Monday, April 30, 2007

NBA Playoff Legacy Watch: Jason Kidd and Steve Nash

Jason Kidd and Steve Nash have the mind-busting stat lines in this postseason: Kidd's 16 point, 16 rebound, 19 assist game against Toronto, and Steve Nash's 23 assist game against the Lakers. Both are playing incredible playoff basketball: Kidd is averaging a triple-double against the Raptors, while Nash is going for 15 ppg, 15 apg against the Lakers. They're the two best point guards in the league, and they're putting on some playoff shows.

But amidst the hype Steve Nash has been getting for three years, let's not forget: Jason Kidd is a better point guard and has had a better career.

Kidd has led the league in assists per game 5 times to Nash's 3, and Kidd has been in the top-5 in assists per game 12 times to Nash's 4. Think about that: Kidd has ranked in the top-5 in assists per game EIGHT MORE TIMES than Nash has. Nash's career highs in assists per game are a little higher than Kidd's career highs in assists per game, but Kidd makes up for that with a career 6.7 rebounds per game. Nash has averaged 2.9 rebounds per game.

In their career numbers, Kidd beats Nash (14.5, 9.2, 6.7 to 14.0, 7.6, 2.9). Kidd has done it better for longer. And Kidd has obviously had great playoff performances, too: he was the primary force guiding the Nets to two straight NBA Finals, and his career playoff numbers are 16.0, 9.0, 7.2 (Nash is good too, with 17.0, 8.2, 3.7; I love basketball-reference).

Kidd is the far superior rebounder. Kidd has had better team success. Kidd has been the better passer for longer. There is no question that Jason Kidd is the best post-Stockton point guard in the NBA. To suggest otherwise, you must ignore all the numbers.


  1. Anonymous8:59 AM

    the difference is that kidd can't shoot and nash can. i agree that kidd is better than nash tho.

  2. Anonymous2:10 AM

    The most accurate assessment is because there are only pro-kidd and pro-nash opinions, each side dwells on every little detail about what each player can do better than the other. Now for the REAL basketball fans out there with basketball intelligence higher than the average sport-stats reliant so-called fan, here's some facts (not opinions) that neither side can argue about.

    1. nba rule changes have altered the entire structure of the game thus change player behavior. how this applies to comparisons of nash with other past point guards is that there is no hand-checking rule, so frequent penetration into the paint the way nash and tony parker do it today, you simply don't see it back in the days. It is a facet of the game that existed then. the reasoning is simple, a guy puts his hand on your hip, which hinders your movement, also it allows them better anticipate where you'll likely move next, and also increases the chance of a successful steal. how today's players benefit from this rule change is that crossovers if used effectively can allow uninhibited penetration as long as you're a quick guy. what some people mean when they say tim hardaway is impressive is that he was a pioneer of the 'killer crossover' when this hand checking rule existed.

    2. the nba nowadays legalized zone defense, which means you can setup a 3-2 zone that has 3 perimeter players with the guy on the right or the guy on the left helping out the middle guy, whichever way the opposing point guard wishes to penetrate. 3-2 zone stops guard penetration. so why is nash still penetrating so effectively? credit that to pick and roll, no hand-checking, and the fact that if the middle guy gets help, there will be an automatic 3-pointer by the open man nashed just passed the ball to. the person guarding nash can only run over or under the screen. with the hand check you can create a tiny bit more space if you run over the screen. or you can slightly hinder/slowdown nash if you go under the screen. but hand checking is illegal today so forget all of that. compare stockton and malone pick'n roll with nash/stoudamire to see the extra freedom in movement that nash gets today.

    3. there is a big difference in the style which both players pass (that's their role, right? being point guards) phoenix suns players under mike d'antonni's coaching tend to 'position' themselves to be in a scoring position. i.e. get out in the open court and run, or stay around the three point line to catch and shoot or pump fake and drive. this is d'antonni's philosophy, which is making the run n' gun suns popular in the nba. it is d'antonni's style that makes almost every player on his team a high % 3-point shooter, which is in part responsible for nash's assist numbers. not to take anything away from nash, he does do some flashy passes. kidd, while he does play with guys who run the floor, it's not like every player is lightning quick and a good 3-point shooter. he tends to 'seek' out teamates who are in a good position to score, in other words he creates an offense for his team. go have a think about how a guy like mikey moore managed to lead the nba in field goal %.

    end of facts. opinions:
    it is up to fans' preference whose passing they like more, but to be fair nash fans should note that kidd had very eye-popping passes in his younger days too, which noone seems to remember. but a great passer is not defined strictly by how flashy he is.
    statistics shouldnt be relied on too heavily, its too easy to manipulate it and be biased. rather think of what they reflect - what kind of game was played such that these stats resulted.
    and even if people genuinely think nash deserved back to back mvp at least acknowledge that kidd's play a few years ago was not inferior if not superior to nash's current form
    plus, the dallas team nash left is very similar to the suns, nash's style remained the same and rule changes happened to promote nash's style
    people are always too quick to be judgmental when they read about kidd's ugly divorce, the fact is noone knows the details.all they know are the sensational claims made by both parties.

    lastly, i'll keep my opinions about nash's two mvps to myself since everyone's opinion is subjective (even the coaches who voted). What really impressed me is not the triple double that kidd averaged in the 2007 playoffs, but i salute his greatness by doing well at what he doesn't excel at (hitting 5-7 threes per game) and leadership by example (lots of steals and rebounds to inspire teamates to play defense). It is this 'doing whatever the team needs done' that makes jason kidd a great point guard like magic johnson who started at center for injured kareem abduljabbar, scoring 42 points and winning the championship.

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