December 19, 2013
December 19, 2013
December 19, 2013
December 18, 2013
Ben Leibowitz has been writing for Bleacher Report since November 2011, primarily as a featured columnist for the NBA.
He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Arizona in May 2013 (Bear Down!) with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, a minor in Spanish and a thematic minor in science/science journalism.
His favorite teams are the Phoenix Suns, Boston Red Sox, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Wildcats and Phoenix Coyotes.
You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenLebo (https://twitter.com/BenLebo) for sports opinions and miscellaneous nonsense.
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Telfair or Livingston?
Yeah, but Livingston still is 28, so maybe if he gets a chance to start?
Hey Ben, u think Shaun Livingston would be an all-star rut now if he did not get injured?
Also, Sebastian Telfair needs to get time.
Butt hurt Sun's fan. No wonder you hate the Lakers. Stop writing about them then.
Hey Ben ive started a new blog site where ill be regularly posting articles about the NBA would love it if you could check it out and share it around!
Also, Dan Majerle played very well in the 1993 NBA Finals, but to call his numbers in that series "astounding" is a little laughable. Additionally, his defense on Jordan proved so ineffective that the Suns eventually moved Majerle off Jordan as his primary assignment.
By the way, back in 2007, Mike D'Antoni claimed that Charles Barkley had "choked away championships" with the Suns. The line proved harsh, but when one examines the facts (and I presented many of them), one would be hard-pressed to disagree. Indeed, Jerry Colangelo, Phoenix's CEO during the Barkley years, later stated that Barkley's carousing had cost the Suns "Two championships," which doesn't even include Barkley's two substandard offensive games and defensive liabilities during the 1993 NBA Finals.
So if one offers the spurious argument that Kevin Johnson choked away the 1993 championship, then one would frankly need to argue that Charles Barkley choked away the 1993, 1994, and 1995 championships.
By the way, let me also note John "Hot Rod" Williams did eventually give the Suns the kind of interior defense that they had anticipated. However, that level of performance took a few months to emerge because prior to his trade to Phoenix, Williams had been involved in a car accident that had injured his back and caused nerve damage to his leg. Over his last 17 regular season games of the '95-'96 season, however, Williams averaged 10.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.6 blocked shots, shooting .511 from the field and .792 from the free throw line.
Williams started slowly the next season, too, when he missed the first 12 games of the '96-'97 campaign. But once again, the car accident was at fault: Williams required the surgical removal of a metal shard stuck inside his foot, a metal shard that almost certainly stemmed from that car accident where he'd been rammed from behind. And once again, he eventually rebounded to make major contributions: in his final 25 regular season games that season, he averaged 10.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocked shots, and a .596 field goal percentage, providing the interior anchor on a team that was otherwise overflowing with guards (a rookie Steve Nash hardly played and Phoenix frequently featured a four-guard offense with Kevin Johnson, Jason Kidd, Rex Chapman, and Wesley Person). Indeed, until Williams returned that season, the Suns had not won a single game, going 0-12 without him (although Kevin Johnson also missed the first eleven games, while veteran banger Mark Bryant missed all twelve).
Certainly, the car accident and its lingering aftereffects diminished Williams' overall level of performance in Phoenix but I think that one should at least mention the calamity in order to give him a fair shake. Furthermore, I'd say that the trade's results were at least ambiguous rather than clearly negative, for as I've shown, Williams eventually rebounded to give the Suns the kind of performance that they were looking for. In those two seasons, '95-'96 and '96-'97, Phoenix struggled defensively, respectively ranking twenty-third and twentieth in Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions). But Williams' presence prevented the Suns from being bottom-of-the-barrel defensively and thus allowed Phoenix to remain competitive and reach the playoffs both years. Ultimately, the Suns proved happy enough with Williams that they re-signed him as a free agent to a one-year, $4.55M contract after the 1997 season, even though he was turning thirty-five that summer. Overall, Phoenix had gone 0-14 (.000) without Williams that season and 40-28 (.588) with him, proving his importance to the club. Granted, K.J. missed eleven of the fourteen games that Williams missed, while Bryant missed thirteen of the fourteen games, so there was some overlapping in terms of injuries. The point, though, is that one shudders to think what would have become of the Suns' defense in those years without Williams because they proved so thin at center, hence the reason why Phoenix traded Majerle for him in the first place.
By the way, advanced metrics such as Win Shares, PER, and Defensive Rating are unreliable. According to Win Shares and PER (the latter of which incorrectly applies team pace factors to individual players, among other flaws), Amare Stoudemire usually constituted a more valuable player than Steve Nash. Do you believe that absurdity? And Defensive Rating fails to properly disentangle an individual defender's value from that of his team context, while making too much of simplistic defensive statistics such as defensive rebounds. If you really believe that Rodney Rogers amounted to the ninth-best defensive player in franchise history, then you badly need to start thinking critically about advanced metrics, which represent contrived, flawed, inherently biased formulas of varying and dubious value. As I was saying about Defensive Rating, Rogers only ranks so highly because in his two full seasons in Phoenix ('99-'00 and '00-'01), the Suns placed third and second in team Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions), respectively. One could argue that Rogers possessed something to do with those results, but at best, he was only the third-best defensive forward on those teams, trailing Clifford Robinson and Shawn Marion. More likely, Rogers was just in the right place at the right time in terms of his Defensive Rating. Indeed, you might note that the only time that his individual Defensive Rating proved extremely low in his career (under 100) was when he played for truly elite defensive teams in Phoenix and New Jersey, but never in any of his other NBA stops with the Nuggets, Clippers, Celtics, Hornets, and 76ers. So advanced metrics need to be scrutinized, rather than just being copied out of Basketball-Reference as if they necessarily mean anything.
I would also suggest that you make too much of 'individual accolades,' which often reflect hype, reputation, and subjective fallacies rather than critical analysis and empirical evidence. For instance, Kevin Johnson was arguably the second-best guard in the entire NBA in '96-'97 behind only Michael Jordan, yet he failed to receive a berth on any of the All-NBA Teams. Such honors can easily be debated and thus negated in many cases, and they should be interpreted with a healthy dose of skepticism and critical thinking.
For example, Amare Stoudemire's 'awards and accolades' aren't as meaningful as they suggest. He was not one of the best players in Suns' history; he may have been one of the most decorated, and he was certainly one of the most hyped, and he certainly posted some impressive scoring numbers, inflated by Mike D'Antoni's pick-and-roll-on-steroids system. But Stoudemire constituted one of the most abysmal defensive big men in the game, he was a lackluster rebounder (his rebounding averages don't begin to suggest all the rebounds that he allowed by failing to box out), and his inadequate passing and decision-making can be seen in the fact that as a Sun, he recorded 2.7 times more turnovers than assists in the playoffs. Indeed, in the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals against San Antonio, Stoudemire passed for 1 assist in the entire series! As opposed to being one of the best players in Suns' history, Stoudemire was merely one of the best assisted finishers, a zero sum player and a one-trick pony.
As for Jason Kidd, he actually never led the Suns to a playoff series victory; when Phoenix defeated San Antonio in the 2000 First Round, Kidd missed 75 percent of the games. And the Suns choosing to jettison him shouldn't be that shocking, nor did his trade simply or solely stem from his domestic violence arrest. Aside from the fluky, 50-game, lockout-shortened 1999 season, Kidd had never run an efficient offense without Kevin Johnson (a far superior point guard, by the way, irrespective of the hype and reputation that seem to hold undue influence upon your analysis). In fact, in Kidd's final season in Phoenix, '00-'01, the Suns ranked just twenty-second in the NBA in Offensive Rating (points scored per 100 possessions), dead-last among the sixteen playoff teams. Their Kidd-led offense often seemed impotent or emasculated, and produced a dreary style along with disappointing playoff results. Moreover, one could argue that the point guard whom Phoenix traded Kidd for, Stephon Marbury, was actually a more talented player. He was certainly a more talented scorer and shooter, and at twenty-four, he proved four years younger than Kidd. By trading for Marbury, Phoenix felt that it would be acquiring a much-needed scorer while also buying time due to Marbury's youth. Marbury did not turn out to be the answer, but neither was Kidd; neither point guard proved efficient enough to be the best offensive player on a genuine contender in the Western Conference (the mediocre East of that era represented a different story, as Kidd would prove in New Jersey). As an '04-'05 NBA preview magazine wrote, "Steve Nash is the answer at the point. He'll be the best point guard the Suns have had since Kevin Johnson."
Indeed, the lack of affection from the Phoenix fan base for Jason Kidd stems as much from Kidd's tough-to-watch inefficiency (both as a scorer and in terms of the offenses that he ran) as from his off-court troubles and the lack of postseason success.
Also, why were the Stoudemire years "arguably the most competitive era of Suns basketball," when from 1989-1995, Kevin Johnson's first seven full seasons in Phoenix, the Suns won the most regular-season games (394) and the second-most playoff games (46, trailing only Chicago)? How were the Stoudemire years any more competitive than those K.J. years, especially when Phoenix never reached the NBA Finals with Stoudemire (or Nash)? Indeed, the difference is that in K.J.'s first five full seasons in Phoenix (1989-1993), the Suns not only ranked in the top-five in Offensive Rating each year, but also in the top-nine in Defensive Rating each season. Conversely, while the Nash/Stoudemire clubs excelled offensively, Phoenix has not not finished better than thirteenth in Defensive Rating since 2003 and has not ranked in the top-ten since 2001.
You actually thought that K.J., one of the greatest guards to ever play the game, could be as low as sixth? Clearly, you're speaking from a position of ignorance here.
K.J.'s lack of durability primarily stemmed not from his aggressiveness, but from him playing four seasons ('92-'93 through '95-'96) with an undiagnosed sports hernia (a tear in his abdominal wall), including two undiagnosed sports hernias by January 1996. Even so, he averaged 19.8 points, 10.0 assists, and a .497 field goal percentage over the span of nine seasons from 1989-1997. In the history of the NBA, only Magic Johnson has matched or surpassed those rates in all three categories over that long a time period.
And K.J. did not "choke" in the 1993 NBA Finals overall. He may have choked in the first two games (by the way, he fouled out of Game Two delivering an intentional foul when the game was virtually over), but then, MVP power forward Charles Barkley shot below .390 from the field in two of the six games, too (Games One and Six). In the fourth quarter of Game Six at home, Barkley shot 2-7 from the field (0-5 off isolation moves or post-ups) and blundered defensively by foolishly gambling for a steal on Chicago's final possession, thus sparking the chain reaction that led to John Paxson's wide-open, championship-winning three-pointer. Indeed, the Suns came home after winning two of three games in Chicago and possessed a great chance to force a Game Seven in Phoenix, but Barkley delivered a dud of an offensive performance (almost all his non-point blank shots fell way short and he forced shots frequently), sealed by his defensive calamity. So if K.J. "choked," then Barkley might have "choked" worse. Besides, over the final four games of that series, K.J. played remarkably well, scoring at least 19 points in all four games and recording at least 8 assists in three of them. Indeed, early in Game Six, NBC's Marv Albert stated that K.J. had "redeemed" his poor performances in Games One and Two during the three contests in Chicago. Then in Game Six back at home, K.J. delivered 19 points, 10 assists, and 5 rebounds. Moreover, he constituted the primary defender on Michael Jordan in Games Three, Five, and Six, and as a result, Phoenix's team defense held up much better. The Suns won Games Three and Five in Chicago and were on the verge of winning Game Six before Barkley's blunder. If you're going to take your cues from a fake journalist such as Bill Simmons (as Doc Rivers has stated, Simmons is a "fan" who isn't really qualified to merit his status), then you're going to be drowning yourself in fallacies. The truth of the matter is that Barkley was pretty much as bad as K.J. in Game One of the 1993 NBA Finals, Sir Charles failed to come through in Game Six, and the Suns indeed could have come back against Jordan's Bulls after dropping the first two games. Regardless of Simmons' mindless cliche about "nobody ... beating MJ in four out of five games during Jordan’s apex," the Suns were on the verge of forcing a Game Seven of the NBA Finals at home in Phoenix, and no home team has lost a Game Seven of the NBA Finals since 1979. So the Suns could have won the series despite losing the first two games at home, and may have won if Barkley hadn't "choked" in Game Six.
Indeed, K.J.'s heroics overwhelm his struggles in the 1993 NBA Finals. In Game Three, K.J. played the first 62 minutes and 40 seconds without a break, never exiting the game until the Suns had wrapped up the contest in the third overtime on the road. He established an NBA Finals record for the most minutes played, and he did so while dogging Jordan defensively, forcing M.J. to attempt 43 field goals in order to score 44 points. For his part, K.J. posted 25 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. You also might want to give the Bulls' brilliant pick-and-roll defense some credit for K.J.'s struggles in the first two games. Even so, he adjusted and then shined throughout the remainder of the series. Indeed, from Game Three on, Johnson probably amounted to Phoenix's most consistent performer, and he wasn't the sole reason why the Suns dropped the first two games at home. In Game One, Phoenix's inexperience relative to Chicago showed, and Barkley especially struggled, needing 25 field goal attempts to score just 21 points. In Game Two, Barkley rebounded offensively with 42 points, but he allowed opposing power forward Horace Grant to score a then-playoff career-high 24 points on 10-13 field goal shooting, thus negating some of Barkley's offensive impact. Indeed, you can't just scan one dubious, biased source (Bill Simmons) and think that you understand everything at stake.
You don't mention how K.J. performed after Game Two of the NBA Finals, nor do you mention Barkley's two substandard performances in that series. You don't mention that overall, K.J. constituted one of the great clutch players of his era or of all-time, as seen in Game Three of that series when the Suns' backs were truly against the wall on the road in Chicago. You don't mention how in May 1998, the "Sporting News" named K.J. to its All-Playoffs Second Team for the decade of the 1990s (alongside Isiah Thomas at guard, behind Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler on the First Team). You fail to mention how in the history of Game Sevens among players who have played in at least three such games, K.J. ranks fourth all-time in points per game at 31.0 (trailing only LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and George Gervin) and is tied for fourth all-time (with Steve Nash) in assists per game at 10.0 (trailing only Magic Johnson, John Stockton, and Bob Cousy). Indeed, the history of the NBA suggests (by that measure, at least) that no one has combined scoring and playmaking in the clutch like Kevin Johnson.
Furthermore, you fail to mention how over the last twenty-eight seasons (through which all the data is available and accessible on-line), only three players have posted at least 35 points and 10 assists in consecutive playoff games: Michael Jordan (twice), Kevin Johnson, and Kobe Bryant. When Bryant did so in the 2010 Western Conference Finals, he became the first player to accomplish the feat since K.J. in 1994, and K.J. is the only player over that stretch to score at least 35 points in two straight playoff games with at least 12 assists in each game. Indeed, in Games Three and Four of the 1994 Western Conference Semifinals against Houston, Kevin Johnson recorded 38 points and 12 assists in each contest (shooting a combined .482 from the field, .600 on threes, and .905 from the free throw line) against the second-ranked defense in the NBA (in terms of Defensive Rating, or points allowed per 100 possessions). Overall in that series, he averaged 26.6 points and 9.7 assists (should have been 9.9 assists, but the official scorer in Houston robbed K.J. of an assist in Game Seven). The next season versus Houston in the 1995 Western Conference Semifinals, K.J. proved even better, twice scoring over 40 points with at least 9 assists and only 1 turnover in each of those two games, and overall averaging 27.9 points, 9.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds, a .575 field goal percentage, a .500 three-point field goal percentage, and an .825 free throw percentage in 9.0 free throw attempts per contest. In that series against the defending (and eventual) champions, K.J. buried more three-pointers (5) than he had in the entire regular season (4).
Conversely, Charles Barkley ended up "choking" in both series after the Suns went up two games to none. Over the final five games of the 1994 Western Conference Semifinals against Houston, he failed to reach 20 points three times and averaged just 3.4 free throw attempts per contest. In the second half of Game Three at home in Phoenix, when the Suns possessed a chance to place Houston in a 3-0 choke hold, Barkley responded with 2 points as the Suns lost and lost control of the series. Then over the final five games of the 1995 Western Conference Semifinals, Barkley averaged just 5.6 points in the second halves of the games (including one overtime session). After the Suns won the first two games at home and possessed another chance to place Houston in a 3-0 series choke hold, Barkley responded by shooting 0-10 from the field. After the Suns won Game Four in Houston behind Kevin Johnson's mastery, they came home with a chance to finally finish off the Rockets in Game Five. But in the second half and overtime, Barkley shot 1-13 from the field, and for the game, he shot 1-6 from the free throw line (1-4 in the last couple minutes of regulation), while committing 6 turnovers against only 2 assists. In Game Seven, he recorded 7 more turnovers. Now, Barkley also grabbed 23 rebounds in that game and almost always delivered on the glass, but overall, Kevin Johnson constituted much more of a clutch playoff performer in Phoenix than Barkley.
You note how Magic's Lakers swept K.J.'s Suns in the 1989 Western Conference Finals, but you never mention how K.J.'s Suns turned around and whipped Magic's league-best, 63-win Lakers four games to one in the 1990 Western Conference Semifinals, with K.J. outplaying an MVP Magic in the fourth quarters of multiple games. You fail to mention how Bill Walton later remarked on NBC that “Kevin Johnson ... really came to the top of this league in the 1990 playoffs when he waxed Magic Johnson and the Lakers in the early rounds. Kevin Johnson – and the Suns – taking care of business in 1990, four to one over the Lakers ... Kevin Johnson just totally outplaying Magic."
You mention Paul Westphal's famous prophecy during the 1993 playoffs, but you never note that Westphal later stated that he only made that statement because he could could see that Kevin Johnson's knee was improving. (K.J. had missed Game One due to a sprained left MCL and posted 14 points on 6-10 field goal shooting and 16 assists in Game Two, albeit in a losing effort.) Indeed, without K.J., the 1993 Suns would have been swept out of the playoffs by a 39-win eighth seed.
You give a selective gloss of Charles Barkley's 1993 postseason statistics, without noting that Barkley (remember, an MVP power forward) shot a lackluster .477 from the field in the 1993 playoffs, well down from his regular season rate of .520 that year and actually lower that K.J.'s field goal percentage in that postseason. Indeed, in 24 playoff games in 1993, Barkley shot .429 or lower from the field twelve times, or in half the games! Even so, the Suns won six of those games, thanks largely to Kevin Johnson. Nine times in the 1993 playoffs, or in over one-third of the games, Barkley (almost shockingly) shot .391 from the field or worse. Even so, the Suns won four of those games, thanks largely to Kevin Johnson. In other words, during the 1993 playoffs, Phoenix constituted a break-even team even when Barkley was stumbling and bumbling (or at least struggling and inefficient) from the field. But you don't mention Barkley's erratic play in the 1993 playoffs, including two substandard games in the NBA Finals, and how K.J. helped compensate for it. Instead, you seem to conveniently cherry-pick certain numbers that reflect what seems like a hype-based, predetermined case.
Like Steve Nash and Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson amounted to an elite offensive player. Unlike Nash and Barkley, K.J. was a solid-to-excellent defender, especially during the 1993 playoffs, when his 'shutdown' work on the Lakers' leading scorer, Sedale Threatt, and Seattle's Gary Payton proved instrumental in Phoenix reaching the NBA Finals. Indeed, he was so good defensively that as I mentioned earlier, the Suns eventually assigned K.J. to Michael Jordan despite a height difference of at least four inches, and although no one could stop Jordan, K.J. at least made him work a little harder, think a little more, settle for more jumpers, and allow Phoenix's team defense to function more efficiently. Conversely, Barkley was such a defensive liability that he couldn't even handle the offensively pedestrian Horace Grant, and by Game Three, Phoenix had switched Sir Charles to thirty-five-year old center Bill Cartwright.
Indeed, when you consider defense and game-to-game consistency, Kevin Johnson was probably the Suns' best player in the 1993 playoffs—even if you include the NBA Finals, where (again) Barkley suffered two substandard offensive games and amounted to a defensive liability, as proved brutally on Chicago's final possession of the series. What's amusing is that you list Kevin Johnson as the fourth-best Sun in history, behind three defensive liabilities (or at least three below-average defenders). I guess that you don't appreciate or recognize both sides of the game.
And going back to K.J. being injury-prone, Barkley could be injury-prone, too, for somewhat different reasons. In '93-'94, K.J. played more games than Barkley, and more importantly, Barkley broke down during both the 1994 Western Conference Semifinals versus Houston (straining his groin in the second half of Game Five) and in the 1995 Western Conference Semifinals versus Houston (tearing his meniscus in the second half of Game Six). As a result, he played both Game Sevens of those series with a limp, launched nine three-pointers (only hitting two) over the course of those two contests, and recorded as many total turnovers as assists. Barkley proved injury-prone at the worst times, whereas K.J. averaged 35.5 points and 10.5 assists over the course of those two Game Sevens, shooting 28-29 (.966) from the free throw line and averaging just 2.0 turnovers.
Also, whereas the bulk of K.J.'s missed games stemmed from a fluke circumstance (attempting to lift obese rookie teammate Oliver Miller off the floor during the '92-'93 preseason) and a resultant medical misdiagnosis (he suffered a sports hernia that the doctors initially suspected, but then incorrectly downgraded and never actually discovered for four years), Nash benefited from perhaps the best medical and training staff in professional sports. Indeed, these types of contingencies should be acknowledged and accounted for.
The bottom line is that Kevin Johnson constituted a far superior player than your cherry-picked analysis would suggest. Indeed, the fact that you evidently considered placing him behind grossly inferior players such as Walter Davis and Shawn Marion suggests that you have rarely watched Kevin Johnson play (at least not with an adult, knowledgeable mind) and that you don't really know much about him. K.J. is one of only four players in NBA history, along with Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas, and Magic Johnson, to average at least 20.0 points and 10.0 assists in three different seasons. He is one of only three players in NBA history, along with Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas, to average at least 20.0 points and 10.0 assists in three successive seasons. K.J. is one of only three players in NBA history, along with Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson, to average at least 20.0 points and 12.0 assists in the same season, and along with Thomas, Magic, John Stockton, and Kevin Porter, K.J. is one of only five players to average at least 12.0 assists in any season.
More impressive was his efficiency. K.J. was essentially an efficient version of Isiah Thomas, or as Randy Harvey wrote in the May 16, 1990, edition of the "Los Angeles Times," "Kevin Johnson is the player that Isiah Thomas is supposed to be, the real Pocket Magic." No small guard in the history of the NBA has combined explosiveness and efficiency as well as Kevin Johnson. Indeed, until Chris Paul joined them in '08-'09, the only players in NBA history to have averaged at least 20.0 points, 10.0 assists, and a .500 field goal percentage in the same season were Magic Johnson (who of course relied on height and size more than explosiveness) and Kevin Johnson. They each accomplished the feat twice (they remain the only players with two such seasons under their belts), and K.J. came .001 short on his field goal percentage in '89-'90 from what would have been three successive seasons with at least 20.0 points per game, 10.0 assists per game, and a .500 field goal percentage. Magic and K.J. are still the only players who have ever averaged at least 20.0 points, 10.0 assists, and a .510 field goal percentage in the same season, and in '90-'91, Kevin Johnson became the first player in NBA history to average at least 20.0 points, 10.0 assists, a .500 field goal percentage, and 2.0 steals in the same season. He has since been joined in that regard only by Chris Paul in '08-'09. Paul, however, is not as explosive as K.J. and more significantly, his left hand is mediocre, whereas K.J.'s left hand proved exceptional. Indeed, much like Steve Nash, K.J. was naturally right-handed yet virtually ambidextrous. K.J., however, was far more explosive than Nash, thus proved more overwhelming as a scorer because of his ability to constantly reach the free throw line, and of course played much better defense.
And K.J. was far more than just courageous and explosive at attacking the rim. He possessed one of the most lethal pull-up (off-the-dribble) jump-shots in NBA history, and in fact, in '96-'97, he became the first player to ever rank in the top-three in both assists per game and three-point field goal percentage in the same season (he has since been joined only by John Stockton in '00-'01 and Steve Nash in '06-'07 and '07-'08). K.J. is also one of just three players in NBA history to rank in the top-five in assists per game, three-point field goal percentage, and free throw percentage in a season at some point in their careers (not necessarily in the same season). The others are Nash and Scott Skiles.
One could argue that K.J. constituted the best pick-and-roll guard in the history of the NBA, for he was a better scoring threat off the play than Stockton (K.J.'s left hand proved far superior to Stockton's, especially in terms of finishing drives) and he excelled without the Mike D'Antoni system that maximized the pick-and-roll and elevated Nash's historical and statistical profiles. (Consider that prior to entering D'Antoni's offense after his thirtieth birthday, Nash had never averaged as many as 9.0 assists per game or shot as high as .490 from the field, whereas K.J. averaged over 9.0 assists and shot over .490 for his entire career). On May 2, 2000, Jason Kidd stated that K.J. was "probably the best" (in the league) at working the pick-and-roll, even though Johnson had just popped out of a two-year retirement to help the Suns after Kidd fractured his ankle. Earlier in those playoffs, Shawn Marion stated that K.J. knew the pick-and-roll "backwards." And on April 2, 2009, Kenny Smith stated that his Houston Rockets deemed the K.J.-Barkley pick-and-roll more difficult to deal with than the Stockton-Malone pick-and-roll. Earlier, K.J. had excelled on the pick-and-roll with Tom Chambers.
Indeed, in the April 8, 1991, edition of "Sports Illustrated," an survey of participating NBA coaches chose Kevin Johnson over John Stockton by a margin of 16-5. One of them stated, "It's just that KJ's a little better in every area. A little bit quicker, a little better shooter, a little better defender, a little more athletic. But it almost hurts to pick one or the other." And in a conversation that appeared in the December 30, 1990, edition of the "Seattle Times," former stars Rick Barry and Dan Issel suggested that short of Magic Johnson, Kevin Johnson was the best point guard in the NBA. Nor was K.J. a flash in the pan, for he received his second NBA Player of the Month Award in April 1997, over eight years after earning the honor the first time in February 1989. Again, over the span of nine seasons from 1989-1997, K.J. averaged 19.8 points, 10.0 assists, and a .497 field goal percentage, meaning that he nearly accomplished over the span of nearly a decade what only he, Magic Johnson, and now Chris Paul have accomplished in any one season: averaging at least 20.0 points, 10.0 assists, and a .500 field goal percentage. Kevin Johnson was one of the best facilitators ever and one of the best scoring point guards ever, combining explosiveness and efficiency like no one else while playing solid-to-strong defense as well. Unfortunately, he played four seasons with an undiagnosed hernia, thus costing him some regular season games, but he only missed one playoff game in his career and the party-hardy Charles Barkley, conversely, tended to break down at the worst possible times in the playoffs. Barkley also suffered two substandard games in the 1993 NBA Finals, including one late in the series in Game Six, so K.J.'s two substandard games in that series should hardly be fixated on to such an extent, especially at the expense of all his brilliant playoff performances where he went toe-to-toe with Magic Johnson and Hakeem Olajuwon in the clutch—and more than held his own. And in Kevin Johnson's first seven full seasons in Phoenix (the first four of which occurred without Barkley), the Suns won the most regular season games in the NBA (394) and the second-most playoff games (46, trailing only Chicago). Indeed, if you consider matters in a knowledgeable manner, there's a great argument for Kevin Johnson being the best Sun in franchise history. The fact that he doesn't even make your top three and that you considered him ranking as low as sixth suggests that you need to research and learn much more about him and this topic in general. I mean, if you're going to claim that K.J. "choked" in the 1993 NBA Finals based upon two substandard games, yet not hold Barkley to the same standard, and if you're going to blame K.J. for being injury-prone due to a medical misdiagnosis that you fail to acknowledge, yet not hold Barkley to the same standard when he came up lame at the worst possible times, then let's just say that you have "choked" in your analysis.
hey ben....excellent article u wrote......hey u can always join us....shhh i wont tell u're a bandwagoner lol....enjoy your season...i know i will.....