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2010 NBA Playoffs: Steve Nash Is a Great Point Guard, but His Game Is Flawed

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2010 NBA Playoffs: Steve Nash Is a Great Point Guard, but His Game Is Flawed
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

At 36, Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash looks as energetic and fresh as he ever did, and his guidance has the Suns firmly in the chase to capture their first Western Conference crown since 1993.

One of the more amazing things about Nash is his ability to play the game at a high tempo for a long period of time without visibly succumbing to the winds of age.

Nash has, without question, established himself as one of the premier guards in the history of the game, but the theory that he is the NBA's best point guard this year fails to carry weight.

It's hard to match Nash in terms of his offensive abilities, but there are guards who are better, and in terms of defensive presence, Nash can't hold a torch to some of the league's other elite point guards.

It would be a stretch to say Nash is even the best point guard in the West, considering the conference is also home to Utah's Deron Williams and New Orleans' Chris Paul.

Williams and Paul are generally viewed as the NBA's standard at point guard, and especially in the case of Williams, it would be hard to place Nash ahead of them.

Most of Paul's season was lost to injury, but Williams was having the best postseason of any point guard before the Jazz were eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the semifinals.

Williams has a height, size, and strength advantage over Nash, but he is much better on the defensive end of the court as well, and he is able to play the game at various tempos.

Nash's preference for a frenetic pace is well documented, and it often masks his struggles when faced with the proposition of playing in the half court.

Nash has had the privilege of playing his entire career for Dallas and Phoenix, which were two teams that thrived at an uptempo game and regularly disregarded defense.

Defense is the key with Nash, because even though he is regarded as a great point guard, his lack of interest on the defensive end has led to a reputation he will never be able to escape.

A prime example is last night's loss to the Lakers, where Nash had his best offensive game of the series with 29 points, but so did Derek Fisher, who scored a playoff-high 22 points.

Fisher is past his prime and can usually only be counted on for timely scores, but being defended by Nash brought out the best in him, and that is the same problem Nash faces when defending any opponent.

It's a reality of Nash's game, and no matter how many points he scores or assists he dishes out, his defensive deficiencies prevent him from being mentioned in the same breath as players like Williams.

An argument can be made for Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics, as both guards are better physical talents and more complete floor leaders.

This by no means diminishes what Nash has accomplished throughout his career, because his 14.6 points per game and 8.3 assists over a span of 14 seasons is impressive.

Likewise, Nash's two league MVP awards and his record as a winner in the regular season speak volumes to his legacy, but his fundamental flaws still leave him a step below the game's best, past or present.

Nash's accomplishments pale next to the achievements of past NBA greats like Magic Johnson and John Stockton, and his present contributions hold no weight when compared to a player like Williams.

I have always admired Nash for his toughness, flair, and love for the game, but it's hard to place him among the NBA's top point guards when his defense constantly holds him back.

 

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