.
Now that Russell Westbrook has another year of experience under his belt, he’s poised to vault himself into the top five and knock Nash off the pedestal. Westbrook still endures a lot of grief for his sometimes overly aggressive play style, but he’s worlds better on defense when compared with Nash, and his offensive game is more explosive and athletic. That doesn’t necessarily make his offensive game better, just different.
Also, the San Antonio Spurs’ Tony Parker should get some recognition following arguably the best season of his career. He led a Spurs team with an aging Tim Duncan and an injured Manu Ginobili to 50 wins during a 66-game season, which is a huge testament to his talents.
Youngsters Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio still have areas where they need to improve, but they’re knocking on the door to be considered among the league’s best.
So is Nash still a top-five NBA point guard? You could make an argument either way, but when you account for all-around basketball game, Nash’s defense hinders him greatly.
He may no longer be in the top five in my mind, but he’s still top 10 without question.
Top five or not, Nash is the best point guard the Lakers have seen in a long, long time.