Who Is The Most Skilled NBA Player? Hint: It's Not Kobe Or LeBron.

Jacob HarrisContributor IMay 10, 2010

SAN ANTONIO - MAY 09:  Guard Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns at the free throw line after receiving six stitches to his eye against the San Antonio Spurs in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on May 9, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Steve Nash is the most skilled basketball player to ever put on an NBA uniform. And it's not even close.  

Watching the Suns close out the San Antonio Spurs last night, I could not help but marvel at how Steve Nash controls every aspect of the offensive end of the court for Phoenix.

Even when Amare Stoudemire scores on isolation plays, Nash directs the other three guys to make sure Stoudemire has the room he needs to operate or one of the shooters gets a wide-open look.

I have never seen anyone like him. As hard as it is to make the case that a two-time MVP is under-appreciated, Nash is incredibly under-rated.

Plenty of people have (sometimes begrudgingly) come to the realization that the diminutive point guard is the greatest shooter of all-time.

Professor John Hollinger of ESPN has used his own  combined shooting rating to establish the distance between Nash and the second best shooters in NBA history.

While the fact that Nash has finished seasons with a 50 percent field goal percentage, 40 percent three-point percentage and 90 percent from the free throw line five times has convinced most other basketball fans .

But this doesn’t even begin to tell the story.

Nash has also led…the three greatest offenses since the NBA began tracking turnovers .

Just looking at this year’s Phoenix Suns roster, and their stats will show you how his play-making abilities raise the level of play by every other person on the court.

Jason Richardson, a career 43.3 percent field goal shooter before Nash, is shooting 48.1 percent since joining the Suns. Jared Dudley was shooting a Chris Dudley-esque 29.8 percent from the three-point line in other cities, but has scorched opponents at 42.6 percent with the Suns.

Channing Frye looked to be on his way out of the NBA in his last two years in Portland, but he risen from the ashes since arriving in Phoenix (pun intended) by elevating his three-point shooting from 28.3 percent to 43.9 percent.

And the old man, Grant Hill, hit 43.8 percent from deep this season, which was 9.1 percent higher than his previous career high.

If you need any more evidence, simply follow the career (and waistline) of Quentin Richardson.

But even that doesn’t completely encompass the breadth of what Nash does on the court.

He is also, arguably, the best player in the league at using his off-hand around the rim and in the lane.

The thing he can do with his off-hand, most NBA players can’t do with their dominant hand.

The only other guy in the league that can even approach Nash’s ambidexterity is Kobe Bryant, but he has the advantage of being able to jump over defenders and choose the angles he wants to use for his release.

Nash has to take whatever angles are left by the shot blockers and work around them. 

I’m not going to bore you by spending any more time reviewing Nash’s qualities because that has been done elsewhere by several more talented and much more resourceful writers.

So, back to the point I am making. Steve Nash is the most skilled basketball player to ever lace them up.

Now before you spit your energy drink all over the computer screen, hear me out.

When I say "most skilled," I do mean that he is the most effective, valuable or dominating player ever I simply mean that his skill set is better than anyone else’s.

For example, I would make the case that Bill Russell was the most valuable center in NBA history, but Hakeem Olajuwon was, undoubtedly, the most skilled center anyone has ever seen.

In that same vein, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are almost unanimously considered to be the two best players in the world right now, but that argument is misleading.

While best may be an accurate description by the Merriam-Webster definition, the connotation of the word “best” implies that you are measuring skill when that is not actually the case. You are, rather, measuring results so the question of which player has the most skill goes unanswered.

Neither of them is anywhere near Nash as far as shooting ability and, while LeBron is a phenomenal passer, Kobe has not passed yet in his career, so there is no way for us to know if he can pass as well as Nash.

Imagine what the little Canadian could do if he had LeBron’s body for a day. And, conversely, how many of those patented fade-aways would Kobe Bryant make if he was 6’3”?  

And that size, or lack thereof, for Nash is the reason he is not an effective defender. Notice, I didn’t say that he is “not a good defender,” because he is sound defensively but he is just not gifted enough athletically to keep some of the best athletes on the planet from scoring.

When the opponent can just jump over you, it really doesn’t matter how well you play on defense.

As a Houston Rockets fan, I would give anything to see Trevor Ariza play defense the way Stave Nash does.

Houston may have been the team losing to the Lakers in the first round this season if Ariza had the same fundamentals that Nash possesses.  

So, to reiterate, Kobe and LeBron are the most effective, dominating, result-producing, etc. players in the league, but they are definitely not the most skilled.

Let’s just hope his skill can overcome the superior athleticism of Kobe and the gigantic Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.