Sure, Steve Nash can hit game-winners like this for another three seasons. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

When Steve Nash told ESPN's Marc Stein he'd like to sign a new 3-year contract this summer and then possibly another contract after that, jaws dropped at the thought that Nash believes he can still be a productive NBA point guard up to and past age 40. The list of players who have played effectively into their late 30s and early 40s is short, and mostly includes big men.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Dikembe Mutombo and Robert Parish are among the legendary post players who were able to extend their NBA careers past age 40, with Abdul-Jabbar and Parish each starting over 70 games during the seasons started when they were 40. The iconic Abdul-Jabbar went on to start 74 games as a 41-year old in his last NBA season, and Parish completed his 21st and final season as a bit player at age 42.

None of these players, of course, had games that in any way resemble Nash's. However, there is one Hall of Fame player who retired at age 41, a player who started and produced at point guard until the end, a player with whom Nash has been compared for much of his career: John Stockton.

If ever there was a chance to put that comparison to the test, a look at superstar point guards at the end of their careers is it. And the good news is that Stockton saw almost no decline in production as he played into his golden years.

Let's dive into some data after the jump.

The goal of this research is to assess the Suns current situation and whether Stockton's late-career performance can act as a guide as we estimate what Nash will be able to accomplish in the next three years. The topic of which player is/was better between Nash and Stockton will be discussed for years and is best left for another day, after Nash's playing days are over.

It's easy to see the similarities between the players, with both drafted in the middle of the first round from mid-major west coast colleges (Nash from Santa Clara, Stockton from Gonzaga) and then going on to star in small to mid-market NBA cities Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

But there are significant differences in their games. While Nash's play can be described as a work of art, filled with spectacular passes in a run and gun scheme, Stockton was a tough as nails, bring your lunch pail to work type. This is not a knock on Stockton whatsoever. He produced more than Nash by most measures, and his teams won big and won consistently, making the NBA Finals twice but unable to overcome Michael Jordan's Bulls each time.

Stockton is the NBA's all-time leader in assists and steals, and that assist record isn't going to be broken any time soon. In sixth place, Nash is nearly 5000 behind Stockton's 15,806 and even second place Jason Kidd is well behind at under 12,000.

Durability, along with sustained excellence, was what allowed Stockton to put up such numbers. Incredibly, he played all 82 games in 16 of his 19 seasons (all 50 in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign) and only missed 22 games total out of a possible 1,526, meaning he played in 98.5% of the games he possibly could have over his career.

Nash hasn't missed many games either, starting over 70 in every season since 1999-00 and not hitting his career peak until his early 30s. Stockton got a head start on Nash, but the production of the two has been similarly steady through their 30s, as can be seen in this chart.

Nash_and_stockton_medium

{Some notes about this chart: First, the usual disclaimer that no single stat can tell a player's overall value, but win shares is about as close as it gets. Age is defined as the age of the player at the start of the season used, and I used total win shares per season rather than WS/48 since durability is important here. The ability to dependably produce is key, so bottom line production matters. I also adjusted Stockton's 98-99 season to prorate for the games missed due to the lockout, and adjusted Nash's in the same way for this season.}

Each player had a bit of a mid-30s dip, as Nash suffered through the Porter/Shaq phase and Stockton his one major injury that took 18 games from him in his age 35 season. Nash also hasn't produced at his peak levels of the "7 Seconds or Less" Suns since the pieces of that team have moved away around him, but has still been close to his career average over the last four seasons.

Look at Stockton's final five seasons. But for a slight dip in the last year, he produced much as he had for the rest of his career. Here's a look at those seasons in basic stats, compared to career averages.

Season Age Tm Lg G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
1984-85 22 UTA NBA 82 5 18.2 1.9 4.1 .471 0.0 0.1 .182 1.7 2.4 .736 0.3 1.0 1.3 5.1 1.3 0.1 1.8 2.5 5.6
1985-86 23 UTA NBA 82 38 23.6 2.8 5.7 .489 0.0 0.2 .133 2.1 2.5 .839 0.4 1.8 2.2 7.4 1.9 0.1 2.0 2.8 7.7
1986-87 24 UTA NBA 82 2 22.7 2.8 5.6 .499 0.1 0.5 .179 2.2 2.8 .782 0.4 1.5 1.8 8.2 2.2 0.2 2.0 2.7 7.9
1987-88 25 UTA NBA 82 79 34.7 5.5 9.6 .574 0.3 0.8 .358 3.3 4.0 .840 0.7 2.2 2.9 13.8 3.0 0.2 3.2 3.0 14.7
1988-89 26 UTA NBA 82 82 38.7 6.1 11.3 .538 0.2 0.8 .242 4.8 5.5 .863 1.0 2.0 3.0 13.6 3.2 0.2 3.8 2.9 17.1
1989-90 27 UTA NBA 78 78 37.4 6.1 11.8 .514 0.6 1.4 .416 4.5 5.5 .819 0.7 1.9 2.6 14.5 2.7 0.2 3.5 3.0 17.2
1990-91 28 UTA NBA 82 82 37.8 6.0 11.9 .507 0.7 2.0 .345 4.4 5.3 .836 0.6 2.3 2.9 14.2 2.9 0.2 3.6 2.8 17.2
1991-92 29 UTA NBA 82 82 36.6 5.5 11.5 .482 1.0 2.5 .407 3.8 4.5 .842 0.8 2.5 3.3 13.7 3.0 0.3 3.5 2.9 15.8
1992-93 30 UTA NBA 82 82 34.9 5.3 11.0 .486 0.9 2.3 .385 3.6 4.5 .798 0.8 2.1 2.9 12.0 2.4 0.3 3.2 2.7 15.1
1993-94 31 UTA NBA 82 82 36.2 5.6 10.6 .528 0.6 1.8 .322 3.3 4.1 .805 0.9 2.3 3.1 12.6 2.4 0.3 3.2 2.9 15.1
1994-95 32 UTA NBA 82 82 35.0 5.2 9.6 .542 1.2 2.8 .449 3.0 3.7 .804 0.7 2.4 3.1 12.3 2.4 0.3 3.3 2.6 14.7
1995-96 33 UTA NBA 82 82 35.5 5.4 10.0 .538 1.2 2.7 .422 2.9 3.4 .830 0.7 2.1 2.8 11.2 1.7 0.2 3.0 2.5 14.7
1996-97 34 UTA NBA 82 82 35.3 5.1 9.3 .548 0.9 2.2 .422 3.4 4.0 .846 0.5 2.2 2.8 10.5 2.0 0.2 3.0 2.4 14.4
1997-98 35 UTA NBA 64 64 29.0 4.2 8.0 .528 0.6 1.4 .429 3.0 3.6 .827 0.5 2.0 2.6 8.5 1.4 0.2 2.5 2.2 12.0
1998-99 36 UTA NBA 50 50 28.2 4.0 8.2 .488 0.3 1.0 .320 2.7 3.4 .811 0.6 2.3 2.9 7.5 1.6 0.3 2.2 2.1 11.1
1999-00 37 UTA NBA 82 82 29.7 4.4 8.8 .501 0.5 1.5 .355 2.7 3.1 .860 0.5 2.1 2.6 8.6 1.7 0.2 2.2 2.3 12.1
2000-01 38 UTA NBA 82 82 29.2 4.0 7.9 .504 0.7 1.6 .462 2.8 3.4 .817 0.7 2.1 2.8 8.7 1.6 0.3 2.5 2.4 11.5
2001-02 39 UTA NBA 82 82 31.3 4.9 9.5 .517 0.3 1.0 .321 3.4 3.9 .857 0.7 2.5 3.2 8.2 1.9 0.3 2.5 2.5 13.4
2002-03 40 UTA NBA 82 82 27.7 3.8 7.8 .483 0.4 1.0 .363 2.9 3.5 .826 0.6 1.8 2.5 7.7 1.7 0.2 2.2 2.2 10.8
Career NBA 1504 1300 31.8 4.7 9.1 .515 0.6 1.5 .384 3.2 3.9 .826 0.6 2.1 2.7 10.5 2.2 0.2 2.8 2.6 13.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/5/2012.

Now, Nash vs. Stockton at the same age of 37, AKA current Nash.

Rk Player Season Age G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
1 Steve Nash 2011-12 37 50 50 32.5 4.9 9.2 .538 0.9 2.4 .398 2.0 2.2 .883 0.4 2.7 3.1 11.2 0.7 0.1 3.6 0.9 12.8
2 John Stockton* 1999-00 37 82 82 29.7 4.4 8.8 .501 0.5 1.5 .355 2.7 3.1 .860 0.5 2.1 2.6 8.6 1.7 0.2 2.2 2.3 12.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/5/2012.

Current Nash is outperforming a 37-year old Stockton in assists and shooting percentage and, while it's true that Nash has never had the amazing durability of Stockton and has been hindered by occasional flare-ups of his back and groin, Nash has a lot less mileage on him than Stockton did at the same age.

Heading into his age 38 season, Stockton had played 46,448 minutes. Pending the final 12 games of this season, Nash has played 40,023, a difference of about two full seasons. So Nash should theoretically have more left in his tank. Watching him play this season, but for a couple of bumps in the road, he passes the eyeball test.

All of which is to say that, while what Nash will attempt to do is rarely achieved, it's not unprecedented. Nobody can tell the future, especially with regards to injuries, but there are no obvious reasons he can't continue his current level of play for at least another couple of seasons.

It would be easy to say that Nash won't be able to produce effectively in three years at age 41, but how many thought he'd be able to play three more good years when he was 35? Or even 30? Just ask Mark Cuban.

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PHOENIX — Channing Frye entered the penultimate game of last season in one of his patented shooting slumps. The Suns’ big man had misfired on 30 of his previous 39 three-pointers and 52 of his...

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Steve Nash hit two huge shots to overcome one bad mistake and beat the Jazz in a BIG road win. In this week's episode we discuss the win in Utah, update the playoff standings, talk about how good the Suns really are, and talk a little about the LeBron and Durant MVP race.

Hosted by Bryan Gibberman and Seth Pollack and presented by Arizona Sports 620 and SB Nation Arizona.

Subscribe on iTunes or stream online after the jump.

Stream it, peeps


Gortat DID wrestle that 9th seed away from Utah and stuffed it in their grill!Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Are you not entertained!?!??!

The Phoenix Suns are on a roll, going 16-7 in their last 23 games and facing their playoff competition every night through the end of the season. The Suns control their destiny. If they win most of their remaining games, the playoffs will be theirs. And Suns fans can start debating the merits of each potential opponent.

After beating the Utah Jazz last night, the Suns are in 9th place in the West, only ONE game behind the 7th and 8th seeds (Denver and Houston). Plus, the Suns are only 2.5 games back of Memphis and Dallas, who are currently tied for 5th. Any of those last 4 seeds are reachable. Remember that the Suns were 2.5 games back of 8th just a few days ago.

First things first: Denver and Houston.

The Suns play Denver twice more this season - once in Denver on Friday night, and once more in Phoenix in a couple weeks. They also play Houston once more, in Houston.

If the Suns beat Denver on Friday night and the Rockets lose to the Lakers, the Suns will be in ...

drum roll please ...

7th place!

9th place... tied with Denver and Houston, but currently losing the first tiebreak with them).

But hey, only one more Suns win and Denver and Houston losses from 7th!

(you can take brian13 for bursting my morning bubble on the 7th place idea)

Hit the jump for the standings and some more analysis on each team's upcoming schedule.

Standings_medium

Check out these current standings, folks, and enjoy them while for a minute. Take a deep breath and appreciate the Suns in 9th place in the West.

Because in a mere two days, the Suns might very well jump all the way to 7th, if they beat Denver and Houston loses to LA Lakers on Friday night.

Now a look at remaining schedules:

Six of the Suns' last 12 games are on the road, with toughies in that 12 including two against Denver, two against San Antonio, plus the Jazz, Lakers, Wolves, Grizz, Dragons, Clips and Thunder. The only "easy" game in their last 12 is against the tanking Blazers. A gauntlet, for sure. The Suns HAVE to win more than half of these games and hope someone ahead of them falls on their face in turn.

10th-place Utah's upcoming sked gets tough: two Spurs games, plus Suns, Rockets, Grizz and Mavs among their final 12.

The next biggest obstacle to the Suns' playoff hopes are the Houston Dragons. They play at the LA Lakers on Friday as part of seven of their final 12 games on the road. Toughies include @Lakers, Jazz, Suns, home-and-home against the Nuggs, @Dallas and @Miami. The Suns basically need Houston to lose two more of those toughies than the Suns.

Denver is also a team the Suns could catch. Six of their last 12 are on the road, after losing to New Orleans last night. Toughies among their final 12 include home-and-home against the Suns, home-and-home against the Dragons, home-and-home against the Wolves, plus Lakers, Clips, Magic and OKC. That's a tough schedule.



On Wednesday night, the Suns earned a HUGE 107-105 victory over the Utah Jazz. With the win, the Suns moved past Utah in the standings and now sit in ninth place in the West, just one game out of the No. 8 seed. But it almost didn't happen.

The Suns' struggles in late game situations this season have been well-documented, and the lack of fourth quarter offense almost came back to bite them again. But a prayer was answered, and the with it the bleeding stopped.

Make the jump for a breakdown and some pretty pictures.

*All screen-caps courtesy of mySynergySports.com.

The Suns inbounded the ball up 100-98 with 1:18 left on the game clock and 11 seconds on the shot clock. Steve Nash dribbled up top for four seconds before driving the lane. After drawing the defense, Steve dropped the ball off for a circling Marcin Gortat.

Nash-gortat-113_medium

As you can see above, Nash drew in the defense and Gortat was wide open. But the pass was a bit off-target and Gortat could not catch and shoot. By the time he picked it up, Paul Millsap had recovered and there were only four seconds on the shot clock. With nowhere to go, he passes it off to Channing Frye.

Frye caught the ball, took one dribble toward the top of the arc and Millsap switched onto him.

Frye-108_medium

As you can see, nobody was open and there was less than two seconds on the shot clock. So Frye turned around, faded away and sent up a prayer that somehow banked in off the glass. ICMF. Suns up 103-98.

Frye's 3-pointer wasn't exactly what Alvin Gentry drew up in the time-out. Gentry did, however, draw up a nice play that should have worked. Nash managed to draw in the defense and get Gortat open for a jumpshot. Had Nash managed to hit Gortat in the hands, the play would have worked to perfection (whether or not drawing up a play to get a center open for an 18-foot jumpshot was a wise decision is a discussion for another post).

The Jazz came down and took their time, setting up a pick-and-roll for Gordon Hayward and Millsap that resulted in a tough finish by Millsap to cut the deficit to three. The defense wasn't bad by any means; Millsap is just really good.

The Suns came back down on offense and Nash set up a pick-and-roll with 10 seconds left on the shot clock. The Jazz switched on the pick, and Millsap ended up on Nash.

Steve-to-36_medium

The angle of the camera makes it difficult to see what happened, but Nash brought the ball across his body out in front and Millsap was able to reach in and knock it away. In other words, Nash was just careless with the ball. To complicate matters, he instinctively reached out and grabbed Millsap to prevent the breakaway dunk, which resulted in a clear path foul.

Millsap made one of two free throws to cut the Suns' lead to two, and then the Jazz got the ball back due to the clear path foul. The Jazz put the ball in Al Jefferson's hands, and he faced up against Gortat. Jefferson cleared space with a jab step and knocked down the 19-footer right in Gortat's face. Tied up at 103 apiece, 28.2 seconds left.

It's difficult to tell what exactly the Suns tried to do on the next play, but it looks like they were going with a high-horns look -- that is, sending both bigs to set picks on either side of Nash's defender. Frye got there before Gortat and set a hard screen on Nash's defender's right side, which sent Earl Watson flying.

Frye-screen-18_medium

Nash drove hard to his left, and with Watson on his butt, Al Jefferson had to step up on Nash. Jefferson is far too slow to keep up with Nash, and the Two-Time MVP recognized that. He drove right past Jefferson then stepped back and slightly to the side to make sure Jefferson couldn't recover and block his shot.

Steve-stepback-16_medium

Splash. Suns up 105-103, 14 seconds left.

The Jazz came right back, however, and got the ball to Millsap out on the wing. He attacked Frye with the dribble, and Frye pushed him towards the baseline.

Gortat-double-11_medium

It is tough to tell from this angle if Millsap had beaten Frye enough to get up a layup, so I am not sure if Gortat should have doubled or not in this situation. But he did, and instead of rotating onto Gortat's guy Jared Dudley ran towards the already contained Millsap, leaving Jefferson wide open at the basket. Two points Utah, game tied at 105 apiece with 9.4 seconds left.

This next play was a mess. It looks as if the Suns could have been trying the play that had won them a couple games last season, setting up a Channing Frye 3-pointer. That would have left plenty of time for Utah to answer, however, so maybe they were just trying to inbound it to Frye. Either way, Nash and Gortat set down screens and Frye ran to the top of the key to receive the pass. Utah covered that well, however, with Millsap jumping out on Frye and not giving him a look.

Inbounds-frye-9_medium

Frye passed it out to Michael Redd on the wing, and Redd attacked with the dribble. Redd's drive was shut down, but he did draw two-and-a-half defenders to him before kicking it back out to Nash.

Redd-drive-5_medium

Nash caught the ball on the move, and took one dribble before stopping. He let Millsap fly by him, then slid past Hayward for the Nashty leaner.

Steve-lean-3_medium

Nash's shot went through the rim to put the Suns up 107-105 with 1.7 seconds left. That meant the Jazz still had on more shot to send it to win or send it to overtime. Utah decided to go for the win, as C.J. Miles got the ball in the corner for a 3-pointer. Dudley closed out hard and forced an air-ball from Miles. The Suns failed to box out, however, and Millsap was waiting near the basket for the tip-in ...

Millsap-tip-0_medium

Or not. Ball still in hand with the lights on, Suns win.

The Suns have still not figured out their fourth quarter woes. Phoenix still needs to run better plays and get better shots late in games, somehow. But in this game, it didn't matter. In this game, they had the Two-Time MVP in vintage form. For the first time in a while, we saw Steve Nash take over and close out a game in the final seconds. And it was glorious.


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