Steve Nash's impact on the Suns, offensive lopsidedness and outlier MVP status

Steve Nash impacts his team more than any other player in the league. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

Steve Nash impacts his team more than any other player in the league. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

It doesn’t take a math professor to determine the kind of impact Steve Nash is having on the Phoenix Suns this season.

Nonetheless in a Feb. 1 post on who he would have selected for the All-Star Game, Indiana prof and former Mavericks stats guru Wayne Winston calculated Nash’s impact rating as 62, best in the league. This rating measures how chance of winning changes with a player in the game, as a 100 percent rating would mean a team essentially outscores its opposition only with that player on the floor.

As of Winston’s post, Nash also made the Suns 21 points better per 48 minutes, best of any Winston All-Star. He made the Suns 16 points better on offense and, believe it or not, five points stingier on defense.

This corroborates with his adjusted plus/minus rating that ranks second in the league (plus 14.80 per 100 possessions), and he also ranks eighth in Wins Produced, accruing 11.9 thus far.

Winston further writes in his comments section that the Suns play 19 points worse than average when Nash sits, and they are eight points better than average when he plays.

All of these numbers prove the point that Steve Nash should have spent his weekend in Los Angeles rather than whatever vacation he ended up taking instead. Sure, the Suns only sport a .500 record at the break, but if it weren’t for his All-Star performance it would be much, much worse.

The most one-dimensional player ever?

No, that would be Kiki Vandeweghe, but according to Basketball Reference’s Neil Paine Nash is the second-most lopsided player in NBA history among players with 10,000 career minutes.

Paine analyzed the percentage of offensive and defensive Win Shares every NBA player accrued in their careers. To nobody’s surprise, 88 percent of Nash’s value has come at the offensive end of the floor where he has gotten 100 Win Shares compared to 14 at the defensive end.

The only surprise in this may be that Nash has not produced a greater percentage of his value at the offensive end.

On the other side of things Mark Eaton has received the most defensive Win Shares (48) of a long list of players to see 100 percent of their value come on the defensive end.

The outlier MVP

Jared Wade recently examined what it takes to earn the MVP award for The Point Forward.

He determined a typical MVP is “a 27-year-old, healthy big man who leads his team to 60 wins while scoring 25 points (on 51 percent shooting), grabbing 13 boards and handing out five assists per game. We are looking at Charles Barkley on the Suns, basically. And we certainly are not looking at Steve Nash on the Suns.”

Nash recorded the worst rebounding average, rebound rate, usage rate, defensive rating, blocks average and turnover rate of any MVP. He also owns the highest assist rate, three-point shooting percentage and free-throw percentage in an MVP season.

And of course, as Lockman wrote on Saturday, Nash is the only MVP never to reach the Finals.

This is where the Nash bashers point out he didn’t deserve two MVPs, but perhaps it just further reinforces how Nash is a different kind of star.

Suns more efficient inside, less efficient from deep

The Phoenix Suns rank third in overall Expected Scoring point differential, according to

Ian Levy from Hickory-High explains Expected Scoring like this:

In this case we take a team’s shot attempts from each area and multiply it by the expected point value for a shot from that area. We can then compare that to how many points a team actually score from each area to arrive at a point differential. Expected Scoring incorporates both a team’s shot selection and shooting accuracy to arrive at a measure of scoring efficiency relative to the league average.

The Suns rank third by scoring 4.82 more points than expected after ranking first in this stat last year. But the way the Suns are getting these points surprise Levy:

Last season’s league leader in point differential was Phoenix, by a wide margin, at +7.26. This number was mostly due to the 3.35 more points than expected they scored per game on three pointers. This season their point differential on three pointers has dropped to +1.05. As drastic as that drop was it’s been at least partially cancelled out by a huge increase in their point differential at the rim. This season they are +3.51 per game on shots at the rim, last season’s number was +1.55.

It’s amazing that Phoenix saw this much of a change despite losing Amare Stoudemire. Accomplishing this has been a team effort. Every player currently on the Suns’ roster except Zabian Dowdell, Channing Frye and Earl Barron has FG% above the league average on shots at the rim. The Suns aren’t doing it with isolations but with efficient ball movement. They have the 4th highest Ast% on shots at the rim.

I figure the Suns’ three-point numbers are down without Amare taking a third defender to the rim with him on his rolls, and if you haven’t already noticed the theme of this post I have an easy explanation for why they are shooting better at the rim: Steve Nash.

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