Steve Nash: The League's Third-Best Player

Joseph EdmondsonCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2010

SAN ANTONIO - MAY 07:  Guard Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns takes a shot against Antonio McDyess #34 of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on May 7, 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

If I were to give you a list of best players, would it include LeBron James?

What about Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant?

Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul surely could be on the list as well.

If those five players ended up on that list, would you agree with the merits used to create the list? I realize you could debate the order, of course, but if they’re all ranked using the same formula, it’s just a matter of numbers.

What if I told you all of those players were in the top ten? Hopefully you’d wonder who else made the top ten.

Admittedly, I’ve played with different ways to analyze statistics for some time. I’ve asked for help from Bleacher Report contributors and personal friends. I’ve even used my gut which may be mistaken. The truth is that this list isn’t ridiculous if you agree with those five players I first mentioned being on top.

The problem is the order and the placement of the other players I haven’t mentioned. For instance, if I told you Steve Nash was the third-best player in the league using that same formula, I’m sure you’d disagree. You’d be up in arms. You’d tell me he’s not even the best point guard. He doesn’t play defense or rebound. How in the hell…and so on.

If I told you Tim Duncan was on the list, some of you would say he’s too old, too slow, and way past his prime. He’s there because of the same formula that placed LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as numbers one and two.

So, you’ll disagree with this list, no doubt, but you’ll have personal reasons for doing so, in my opinion.

1. LeBron James

2. Dwyane Wade

3. Steve Nash

4. Chris Paul

5. Kevin Durant

6. Chris Bosh

7. Carmelo Anthony

8. Kobe Bryant

9. Tim Duncan

10. Dwight Howard

Now, so you don’t think this list is subjective on my part, you need to understand how it pains me that Kobe’s not higher, that Howard’s even on this list, and that Deron Williams didn’t make it. You need to understand that I’ve never seen Bosh as a top player (partially because I know nothing of him). You need to understand that the ranking is based on a formula, applied equally to all of them and taken to a per-minute basis so that elite players like Chris Paul are not robbed thanks to injuries.

Now comes the hard part, if you’re even still reading. What kind of formula did I use to create such a bad list? And, yeah, it’s bad. Someone told me it was ridiculous, a laugh, that someone needed to make sense of it. Well, let the debate begin.

I began with the top forty players based on PER. This limited amount may seem to take some of the credibility from this list but, let’s be honest, do you care who the 41st best player in the NBA is?

Once I had my starting pool, I used data from,, and to provide basic stats (minutes, points, rebounds, etc.), defensive stats (charges, for example), and special stats (assisted-field goal percentages).

Next, I tallied totals for three categories; offense, defense, and negatives. When I got the sum of these three categories, I divided it by the number of minutes each player had played and multiplied that by 48. The results were the list above.

Now it’s time to look at how I determined offense, defense, and negatives.


Scoring, scoring, and scoring. What makes a scorer? Points, made field goals, assists, and point contribution. I tally two-points made, three-points made, free-throws made, unassisted points, assists with point-credit (a 1.7 multiplier based on league averages), difference between expected points and actual points, and offensive rebounds. This allows scorers, passers, and rebounders to get credit for what they do offensively.

While some may argue against using unassisted points, the balance comes when you award players points for each type of field goal. As far as point-credits for assists, assists are the only statistical category other than points to actually account for points 100 percent of the time. You cannot say the same for offensive rebounds, or any of the “defensive” categories.

When using expected points as part of the formula, you find out which players are contributing more or less than they’re expected to based on league averages. This statistic is evidence of smart shot selection and reliable scoring.


Less tangible than I would like, I measure defense in the same way that does; defensive boards, steals, blocks, and charges. These are all scored on a one-to-one basis for each player. A strong defensive player will receive a lot of credit for the numbers, though I realize that some great defenders are hidden because they don’t steal the ball or rebound, they just stay in a scorer’s face and throw him off his game. These are the players who normally go without recognition until they’re in the playoffs, shutting down an opponent.


Some people won’t agree with using personal fouls (which are used strategically at times) and turnovers as a way to subtract from a player’s game. I disagree. Fouling out doesn’t help a team. Giving free points to an opponent doesn’t help a team. And, most certainly, turning the ball over does not help a team.

There you have the categories. [((Offense + Defense – Negatives) / Minutes Played) x 48] is the actual formula.

Though I’d love to include a measure of durability (such as games and minutes played), this would be unfair to players who were injured during the season or played limited minutes for injury management.

When expanded upon, using durability (which will drop Paul) and a player’s shooting ability and clutch scoring, the revamped list is a little different.

1. LeBron James

2. Dwyane Wade

3. Steve Nash

4. Kevin Durant

5. Dwight Howard

6. Tim Duncan

7. Chris Bosh

8. Dirk Nowitzki

9. Kobe Bryant

10. Amar’e Stoudemire

This list shows players who showed up all year and were able to perform in clutch situations. Is the list still ridiculous? Laughable? Make no sense? That’s up to you.

The entire list of 40, in order based on per-minute production: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Tyreke Evans, Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki, Derrick Rose, Brandon Roy, Chauncey Billups, Pau Gasol, Amar’e Stoudemire, Deron Williams, Zach Randolph, David Lee, Corey Maggette, Kevin Love, Al Jefferson, Andrew Bogut, Baron Davis, Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer, Danny Granger, Rajon Rondo, Andre Miller, Jamal Crawford, Brook Lopez, Andrew Bynum, Russell Westbrook, Luke Ridnour, Josh Smith, Paul Pierce, Carl Landry, and Marc Gasol.

This list, and analysis, doesn’t really matter when it comes to getting a championship, obviously, but it is useful for player evaluation and bar-stool debate.

Now, let me go laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.


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