Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Best Point Guard to Never Win an NBA Title?

While watching the Suns take a commanding 2-0 lead in their series with the rapidly aging Spurs, a couple of things came to mind. First, “Los Suns” on the Phoenix jerseys. I get their support for the large predominantly Mexican immigrant population in Arizona and rallying against the immigration legislation. I couldn’t care less about the Suns politics. But is putting Spanglish on your jerseys helping or hurting the cause? I took 4 years of Spanish in high school, and a semester in college, so I have a pretty decent understanding of the language. “Sun” in Spanish is El Sol. The Suns would then be translated to Los Soles. So why in the world did the Suns have “Los Suns” on their jerseys? Who was the genius who came up with that? That’s like your buddy at Qdoba at 3 in the morning asking the guy behind the counter for “tres burritos with cheese-o, senor!” It’s humorous and offensive at the same time. Is that what the Suns were going for?

The second thing that crossed my mind was whether Steve Nash was the best point guard in NBA history without an NBA title. In my opinion, here are the top 4 point guards to have never won an NBA title:

4. Allen Iverson
Iverson was a dynamic scorer and changed the overall culture of the NBA. Unfortunately he was a horrid teammate and extremely mercurial and immature. His ability to get to the paint at his size was unmatched by anyone before or after him. He won an MVP award and got to the NBA Finals once, to go with his 4 scoring titles and 3-time 1st team All-NBA. He also was in the top 10 in the league in turnovers 7 times in 13 seasons and only shot 42% from the floor and 31% from beyond the three point line. He’s like Megan Fox – controversial and enjoyable to watch in small doses, but you can’t win a title or have a blockbuster movie with them.

3. Steve Nash
Nash can light up a scoreboard with his scoring or his passing and like Meg Ryan, has actually gotten better with age. He has bested his career scoring average in all 6 seasons since he turned 30, and led the league in assists 4 times in those 6 years. He ranks 8th all-time in assists and has a career assist to turnover ratio just below 3. He’s a two-time league MVP, but has never been able to get his team into the NBA Finals. The only real knock on Nash and what keeps him from topping this list is his defensive deficiencies. He is about as effective defensively as a turnstile to enter the subway, you can go right through it or jump over it and there’s nothing the turnstile can do. Yet with his creative offense and ability to change the overall pace of any regular season game, he is one of the best point guards of all-time.

2. Jason Kidd
Kidd has never been a prolific scorer and not a strong shooter, yet his all-around skills are what moves him just ever so slightly ahead of Steve Nash. Kidd is a great passer and rebounds better than any point guard to have ever played the game. When he was younger, he was a one-man fast break with his potential to rip down a rebound and instantly be out leading the fast break. Unfortunately as he has aged he has slowed considerably, and his defense and ability to get out on the break have declined significantly. Yet his basketball intelligence remains high and his court vision is on par with Nash and the guy at the top of this list. Like Maria Menounos, a ton of talent, but can only carry a show or a team so far before they top out and no one pays attention.

1. John Stockton
The recency effect almost led me to put Nash and/or Kidd ahead of John Stockton, but once I started looking at the stats, it was actually a tougher decision to not make this just a one person list. He holds the league all-time record for assists and led the league 9 consecutive seasons between 1987 and 1996. Over his 18 year career, he averaged just over 13 points per game and 10.5 assists per game, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.7. He was also extremely durable, only missing 22 games over an 18 year career, playing every game in all but two seasons. He also led the Jazz to the NBA Finals twice and would have a title if it weren’t for that guy in Chicago with a penchant for gambling, smoking cigars and crushing the spirits of everyone that rooted against the Chicago Bulls. Like Heidi Klum, she is the best but you might forget until you break out the stats and watch the highlight tapes.

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