Steve Nash goes up for two of his 64 points

NBA people love scoring. I mean, we really love it. Even the so-called "purists" start humping their TiVos every time Kobe Bryant drops 50 or 60 points, as he did in back-to-back games last week. In fact, people are still talking about Kobe's double scoring explosion, and blogging about whether he'll score 50 again, and again, and again as many times as he wants.

But you know what I want to know? Why aren't people still talking about the 64-point game Steve Nash had last week?

Maybe you remember it. It was against the league's best team, the Dallas Mavericks, and the MVP front-runner, Dirk Nowitzki. "Nash didn't have 64," you say? Well, he scored 32 points himself and dished out 16 assists. That means he was responsible for at least 64 points. But then again, some of those passes probably resulted in three-pointers or and-1 situations, so the number of points he was responsible for is probably in the 70s somewhere. I'd have to go back and watch the game again to be sure.

My point? NBA fans and analysts always seem to overvalue the number of points a player scores himself versus how many points that player helps someone else score. That's why Kobe's 65 was treated as so much more meaningful than Nash's "64." In fact, I guarantee Nash's performance wouldn't have gotten half the attention it did if it hadn't happened in a double-overtime game featuring the two best teams in the league.

Let's just look at the circumstances. And, for the sake of argument, let's assume all assists are worth two points, thereby excluding three-pointers and the and-1's. When Kobe scored 65, he also had three assists, for a point total of 71 points. When he scored 50, he once again notched three assists, for a point total of 56 points. The point totals, for the record, came in wins against teams that are 27-40 and 28-38, respectively. And those teams, I should also point out, are not top-notch defensive units.

Nash's 64, on the other hand, came in a win against the 55-11 Dallas Mavericks, the best team in the league (based on won-loss records) and the fourth-best defensive team (according to points allowed). So answer me this: what's more impressive? Producing -- through scoring and passing -- 60 points against lottery teams or against the league's best?

Let's extend this conversation to season averages, and again assume that assists are worth two points. Nash's averages of 19.1 points and 11.5 assists equal a total point production of 42.1 points. On the other hand, Kobe averages 30 points and 5.5 assists for 41.0 total points. So in a very basis statistical analysis, Steve Nash is worth more points per game than Kobe Bryant. But nobody ever thinks about it like that.

I was just perusing Nash's game log from last season, and it's telling. Did you know he had a 28-point, 22-assist game last season? That's a 72-point effort if (again) you give him only two points for each assist. I don't care how you look at it, that's freaking amazing. But I doubt anyone other than me (and now you) knows that game even happened, whereas everyone who follows the NBA (and many who don't) will always remember the 81 Kobe dropped that same year.

That's why it pains me -- and I mean the real, physical, I-just-got-my-nuts-caught-in-a-meat-grinder kind of pain -- when people boldly proclaim that Kobe is the "best player" in the league. Forget the fact that it's impossible to quantify what "best player" even means. It's all about the points. It's all about being "unstoppable" (although if a player was truly unstoppable, they'd never lose a game, let alone 6 or 7 in a row, as Kobe has done twice this season). It's all about flying through air, and dunking, and hitting crazy reverse layups and ridiculous "I can't believe he just took that shot" fadeaways. In short, it's all about looking good in the highlight reel.

Is Kobe the most explosive individual scorer in the league? Absolutely. Are his physical talents and abilities the most impressive? Perhaps, but in a league of Dwyane Wades and Lebron James's, it's hardly a given. But considering the fact that he doesn't consistently produce the most points or, more importantly, the most wins, I don't see how anyone can unequivocally state that Kobe is the best overall player.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
sure, it makes sense that Nash is responsible for more points per game than kobe. but you could argue he's also responsible for GIVING UP more points per game than kobe. that's why they have player efficiency ratings, which are essentially the overall impact players have on the game. points, rebounds, steals, assists, blocks, percentages....it's all important, and many things go unnoticed like CONTESTED SHOTS, etc.

it's not about how points you score or about how many points you "contribute" to.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
"but you could argue he's also responsible for GIVING UP more points per game than kobe."

You could, but then again, Kobe isn't (or isn't any longer) the lockdown defender he used to be (or reputedly used to be). Remember, it was Kobe who specifically asked to guard Gilbert Arenas in the 4th quarter of Gil's 60-point game against the Lakers, and Arenas had 15 in the 4th and 14 in the overtimes, despite Kobe's D (leading Kobe to say he just didn't defend Gil's bad shots).

And go back and watch Game 7 of last year's Suns/Lakers series. Forget his lack of scoring, Barbosa repeatedly burned Kobe on offense, running past him again and again for easy layups.

And right now I'm checking box scores from this season, and Ray Allen dropped back-to-back 30-point games on Kobe in November. Michael Redd dropped 45 on him. Dwyane wade dropped 40 and 35 on him. He tried guarding Lebron in the last game before the All-Star break and Lebron had 38. Those are some pretty big games to be dropping on someone who is, supposedly, great on D.

The bottom line: Nash isn't as bad of a defender as everyone makes him out to be, and Kobe's not as good a defender.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You know, the point you just made about Nash is something I argued about two seasons ago, when people were saying Shaq should have won the MVP. At that time, I was telling my bonehead friends, using the same stats you just used, that Nash is simply much more valuable to his team, or any team for that matter. I guess people only care for the flashy dunks and the chest thumping.... Not that I don't enjoy it too.........

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I will agree that personal scoring is overrated.

However, Steve Nash IS a terrible defender as is generally claimed, which you completely ignore. To brush it off with "Kobe isn't a lock down defender anymore" is talking past the issue; How can the best player of the league be absolutely horrible at the defense end, where he spends 50% of the game?

Further, the amazingness of his stats notwithstanding, using your argument, the MVP would almost always be weighted toward PGs. How many assists did Shaq average in his MVP seasons? Yet who would deny he was in MVP in those years?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Kobe got 65 points plus 3 assists, so technically it's more like 71 points to Nash's 64, and I'd much rather have the guy who gave me 71 with 1 OT than the guy who gave me 64 with 2 OT's.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I love the analysis. I've been arguing that the value of the playmaker is greater than the scorer in today's NBA. Nash's and Garnett's MVP awards prove my point. Kobe is better when he plays in Nash mode rather than Jordan mode but people love the fact he can dominate a game. As a Suns fan, I love to see a team that can score from every position and the passes they make to create shots. To me that's beautiful basketball and Nash makes it happen.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
everyone makes this point, I know, but it's still valid...

An assist is NOT equivalent to a pass. Even if Kobe and Steve make the same number of passes in a game, Nash is always going to end up with more assists than Kobe because he's passing to fantastic players who can knock down shots with abandon - Amare, Shawn, Raja, Boris, Leandro, etc. Who's Kobe passing to? Kwame drops half the passes thrown at him, Lamar's shooting like 30% from 3-point land, Smush Parker isn't going to scare anyone...sure, Brian Cook can knock in a shot or two, but that's really it, and he plays like 15 minutes a game, not enough to make a difference. Glancing at the 2 rosters' FG% for this season, there's a shocking difference, and I don't think you can blame/credit Nash OR Kobe for that.

So yeah, I'm more impressed by Kobe dropping 50 than Nash scoring 32 and dishing 16, because Nash doesn't get 16 assists without his teammates making those 16 shots. Why would I credit HIM for his teammates making baskets?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Ok, why don't u take into consideration that nash played DOUBLE over time .. which means pretty much an EXTRA quarter of play against a team he knows. And to say Nash is the best player is ridiculous .. it just shows your hatred for Kobe. And that's fine .. everyone wishes they would have a Kobe on their team, but unfortunately he's in LA LA land. Check out 1988's MVP .. it was none other than Jordan, but whoaa .. the bulls were 2nd in their division .. and 8th in their conference?! He was averaging less than Kobe in points too! And don't tell me he wasn't playing with all the greats (Magic, Bird, Isiah) .. so Kobe really does need to be considered for MVP .. because back then it wasnt about best record .. it was about best player .. and KOBE defenitely qualifies for that position.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
By that logic, wouldn't Magic Johnson -and not the other MJ- be the greatest player of all time?

Blogger scoots said...
I don't watch either team all that much, but my impression is that Amare and Marion are two of the best finishers in the league, and you have to figure that contributes to Nash’s numbers. If Kobe had that calibre of treammate, I think he'd be getting a lot more assists to go with his gaudy scoring numbers.

And Nash, although he is an extraordinary player, would not have the numbers he does if he were creating open shots for Smush Parker and Kwame Brown.

Kobe is extraordinary for his ability to take over a game regardless of who's on the court with him. So if I had a really good team, I'd absolutely take Nash. But if I wanted someone who could do the most with sub-par teammates on the court, I'd take Kobe.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You know, this is probably the stupidest argument i ever heard. If u count Nash's assists in his productivity, then u better count out the points he scored from an assist of his teammates. Ignarant Kobe haters who come up with the stupidest shit

Blogger Jennifer Stephens said...
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very good point- I will definitely be coming back to your site again.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
this is probably the stupidest argument i ever heard. If this would realy count, then the best player in the league for the last couple of years would be ALLEN IVERSON:
`04 - 7.9A + 30.7P = 46.5
`05 - 7.4A + 33.0P = 47.8
`06 - 7.3A + 31.2P = 45.8
`07 - 7.4A + 27.8P = 42.6

You`re just another KOBEHATER

Blogger Greg said...
I also agree that you can't compare two players' performance by counting assists as points contributed without recognizing the difference in the caliber of their teammates.

And while we're talking contribution to a team, why is no one talking about Wife-Beater Kidd? He's "contributing" 32 points to a game to Nash's 42.1, however, Kidd has 4.6 more rebounds per game, double's Nash's 0.8 steals per game, has 1.1 less turnovers per game. Shouldn't Kidd be an MVP candidate then?

Ugh I feel dirty, I hate Kidd.

Continuing with your contribution formula where Nash is contributing 42.1 pts, let's look at some other players:
Baron Davis: 36.7 pts
Dwayne Wade: 44.6 pts
Allen Iverson: 42.6 pts

Don't kid yourself that people aren't noticing or talking about Nash's nightly contributions, he's the two time reigning MVP.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
don't forget to count assists from nash where his team mates get fouled, and they convert free throws.

The difference between nash and kobe's game (like magic vs mj), is that nash's passes makes it easier for team mates to score, whereas kobe's passes are because he can't score it himself and are more for show. i saw him no-look for no reason on a break, allowing the defender to foul smush instead of it being an easy layup.

btw, the suns weren't even a playoff team when nash got there.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
When I personally say Kobe's a better player than Nash, i mean a better all around basketball player. Nash is a playmaker and a pretty decent scorer. Kobe is one of the best scorers of all time and he's a decent playmaker and a hell of a defender.

I watch every laker game. For the past two seasons, Kobe's been passing a lot more. (maybe not lately, because honestly...it wasn't working). He would drive, draw 2 or 3 defenders and kick it out to an open lamar, smush, cook, walton, etc. Sometimes they'd make it, but a majority of the time they wouldn't. That's not Kobe's fault.

Nash, on the other hand, does make some fantastic passes for easy baskets. But i also see a lot of wide open guys that knock down shots. That's hardly a testament to his greatness. He's on an offensive Juggernaut of a team. So this whole "Make your teammates better" thing is completely arbitrary. Nash's teammates are already good. It cracks me up...the other day Nash had a good game with something like 24 and 14 and the ESPN guy said "Amare chips in with 41 and 10". They love on steve nash there's no doubt about that.

Kobe will never get the respect he deserves. He'll never win an MVP. He was robbed of it last year. And for the naysayers, chew on this. He averaged 35, 5, and 5. He took a very overachieving team to a 45-37 record. A team that had no business going 7 games with the suns and nearly winning. He carried them. He dropped 81, 62, and over a dozen 45+ games. The guy was a monster. That's an MVP season if i've ever seen one.

If that rape case never happens, he'd probably have won it last year.

Blogger Greg said...
If the people Nash is passing to are such great finishers, why does the team stink when he doesn't play? This year they're 1-3 when he's out, and in the three years he's been there, they're well under .500.

As for Kobe being a great defender and Nash sucking, maybe it's true. Everyone says these things as if they're a given, when I've never seen much quantification. I do know that Nash MIGHT suck on defense, but he leads the league in charges taken. So that's something, and it's on the defensive end.

Blogger FBombAndy said...
An average person who can pass a ball can get an assist. If I'm playing 2-on-2 with Jordan as my teammate, and I pass him the ball, I get an assist. But if we're playing Magic and Bird, and I score even 10 points, that's amazing. Assists alone don't count for as much as made shots.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The other folks said it right, Nash is passing off to pure shooters and great finishers, as opposed to Kobe dumping it off to Kwame Brown, and dishing it off to on and off shooters. Brian Cook is their best shooter, but his lead feet keep him on the bench. Nash is a weak defender at best, and the Suns do a great job of puttinmg him on someone who is challenged offensively. Also, you're pretty inaccurate about Gilbert, ray, and SWade dropping so many points on Kobe. What you failed to mention is that each one of those teams exploited the Laker's weakness, which is the high screen and roll. Kobe would get picked the majority of the time, and off goes Wade and Gilbert getting three point plays, or easy layups due to the Laker's bad rotation. Did that happen all the time, no, but it happened a majority of the time.

I love Naash's game, he makes the SUn's better, however, their superb athletes and shooters make him better also along with the uptempo system they run. Really, what's the difference between Nash now, and when he was with the Mavericks? His supporting cast and system works to his advantage. Nash may lead the league in charges, but that's easy when you play the weakest offensive player on someone else's team, he just leaves the guy to take a charge, that charge is not usually on his own man that he suppoe to be guarding.

Blogger scoots said...
If the people Nash is passing to are such great finishers, why does the team stink when he doesn't play? This year they're 1-3 when he's out, and in the three years he's been there, they're well under .500.

I think this is one of the biggest myths in the nba this year––that the Suns aren't good without Nash.

First of all, without him they don't have a real point guard, plus they have no bench. Second of all, they're so used to running the offense the way Nash runs it that when they have to adjust on the fly, they struggle.

But if you put, say, Deron Williams (having a great season but clearly not getting mvp talk) with the rest of the Suns lineup starting at training camp and let them play a full season (or maybe two) together, I bet they'd win 55-60. That's not 60-65 like with Nash, but my point is that (1) haviing a point guard and (2) spending time together as a team make a huge difference.

Blogger David Friedman said...
Your "analysis" of Kobe versus Nash is superficial to the point of being laughable, as many previous commenters have already mentioned. At least you admitted in your next post that you do in fact hate Kobe.

I placed Kobe and Nash's numbers in historical context here:


I concluded: "Many of the people who "analyze" Bryant's abilities as a basketball player could save a lot of time, paper and/or bandwidth by simply writing 'I hate Kobe Bryant and if he averages a triple double for six seasons in a row and wins the championship each year I will still hate him and never give him his due. The end.'"

Since you admit that you do in fact hate Kobe, I clearly hit the nail on the head in that regard.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
If the people Nash is passing to are such great finishers, why does the team stink when he doesn't play? This year they're 1-3 when he's out, and in the three years he's been there, they're well under .500.

They don't have a true point guard after Nash, Barbosa is a scorer, and the guy from UNLV, his name escapes me, he's not really a point guard in my opinion either. That's why they struggle, hell, they struggled when Marbury was there because he's a shoot first type of guy. The Nashter does a gret job of getting the ball to those guys in positions to score, I never underestimate that.