Steve Nash: A Champion In Disguise?
Its been almost three weeks now since the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship and over a month since Steve Nash and the rest of his Suns teammates left the floor of the U.S. Airways Center feeling the heartache of another stinging playoff loss.
Only this loss was different, when the Lakers eliminated Phoenix from the 2010 NBA Playoffs last May in six hard fought games, Nash took his place a top a record no player wants.
With 118 career playoff games under his belt, no one in NBA history has played more playoff games without reaching an NBA Finals. But before you call him overrated, or try to discredit his two MVP trophies, take a look at what Nash has done in the postseason.
Some of his career playoff averages that stand out over the past decade are his forty percent three-point shooting, ninety percent free-throw shooting, and his near nine assists per game.
But to give Nash a proper playoff grade we must dig deeper. We must dissect his playoff career and decide which numbers mean more than others.
First, let us take a look at Nash's longevity. Twice he has played twenty playoff games in a single postseason, in 2003 and 2006. On both occasions Nash led his team to the Conference Finals only to lose in six games each time.
Even times when Nash played fewer than twenty games his teams still made deep playoff runs, making the Western Conference Finals four times in his career, the latest being this past 2010 postseason.
One of those seasons, the 2005 campaign with the Suns, was arguably one of his best postseasons. Nash logged career playoff highs in minutes played (40.7), field-goal percentage (52%), and points per game (23.9). Throw in over eleven assists per game and ninety-two percent free-throw shooting and those fifteen games rank among the best of any point guard in NBA history.
Next we will look at how well Nash involves his teammates in the playoffs. And nothing stands out more than Nash's double digit assist averages four out the past five postseasons, including over thirteen per game in 2007.
Not to mention the Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire pick and roll game has been one of the most efficient tandems in the NBA over the past six years, serving as a cornerstone to the Phoenix offense since Nash signed with the Suns back in 2004.
We can also look at where Nash ranks among the all-time NBA assist leaders, currently he ranks eighth on the list behind Gary Payton and Isiah Thomas, both of which he could pass next season for sixth all-time.
Finally, we must look at the most important statistic in judging whether one is "clutch" or not, their record in a series deciding game, or simply, the Game 7.
Since 2001, Nash is an astounding 5-0 in series deciding games, including a Game 5 road win over the Utah Jazz in the first round of the 2001 playoffs.
However, this aspect of Nash's career has often been overlooked, since he has failed to reach the NBA Finals in eleven postseason tries.
So it seems as if we can conclude that Nash will ultimately make his way into the Hall of Fame regardless of what happens next. But it feels good to know that one of the most influential players in NBA history was a little more than just a flashy wrap-around pass behind Tim Duncan, or a one-legged runner in the paint over Shaq.
Steve Nash, not your typical NBA superstar, a little undersized, a little unlucky, but you would be hard-pressed to find a champion in any sport with a resume and a game equal to Nash's.
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