Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Not That Nash Bandwagon... This Nash Bandwagon
By Blogger

March, 2005
"Do you realize that if Steve Nash wins the NBA MVP, he'll be the only player to ever win the award that is not in the Hall of Fame or a surefire Hall of Famer?"

That would be Chief Sportszillan Zach, venting about basketball during my Spring Break visit to New York last year. He was right, of course. From Garnett to Duncan to Iverson to Kareem to McAdoo, the NBA MVP doesn't go to decent players having career seasons; it always goes to top tier ballers.

When Steve Nash won the award last season, some attributed it to race, some thought of a growing appreciation for the true point guard, especially in light of Jason Kidd's old time revival act in New Jersey, and others chalked it up to Nash simply playing out of his mind for a full season. Based on the past two seasons, though, perhaps it's time to acknowledge something else is happening. Right now, Steve Nash is a borderline Hall of Famer, and either a second MVP or continued production at his current level for three or more years will push him into definite Hall of Famer territory.

Nash's career arc is somewhat unusual in that players of his caliber come out of college and prove themselves within one or two seasons. Instead, he started a gradual blooming at age 26 that has continued for six years through this season. His ascension from "intriguing talent" to "All Star" to "perennial MVP candidate" is shocking and unbelievable only because he's not doing it straight out of college.

There really aren't any comparable modern players who were so underrated simply for being late bloomers. Say Nash runs together three more seasons at, or slightly below, his current levels (not a bad bet at all), and he'll have put together an eight year run that surpasses any eight year stretch of Kidd's career. It would rival Tim Hardaway's best eight year stretch. It would put him just half a notch below Gary Payton's best eight year stretch. For further comparison, it's only been in the past three seasons that Mike Bibby has even approached Nash's offensive production, and even then, the statistics say Bibby's significantly behind. Adding defense to the equation, while Nash has never been noted for his one on one skills, he's not a total liability on team defense, and it is hardly damning to say that even with inferior defensive skills he holds his own next to the very best modern point guards.

Perhaps the Steve Nash: 2005-06 MVP bandwagon is creaky and sputtering, but I'm more than happy to jump aboard the Steve Nash: Hall of Famer bandwagon. Maybe, in the end, Zach's point will be moot.


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