This season Nash is an All-Star for the 8th time in his career, the only representative of the current 13th seed in the West. In an age where most NBA athletes are searching for fame, cash, a title, or all of the above, Nash is a rare example of a grounded man who exemplifies rare qualities or a professional athlete. You could call him the Buddha of the NBA. He has made a home in Arizona. He has found a place to work that makes him happy, with co-workers he enjoys spending time with and a boss he respects.
Isn't that enough for the NBA world to process and conclude what makes the 2-time MVP tick? Is this enough for the local beat writers and national media brokers to think before they start tapping away about how Nash could push their team over the top and into a title contender?
But what of the end goal? This is the era of "Win or Go Home." The era of "Big 3's" and players constructing their own squads with one thought in mind-winning everything. Nash has once again reiterated he doesn't need to win it all. He is a man whose searched his soul and decided what's important in his life. "...Well, it's not the end of the world. No one's sick or dying. It's basketball. We're disappointed in what's happened thus far (in the current season) ... but still ... there's no reason to hang your head and not enjoy your life."
Take that, LeBron.
Trade talk? Mediocre team? Nash still a star
"I will say it's rewarding to be an All-Star at this stage of my career because of all the sacrifices I've made, but it's not more rewarding because of the team situation. If anything, it's less rewarding."
Nash has had an illustrious career full of hours and hours of highlight reel material: clutch buckets, unfathomable assists, improbable team victories, and 2 MVP awards. But the honor and joy of an NBA title has escaped the grasp of this future Hall of Famer, and he doesn't seem to mind. Why? Doesn't the big W mean everything to him? Could anyone still question his competitive desire? "No one wants to win more than he does," said Alvin Gentry. "No one is more competitive than he is. Steve only knows one way to play ... he knows 100 miles per hour. He's not going to pace himself..." And at 38 years old, Nash could be considering winding it down, in fact, he could have taken his 2 MVP's and called it a career. But he hasn't. "He works so hard, He's always doing whatever it takes to be ready for the next game. That might be shooting, running, lifting ... even on days off, he's here ... making sure he's ready," said yet another player who has benefited from Nash's unselfish play, Marcin Gortat.
And that is why Steve Nash will be a Sun for as long as he wants. He is fulfilled. Fulfilled by his off the court pursuits as humanitarian, film maker, and father. Fulfilled by the joy playing a game has given him, the individuals he has played for and with, and most importantly, fulfilled because he knows he gave every ounce of effort he had to give.
While Phoenix Suns rookie PF Markieff Morris cannot and should not be compared to Amare Stoudemire for many reasons, we should all take a moment today to thank the Suns front office for recognizing a player who was better than his draft stock suggested by "reaching" for him at #13 overall.
Markieff Morris is the first Suns rookie to be picked for the the rookie/sophomore game, the Rising Stars Challenge on TNT tonight, since Amare 9 years ago. While Morris won't win ROY like Amare did, lets give him credit for being one of the top 9 rookies in the game this year. And remember, he was picked by NBA assistant coaches who know how to judge talent. Among his peers, he is 10th in points per game and 3rd in rebounding, blocks and 3-pt shooting %. And yet, those stats don't do him justice. He hustles, take charges, and plays with an attitude. His biggest problem is that he gets a lot of foul calls against him, which limits his time on the floor.
Let's go back to draft time, and see what the Suns front office and fans were thinking in June. Blanks hinted at picking a diamond-in-the-rough early on.
"There's probably a player at 13 that you might be able to get at 10 or 15 that could be just as good as a player drafted at five," Suns GM Lance Blanks said during draft workout season.
Markieff got on the Suns radar big-time when he battled Tristan Thompson in a pre-draft workout, the preview of which was written by a little-known but less-heralded blogger.
The final pairing is the biggest and most interesting. The Suns are desperately in need of a new Power Forward, and the two who figure to be most available at the 13 spot are battling each other on Monday in Phoenix - 6'9" Markieff Morris against 6'9" Tristan Thompson.
[Tristan] Thompson will body up against Markieff Morris who blossomed in his brother's shadow at Kansas, finishing his career as a guy works hard under the basket on defense and stretches the floor all the way to the 3-point line on offense. He is physically ready for the NBA but has probably already shown his entire skillset, whereas Thompson and Lawal are relative mounds of clay ready to be molded.
Morris has already shown flashes of a wider offensive repetoire than even his pre-draft videos show. He can hit a jump shot, but he's also shown flashes of driving to the hoop off the dribble and finishing on pick-and-rolls when called upon. His claim to fame, though, will likely always be on the defensive end. He is a tough one who will rebound and defend with the best of them one day.
I digress. Back to the pre-draft days.
Lastly #3 - Markieff? Really? I was pretty sure Marcus was the better twin... but maybe we are just destined to try a new lesser-twin each year until we eventually cut or trade them all.
This jaunt down memory lane is just getting started.
Even right before the draft, when the pick of Morris seemed a forgone conclusion, we couldn't wrap our minds around it.
My guess on order of faveness, considering only those who could be available:
Tristan Thompson - raw PF with great potential
Kemba Walker - leader, big-time scorer who could be overrated, and is dropping from top-5 lists as we speak
Bismack Biyombo - unknown, could be Wallace, could be pine-rider with 4 fouls every 4 minutes
Markieff Morris - could be a Drew Gooden, or a nothing - not loved enough by BSotS to even garner a preview article
Iman Shumpert - is he the next DJ Strawberry? Or a new mold of 6'6" PG?
This order is just my guess. I'm also guessing that the Suns expect the first 4 to be gone, which is why they floated the Morris/Shumpert conundrum yesterday.
When Markieff really was picked at #13 though, the love began to flow a bit. At least, from many of us.
Another positive I can find is his toughness. He's scrappy, get's excited after making big plays and he isn't afraid to speak his mind. From this article he's quoted on talking a little trash to the number 2 pick in this year's draft, Derrick Williams -
"I didn't think he was as good as advertised," Morris said. "He got the benefit of the calls from the ref and we had to guard him different. He definitely had a good game against us, because we couldn't guard him how we wanted to guard him, and that's what happened."
So when he hears that Williams is a lock to go in the top two, Morris said, "It's still surprises me. What he did to Duke, he wouldn't do that to me or my brother [Marcus]. I'm dead serious. He wouldn't. At all. He's good. But if we was to work out, I would go at him and I would be able to stop him more than people would expect, you know what I mean."
I like. We need some attitude. Some toughness.
Interestingly enough, Morris will be taking on #2 pick Derrick Williams in today's rookie/soph game and playing alongside #4 Tristan Thompson.
Funny that two of the biggest rookie surprises - Morris and Shumpert - were Lance Blanks' two highest rated picks at #13. Maybe the Suns FO can pick well in the draft for a while. That would be nice. Blanks gushed about Morris every chance he got. He seemed to know what he was talking about.
Hit the links above, and then pour through the June archives a bit to see how we all reacted to the drafting of yet another unheralded twin.
In this week's episode of the Sunscast podcast we do something never done before -- mid-season grades for the players, coach and overall team. Go ahead and pick yourself up off the floor at that creative and innovative concept and give it a listen. It's fun times!
Podcast presented by SB Nation Arizona and Arizona Sports 620 and hosted by Bryan Gibberman and yours truly.
The NBA All-Star break gives the game's best players a chance to show their stuff on the international stage, the rest of the league's players the opportunity to take a break, and us fans time to contemplate and digest what we've seen from our teams during the first half of the season.
Over the next few days at BSotS, expect extensive analysis of the performance of Suns players so far this season. Who's performing and who isn't? What players have a bright future in Phoenix and which ones will be packing their bags at the end of the season?
Let's tip it off with a look at a measure of salary efficiency, an attempt to gauge how well players are producing commensurate with their salaries by calculating their salary dollars per each 2011-2012 season win share. The win share stat is intended to estimate how an individual player's achievements have contributed to a team's wins.
A full definition of how the stat is calculated can be found here. It isn't a comprehensive measure, but more so than simple stats like points scored or rebounds gathered per game since it includes a player's production in several categories on both ends of the floor.
In a salary cap sport, a measure of this type of player value is critical. Salary resources are limited and must be used wisely to have a successful team.
How do the 2011-2012 Suns players contribute based on their salaries? Who's pulling his weight and who's not?
Follow the jump for more.......
The disclaimer for any statistical measure applies to the following data. They will never tell the whole story and should be used in concert with watching the games to get a full understanding of their meaning. As we'll see below when we dive into these numbers, nobody would rather have Markieff Morris than LeBron James, and nobody thinks Ryan Anderson is a superstar, though the data will suggest each of those things when viewed in a vacuum.
Since I know we all love charts, here's a chart! This is the current Suns roster, their 2011-2012 salaries, total win shares so far and dollars per win share:
A few things jump out to me from this list. Morris' 1.1 win shares are pretty good, for a rookie. He's an up and coming player and a bright young hope for the Suns, but he's not one of the team's best players yet. He rates so highly because he's on his rookie contract and makes a salary that is tiny by NBA standards.
Channing Frye rating so high and Grant Hill so low is an indication of how NBA stats still don't measure defensive contributions well enough and therefore overrate scoring. It also tells me that consistency isn't considered, as Frye's hot and cold nature is his biggest flaw. Still, Frye is a solid player, and his $5M+ this year isn't out of line, no matter how fans might curse his name.
Gortat and Dudley produce consistently, and they're both probably underpaid. This is why they're two of the Suns most value trade chips.
A note about why I used total win shares and not win shares per 48 minutes: the point is to measure bottom line production, so only total win shares matter. For example, if Nash and Hill miss games on back to backs because they need additional rest due to age or nagging injuries, that's not their "fault" per se, but this isn't about assigning blame. Production is production. Well, unless players would give back their salary in games they don't play, and that salary wouldn't count against the cap.
To put the Suns players in a bit of context, here's a breakdown of the top 10 win shares in the league so far this season. (Gortat is #20 in the NBA in total win shares.)
Is there any amount LeBron James could be paid that would be too much? It's hard to imagine one. Of course, there's that whole "can't win a ring" thing, but that's not going to last forever. There's not a fanbase in the league who wouldn't go nuts at the prospect of LeBron playing on their team. He's easily the league's best player, by any measure.
Kevin Love and James Harden are on their rookie contracts, so of course they provide fantastic value. And Ryan Anderson is.....hey, wait a minute. What the hell is Anderson doing on this list? He's not an All-Star and is only averaging 16 PPG but is doing so with amazing offensive efficiency. Again, win shares don't tell the full story, but Anderson is playing better than most fans realize.
And, just for fun, some highly-paid former Suns:
None of these players are having great seasons. Amare Stoudemire has been inconsistent without a viable point guard until recently, and has missed some games due to injury. He's not producing well, and if it's an indication of his inevitable physical decline, does that make anyone less upset that the Suns let him walk? It does for me.
Turkoglu and Joe Johnson are simply overpaid. They're solid contributing players and JJ was selected as an All-Star, but they're both prime examples of players who are taking up too much cap space for what they bring to their teams.
What say you, Suns fans? Is this an illuminating way to look at player value? What stands out to you in this data?