Steve Nash deserves an All-Star invitation

If you ignore the Suns' record and just look at the numbers, Steve Nash deserves to celebrate another All-Star bid. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

If you ignore the Suns' record and just look at the numbers, Steve Nash deserves to celebrate another All-Star bid. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Last season all the numbers pointed to Steve Nash earning an All-Star bid but one: the Phoenix Suns’ record.

Despite ranking near the top of all the advanced stats and scoring, assisting and shooting comparably to his MVP seasons, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook secured the Western Conference’s backup point guard spots.

We will find out on Thursday whether a similar story will play out this season or if Nash will join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan  and Karl Malone as the only 38-year-old All-Stars in league history (not bad company).

What’s not up for debate is whether Nash is playing at an All-Star level. You could make it easy on yourself and just pop in the tape of the Suns’ last two wins in Atlanta and Milwaukee when he averaged 21 points and 11 assists while draining 17-of-25 shots (68 percent) and 6-of-8 treys while adding 3.5 boards per game for good measure. Oh, and he scored the game-winning bucket against the Bucks to boot on a little hesitation move that allowed him to evade the defense before banking home a runner.

Or you could do the dirty work and dig deep into the statistics, which make the same statement.

Starting with the basic stats, Nash is averaging 15.1 points and a league-best (again) 10.0 assists per contest while tossing up a 55.9-45.5-87.2 shooting line. He ranks fifth in the entire league in shooting percentage, a tenth of a percent behind Marcin Gortat, and the four guys ahead of him are all centers; Chris Paul is the only other guard in the top 23.

Of course, this is Mr. 50-40-90 we’re talking about so these scorching hot shooting numbers are not a huge shock, but in light of his shooting prowess perhaps it is surprising that he has only once shot better than 51.2 percent, when he knocked down 53.2 percent of his shots in 2006-07. Nash hasn’t shot this well from distance since his career-high three-point shooting season of 47.0 percent in 2007-08.

It’s amazing that Nash’s numbers look this good because in four December games he averaged 8.3 points and 7.8 assists on 30.8-31.3-100 shooting while fighting through a bruised rib he suffered in the season opener. Since then? 16.5 ppg and 10.5 apg on 60.6 shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting from distance.

Somebody check his birth certificate because a 38-year-old should be not putting up those kind of numbers.

By comparison, Nash averaged 15.5 and 11.5 on 50-43-89 shooting during his MVP year of 2004-05, 18.8 and 10.5 on 51-44-92 shooting during his MVP repeat in 2005-06 and 18.6 and 11.6 on 53-46-90 shooting during his career statistical season of 2006-07.

Advanced stats tell the same tale.

Nash has always been a plus-minus monster, and this year is no different with Two Time ranking fourth in the entire league with an adjusted rating that says the Suns are 22.13 points per 100 possessions better with Nash on the floor (unadjusted they are 11.04 better). No West guard outranks him.

Adjusted plus-minus is often seen as an unreliable stat because it is so variable year to year, but that does not apply to Nash. Since Basketball Value began tracking the stat in 2007-08, Nash has ranked eighth, 13th, fifth, second and now third, so the Suns being significantly better with Nash on the floor is neither a new development nor breaking news.

Nash has produced 4.0 wins with an elite WP48 of .278, according to The NBA Geek. That puts Nash ninth in Wins Produced despite missing a pair of games and in the company of potential West All-Star guards such as Kyle Lowry, James Harden and Ricky Rubio as well as starting point guard Chris Paul but only CP3 owns a better WP48.

Moving on to the Hollinger stats, we encounter more of the same. Nash ranks 11th in the league with a 24.03 PER, which trails only All-Star starters Kobe Bryant and Paul among West guards. The two-time MVP has never posted a PER above 24.

Nash ranks tied for 10th in the league in true shooting percentage at .648. He’s tied with a potential West All-Star in Harden but no other candidate is particularly close.

As usual Nash ranks among the league leaders in assist ratio (the percentage of a player’s possessions that end in an assist), sitting in fourth at 39.8. Jason Kidd is the only West guard ahead of him and he’ll need to buy a ticket if he wants to go to the All-Star Game. Not surprisingly, Nash has ranked in the top six in this department every year since his return to Phoenix.

Moreover, Nash ranks 12th in Value Added behind just Kobe, Westbrook and CP3 and tied for 11th with CP3 in Estimated Wins Added behind Kobe and Westbrook.

Nash rates among the elite in mySynergySports as well, as he ranks 50th overall by scoring 1.01 points per play but also is 11th at 1.00 in isolation scoring and 14th at 0.97 as the pick and roll ball handler, the latter of which makes up better than 60 percent of his plays.

The 38-year-old’s latest career season has convinced ESPN senior writers John Hollinger (who sees Tony Parker as an almost equally good candidate) and Marc Stein that Two Time should be invited to Orlando. Stein sums of his defense of Nash by writing:

“You could certainly presume that Nash — who turn[ed] 38 on Tuesday — wouldn’t mind having some time off during All-Star Weekend to recharge after dealing with the usual aches and ailments he deals with. But then it hits you that a weekend on the All-Star stage might be as good as it gets for Nash all season. So he needs to be there.”

Upon further review, a case could be made that 2011-12 has been one of Nash’s finest statistical seasons yet, a stance that also could have been argued last year at this time before injuries limited Two Time down the stretch.

However, All-Star Game spots (like MVP awards) are not awarded in a statistical vacuum and because the Suns still languish in 12th place in the Western Conference even after this three-game winning streak, a Nash selection is hardly the sure thing it would be if he were putting up these numbers  for a contender.

It’s funny that if Nash doesn’t make the All-Star team it will be because his only consistent teammate has been Gortat whereas in years past he was surrounded by stars like Amare, Matrix and Joe Johnson, but really shouldn’t that count for Nash, not against him?

Having just turned 38 he’s putting up comparable numbers to his MVP seasons with Jared Dudley and Channing Frye as his chief running mates rather than the All-Stars of yesteryear, and for that Nash surely belongs on the All-Star team this year.

Tags: All-star Game Steve Nash

  • shazam

    totally agree

  • Dre – Glad to see you agree! Nash was 2nd best guard out West last season and is still top 5 this season. Kobe is getting in by reputation alone, whereas Nash is still keeping up his greatness.

  • steve

    If there is a shred of sanity left in this world, Steve Nash will be the next PG in for the West. It’s extremely difficult to make an argument for Westbrook other than, “He’s more explosive.”

    Steve Nash is an All-Star, just as he was last year. I really hope he doesn’t get snubbed again. I want a Sun to watch during that pitiful exhibition.

  • bob_s

    I hope he doesn’t get an invite. He more than deserves it, but he better deserves a rest. And since Hollinger will be there and does not deserve to be in the same arena with Steve, all the more reason. Come to think of it, maybe the NBA should put the likes of Hollinger on the team, so the “best” can play !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Zak

    I agree with Marc Stein, “… a weekend on the All-Star stage might be as good as it gets for Nash all season.” Steve deserves it and any time to rest he could get by not playing in the All Star game really won’t make much of a difference this season.

  • Scott

    Steve definitely deserves the honor, but other players want it more.

  • Cam

    After watching tonight’s Spurs game, I hate to say it but Tony Parker might have just stolen the all star reserve spot Nash probably would’ve got. Only because his recent outbursts in games might’ve overshadowed the great play of Nash as of late. That and the Spurs have a winning record.

    On another note. Whomever had been preaching on the forum earlier this season about picking up Jeremy Lin after he was released by houston, kudos. That kid is playing lights out right now. I wish the Suns had taken a chance on him. Who would’ve guessed he would be playing this good.

    Go Suns.

  • Scott

    @Cam -

    Thanks … I’ve actually been trying to draw attention to Lin since he went undrafted in 2010. He tore it up (well, comparatively) in summer league, including playing suffocating defense on John Wall. I enjoyed watching him play.

    That was the year the Suns gave a tryout to Matt Janning, and had a difficult time finding a 3rd PG to play behind Dragic. Scottie Reynolds, who had played for the Suns in summer league rejected the Suns offer to join in training camp and went overseas instead. (Which was a good thing, because Reynolds was NOT Suns material.)

    Eventually, the Suns signed Dowdell.

    I think Lin could be a dependable 3rd guard for the Suns, and possibly a 2nd guard, though honestly I’d rather have Dragic (who may end up available again this summer). If I was coach and I had those two as backup PGs, I’d rest easier at night.

    I think Gentry, though, has been looking for a backup PG with swagger, who wears his aggression on his sleeve. That’s the only explanation I see for trading Dragic for Brooks, and then picking Telfair. I think Gentry confuses macho drive with dedication.

    Both Dragic and Lin are more cool, stable, and stoic, like Nash and Hill. But the impression I have is that they do put their heart into their team; they’re good in the locker room, and they’re not just logging time and picking up a paycheck.

    Lou Amundson is another guy with that same sort of personality that the Suns rejected.

  • Scott

    Lin is playing too well for the Suns to pick him up, I fear. In his 3rd game, tonight, he scored 23 and dished 10 assists in another win. (No Carmelo and no Amare for the Knicks, either.)

    The idea had been that the Knicks would end Lin’s contract when Davis returned, as they have 15 players under contract.

    While that may have been the plan before, it may be in the process of changing. And if they do release Lin, there will surely be several suitors.

  • Cam

    I’m pretty sure The Knicks are going to keep Lin as their #2 PG when/if Baron Davis returns. Lin runs the pick and roll better than Tony Douglas and Shumpert is working better as a SG while Lin is on the floor. After carrying the Knicks these last three games NYK would be hard pressed to let Lin go. Baron Davis isn’t really a picture of health. Go Suns.

  • Scott

    @Cam –

    I agree. Heck, Davis may stay on the injured list for the rest of the season at this rate. ;)

  • Scott

    Aaaand it’s a done deal, as Lin apparently was going to get waived on Tuesday, but the Knicks decided to keep him. So he’s with them for the rest of the year, at least.

  • steve

    I’m not going to try to diminish Parker’s accomplishments this season, but even he is no match for Nash’s numbers. I agree that any PG who gets in ahead of Nash will be primarily as a result of his team’s record, and not their quality of play. By the way, when do they announce the reserves?

    • Michael Schwartz

      Tonight on TNT.

  • Grover

    Michael – suggestion for a new article/blog: discussion of 2012-13 Suns financial commitments and how that relates to the salary cap, available FAs and RFAs, and other teams with projected cap room.

    I’d also love to see some discussion of Nash’s projected salary next year as a free agent. Given that the trade options for Nash this year aren’t particularly overwhelming, the other option is signing Nash this summer to another 2 yr contract. It will pay less than he makes this year, and unless the Suns are going to compete for DWill, Nash’s play will likely be better value than other available point guards. That said, if the Suns don’t pair good PG play with another high quality FA, all it will do is ensure a bad draft position and longer rebuilding process.

  • steve

    I don’t know that we can get away with paying Nash much less than we already are. The only thing keeping him from being a $15M man is his age. I think there are more than a handful of teams willing to give Nash the money he’s making right now or even a little more. Unless Nash really truly wants to stay in Phoenix above any other city, I think he’s getting close to $10M. And he’s worth it.

  • Zak

    One slight disagreement, Cam. The Knicks won’t make Lin their 2nd PG even when BD gets healthy. Not as long as he keeps playing like he has. Davis was something of a gamble when NY picked him up and I don’t think anyone there is really counting on him anymore.

    And I thought that Dallas made a mistake by letting him go way back when he played for their NBA Summer League team in 2010.

  • Scott

    Yay, Nash made it to the All-Stars as a reserve.

    His sixth time as a reserve. ;)

  • Zak

    Nash deserves it, no doubt! :)