The PBWA is not the Pro Bowlers of Wyoming Association, as I first thought. PBWA stands for Professional Basketball Writers Association.
And no, I'm clearly not a member.
Nonetheless, Steve Nash won the Magic Johnson award for combining "excellence on the court with cooperation with the media and fans." The award, along with all that we know about Steve as highlighted in Jim C's piece today, accompanies 2007's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for "outstanding service and dedication to the community." Nash also has a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame.
While this award may seem as no big deal to many of us, keep in mind Nash beat out (among others), Manu Ginoboli of the San Antonio Spurs. Last year's winner of the award was Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.
Here at Bright Side of the Sun we take the words TOTAL COVERAGE pretty dang seriously.
While our beloved Suns are off taking nice vacations, we are still slaving away, attempting to provide you all with first class Suns coverage.
So friends, without further adieu, we present you with the Phoenix SunsSeason in Review, 2011-12.
Up for discussion today is Steve Nash.
Defining the grading criteria for a player of Nash's caliber is a difficult task indeed. He is MVSteve. The Nash Rambler. Captain Canada. Nashional Treasure. Two-Time. PG-13. The One-Eyed Stevie Wonder.
He is a skilled soccer player (adept enough that he probably could have played professionally). He has displayed an aptitude for cinematography. In the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver he lit the Olympic cauldron. He is a philanthropist and a noble benefactor. He was just named the GM of Team Canada. He is the guy they keep talking about in all those Dos Equis commercials. When Steve Nash finally hangs up the high tops, it will not be the end, but merely the beginning for a person who is not just a hall of fame basketball player, but an exceptional person in many facets.
It would be easy to let all these things obfuscate the judgment of what I intend to be a one year report card; a snapshot in a hall of fame career. I will do my best to grade Nash on the season that just ended and not let his career as a whole interfere with my analysis. If you would like to see how I plan to scrutinize Stephen John Nash, as objectively as possible, take the plunge.
Allow me to start the process by detailing some of Nash’s accomplishments this year.
In February 2012, Nash was named to his eighth All-Star Game (in which he played approximately 13 seconds in the first half and did not return in the second - boo). It was his 6th selection as a Sun, which ties him for a franchise record with “Sweet D” Walter Davis.
On April 21, 2012, Nash passed Oscar Robertson for 5th on the all-time career assists list versus the Denver Nuggets. At 9,916 career assists, Nash sits 225 behind Magic for 4th and 418 behind Mark Jackson for 3rd (meaning if he stays healthy he’ll pass both of them next year).
Finished second in the NBA in assists per game (10.7)
Finished 11th in the NBA in field goal % (.532), 33rd in three point fg% (.390), and 4th in free throw % (.894) to narrowly miss extending his league record of 4 50/40/90 seasons.
Finished 21st in the league in eFG% (.581), 14th in TS% (.625), and 38th in PER (20.3).
Then still managed to draw the curtains on the season (with the help of an inspired home crowd) with a horripilating scene that will probably cause the words “We Want Steve!” to be indelibly etched into my mind.
Steve was quite the industrious man.
Now let’s take a gander at some of Steve’s statistics (I have included all of his years since returning to the Suns).
Nash’s minutes per game were down slightly, but I’ll explain later why this is misleading. His field goal percentage (.532) tied a career high. His rebounds (3.0) and assists (10.7) were still pretty commensurate with his career numbers as a Sun.
Where the noticeable dips can be seen are in field goal attempts (9.0), three point attempts (2.3), three point field goal percentage (.390), and points per game (12.5).
In fact Nash’s season turned out very much like I suggested in my early returns fanpost from January 14th.
Nash – Still playing at an all-star level, however, age is every man’s master. Steve isn’t as much of a scorer as he was in his prime and can’t take over games in the fourth quarter like years past. The area of his game that seems as sharp as ever, distributing, is hindered by the lack of dynamic finishers on the team. Nash’s talent is not being maximized by the current roster.
Looking at advanced statistics, we can see that Nash’s WS/48 was only .144, which was his second lowest in the last 8 years (the other year can be blamed on Terry Porter), and only good for 76th in the league. His PER was also his second lowest total. His ORtg was his lowest in the last 8 seasons, but his AST% was tied with last year for his highest mark (lending credence to the lack of surrounding talent/players that can score without him argument).
Delving deeper into the data it can be demonstrated that the first and second half of Nash’s season were far from pari passu. Allow me to illustrate.
Over Nash’s first 31 games he averaged 13.9 ppg. Over the last 31 that dropped to 11.0 ppg. In Nash’s first 31 games he scored 20 or more points 8 times. In his last 31 games he only reached 20 once. One time. In fact, he never reached 20 points in his last 24 games of the season. In that stretch he scored 9 points or less in 10 of the 24 games.
His field goals made per game slid from 5.4 to 4.1. His field goals attempted per game dipped from 10 to 7.9. His FG% slipped from .542 to .518 (but let’s face it, .518 is still REALLY good).
What was the reason for this declivitous descent in Steve’s scoring numbers? Here’s one possible excuse reason.
Min per game
Min per game
Min per day
Min per day
Days off/games ratio
Days off/games ratio
As depicted in this expertly crafted comparison, the frequency of Nash’s minutes was drastically increased. What might be the most salient, and telling, portion is the total days off and days off to games ratio. An older player like Nash benefits more from the rest days than a younger player. I believe that at the outset of the season at least one person may have suggested mandatory rest days for Nash (and other players) to help counteract hebetude and exhaustion.
Can we blame some (or all) of Nash’s second half decline on the schedule? I think it is reasonable to think it played at least some role. What this suggests to me is that Nash may be able to duplicate or even improve on his performance from this season next year despite the inexorable march of the calendar since he will face much less stringent demands on his body.
There are a lot of positives to look back on from the season, but a noticeable dip in production as the season whisked along at a frenzied pace. Nash just didn’t seem to be able to keep up.
When the team needed him most, he was unable to provide the offensive spark that could have propelled them into the playoffs. Not to imply that the team’s failures completely lie at his feet, but he is unquestionably the team’s leader and I believe that accountability goes to the top. I would have rather had Nash forcing shots and missing than seen his scoring decline the way it did based mostly on the simple concept of less shot attempts.
I give Steve an A for his first half, a B/B- for the second half, and an overall grade of a B+. What do you think?
Thanks to lockout, the 2012 NBA Playoff Schedule is a bit wacky. We've already had two games played in the Eastern Conference Semifinals while in the West, Round 2 doesn't start until Monday and Tuesday. To get the schedules back on tract, we'll also be treated to back-to-back games in the Spurs vs. Clippers and Lakers vs. Thunder series while the Heat vs. Pacers and Celtics vs. 76ers will play a more normal playoff series.
Here's predictions for the four series and the schedules for the next games:
Game 1 Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on TNT
The Spurs rolled through the first round and have been resting and practicing for ages. They will be as healthy as any team still playing and with their depth and versatility should have no problem taking care of the Clippers. Tony Parker will make Chris Paul work on the defensive end and wear him down and the Clippers don't have enough size to both San Antonio in the front court.
Game 1 Monday at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on TNT
This series has the potential to go seven games. The Thunder has a huge advantage at the point guard spot while the Lakers still have the best two bigs in the game...sometimes. A lot of these games will be determined by how physical the officials allow Metta World Peace to be with Kevin Durant away from the ball. We've seen Durant limited at time when guys play him tough and deny the pass. The Lakers have the tools to win this series but we've not seen them play well enough as a team to think they will.
Game 2 Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT on ABC
The Heat already hold a 1-0 lead in this series but they will potentially be without Chris Bosh due to an abdominal strain. Indiana has a lot of weapons without Bosh, they should be able to focus their defense even more on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The Heat are still the favorites but the Pacers can win this series.
Game 2 Monday at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT on TNT
The Celtics took the first game of this series, but the 76ers are far more athletic and younger. We already saw Ray Allen and Paul Pierce struggle through the first round and if the Sixers can extend this series by winning Game 2 on the road, they have a very good chance of winning in seven.
Both LA teams were taken to the brink, but found a way to win their respective Game 7s and move on to the second round to face much tougher opponents.
On the other side of the coin, overachieving Utah and injury-affected Memphis lost their magic in the end and now the offseason planning starts. Each team must answer some organizational questions, and their moves may impact the Suns and therefore the Suns fans.
Utah has talented youngsters Enes Kanter (C) and Derrick Favors (PF) waiting in the wings behind long-time starters Al Jefferson (C) and Paul Millsap (PF). Utah's problem is long-term upside of the current roster, and contract extensions. With Jefferson and Millsap playing at the top of their game, the Jazz barely squeaked into the playoffs and were summarily swept out of them as quickly as possible.
Utah attempted to play Jefferson, Favors and Millsap together by moving Millsap to SF and shifting Gordon Hayward to SG down the stretch and in the playoffs, but that only worked to limited success. They rebounded great, but the defense and scoring were underwhelming. Millsap is too slow to defend SFs and Hayward too slow to defend SGs.
Jefferson and Millsap combine to make $23.6 million next season, but both become unrestricted free agents when the 2012-13 season ends. Both Millsap and Jefferson will want extensions, and both will certainly ask the Jazz to comply this summer.
Millsap's career numbers, per basketball-reference.com
But those extensions will just prolong the waiting game for Favors and Kanter - who were both picked highly in the draft and deserve a chance to play for a fringe playoff team. Favors seems to have the highest immediate upside, and given that Millsap is less effective at SF, it looks like it's time to trade Millsap for some talent on the wing (or for cap space that they can then spend on shooting-guard talent).
Utah's other problem is that starting PG Devin Harris also has only one year left on his contract. In fact, only Favors, Kanter, Hayward and Burks are under contract beyond the 2012-13 season. Utah very nearly had 2 more lottery picks this spring, but now have none. Their own was lost when they made the playoffs, and Golden State was just bad enough to keep theirs from going to the Jazz.
Despite losing those picks though, the Jazz are clearly in a youth movement. They are very talented with young players at 4 positions. Do they prolong the inevitable and fight for the playoffs again with Jefferson, Millsap and Harris? Or do they cut bait and go young? The Suns themselves pushed for the playoffs and came up just short. Would the Jazz try the same thing for the second year in a row?
The Suns don't have the young point guard to trade Utah in exchange for Millsap, though. But the Jazz somehow don't have a first-round pick this year either. They could trade Millsap to the Suns for cap relief in a one-sided trade, and then sign a point guard or a wing on the open market. Would you trade this spring's #13 pick for Millsap and the Jazz's lower lottery pick in 2013?
Of course, Millsap would need to be extended. Is he worth $8-9 million a year for 3-4 years? Because that's what he would expect.
As for the Grizzlies, their issue is money. They already extended Randolph, Gay, Conley and Gasol to big money. They can't possibly even match a reasonable midlevel offer to OJ Mayo this summer. Mayo is still only 24 and is just scratching the surface of his talent.
Mayo's career numbers, per basketball-reference.com
But is he worth a long-term contract to the Suns? And to beat out other bidders, the Suns would have to offer more than midlevel.
Is he worth, say, 4 years for $32-36 million ($8-9 million per season)? He's young and certainly a better scorer and passer than any wing player the Suns currently have, and could easily score 20 per game next to Nash and/or as a primary offensive option.
The Suns could sign him with their cap space. Or, is he worth a sign-and-trade involving fellow restricted free agent Robin Lopez? Here, we would be trading a good backup center for a good scoring guard. I know you can't have enough size, but the Jazz just proved this season that size is not good enough without scoring.
So, Suns fans, what say you on Millsap and/or O.J. Mayo?