The race between Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki for the MVP award has intensified throughout the 2nd half of the season. I guess you could include Kobe in the race, but with the Lakers flopping lately it is really a two horse race between Dirk and Nash. Kobe will definitely steal some votes, because of his incredible scoring spree. For me it isn’t a question of whether or not Nash is worthy of being in a class of three straight MVP award winners. I have a sense that people don’t think he can be in that exclusive class so they are just going to the next worthy player who is clearly Dirk. It is a race that could go either way, and it doesn’t look good with big basketball guys like John Hollinger and Marc Stein of Espn.com siding with Dirk. I believe that they are part of the group that sees the scrawny Nash who is already in his 30s, and say that he shouldn’t be able to win the MVP three times straight so let’s give it to Dirk.
If you already haven’t guessed by the title of this post, and the beginning of it I am a supporter of Nash. I have been in the Nash camp ever since he went over to the Suns from Dallas in 2004. Heck why not the guy has been the most dominant player in a league that is filled with super athletes, and teams playing at a slow tempo just to stop him from doing what he does best. As long as he remains healthy, and this Suns team stays together he will remain the most dominant player in the league. There is simply no answer for Nash and his Phoenix offense that he orchestrates with such precision. Believe me coaches have been trying to figure some way to stop him for three seasons, and all the have found is that they get more and more headaches every time. Sure you can question Nash not leading his team to a championship, but they haven’t really been at full strength each of the last two years, and the defense isn’t as good as it is now. This year Nash is better than ever, and he is making players better than ever. With the exception of Boris Diaw whose numbers have fallen, but that was to be expected with a solid return by Amare. That is what Nash does so well he makes everyone around him a BETTER player. No one in the league is better at it. Nash knows his teammates, and reads the defense he is going up against like a quarterback on each possession. Then he makes the necessary decision, and always delivers the ball to his teammates in the best possible spot.
Look at one of the Suns most successful plays, when Nash comes down the court with the ball, and Barbosa goes to the corner. Nash dribbles at Barbosa who simply makes a backdoor cut (sometimes fakes), and goes by his defender. This is where Nash is at his best. Nash is able to read the defense, and delivers one of his “one-handed thread the needle at full speed bounce passes” like it is nothing. The pass just happens to hit Barbosa right in stride. Barbosa then usually finishes off an easy layup, because the floor is so well spread out that there is no one to challenge it. If there is help waiting for him he delivers one of his textbook floaters over the bigger defender. Just the ability for Nash to hit a lighting quick Barbosa with a one-handed bounce pass in transition should be impressive. Never mind the fact that he is sliding it between two NBA defenders that know it is coming, and have seen films and been coached to stop it.
This is the single most successful play that happens every game since Paul and Antoine were together with the C’s. Toine’ would throw a diagonal lob to Pierce who would always have his defender sealed, because the defender was previously denying a pass to Pierce. Pierce would catch the perfect touch pass from Toine’ then lay it in off the window (many times with a foul). Tommy Heinsohn then would always talk about how the pass had to be thrown to the corner of the backboard. Sadly celts fans never see this play anymore, because coach of the year candidate Doc Rivers has Kendrick Perkins delivering the passes from the high post (or trying to). But I wouldn’t second guess Doc there. I mean Perkins is a great passer right? I call Doc a coach of the year candidate for the job that he has done tanking it down the stretch, and securing a solid number of ping pong balls for us in the lottery.
So here’s Amare Stoudemire, he’s having an outstanding comeback year. One that many people thought he couldn’t have. He’s Averaging a double-double, and seemingly dominating games. He gets easy hoops, makes his free throws, and makes a considerable amount of mid-range jumpers to keep the D honest. The thing is he does almost none of this without the direct help of Nash. With exception of offense rebounds and putbacks, which he is serviceable at. Without Nash though Amare would be lost out there. Let’s face it he isn’t a good one on one player. Not even as good as Diaw is one on one. He can’t score with his back to the basket, and he doesn’t face double teams. Yet he is averaging the same numbers as Tim Duncan (20 ppg, 10.6rpg). Just look at the game vs. the Spurs that the Suns lost a week or two ago. Nash was contained by the Spurs, and they turned Amare into a one on one player. He did hardly anything, and the Suns were manhandled. Coincidence? I think not. Nash makes Amare the player that he is, and he has made Stoudemire into a potential first team All NBA player. Now that is saying something. Nash does this for everyone that he plays with. You could make the same argument for everyone else on the Suns except maybe Diaw and Barbosa. You can’t overrate the value of what Nash does for his teammates, all while giving up his own looks. Although late in games he has been looking for his shot more, and doing it very well (53% fgs).
Sure you could look at the numbers of Nowitzki and Nash, and say that they are even. Then look at the records of their teams, and say that Nowitzki should be the MVP. Here is the question that I ask. Take Nash away from the Suns, and take Dirk away from the Mavs. Which team has a better record? If you say the Suns then you clearly don’t follow basketball, and should stop reading this ridiculously long post that I am tired of typing. The correct answer is clearly Dallas who without Nowitzki would probably still be a top 5 team in the dreaded Western Conference. The Suns on the other hand would probably be looking at the lottery without Nash. Their record without Nash is something like 1-4, with losses to teams like Atlanta. So what does this mean? That Nash is the Most Valuable Player to his team.
He’s the guy averaging better numbers than his first two MVP years. He’s the guy who makes all four players around him twice as effective as they would normally be. He is the guy who steps in and takes the 7th most charges in the league, so don’t tell me that he doesn’t play defense. Charges are twice as good as steals are. He’s the three time MVP of the league as far as I am concerned. He’s the best point guard that I have ever watched. He’s Steve Nash