By Ben Stein ’18
Though often overlooked, Steve Nash completely changed the way we view the NBA. Besides the obvious fact that he won the MVP award twice, in 2005 and 2006, his greatest influence on the game was that he made it a pass first league for point guards.
While his passing ability is unmatched, interestingly enough in all of his seasons as an NBA player he never averaged more than 19 points per game. In 2004-05 he had almost as many assists as points, scoring only 15.5 ppg, but averaging 11.5 apg. He made other players look better; when he had 11 apg it was as if he was on the other end of 22 to 33 points. The second best assister in the same 04-05 season was Allen Iverson with 10 apg, and then it dropped off massively with Jason Kidd being third at 7.3 apg.
I understand that there are still star players who are not pass first players. Damian Lillard and Gordon Hayward, for example, do not pass all that much, but there are now also many stars who do pass. The leading assist leader in the 2016-17 season was James Harden, besides scoring roughly 30 ppg he had 11.2 assists. That is not that different from Steve Nash who averaged 11.5. Also, there were many players this year that closely followed, and recently there has been an influx of great assisters.
The second and third best assisters were point guards, like Harden, had similar numbers. John Wall had 10.7 assists and Russell Westbrook had 10.4. Fourth and fifth best were Chris Paul and Ricky Rubio with 9.2 apg and 9.1 apg, respectively.
The assist leaders in the league before Nash became MVP did not average nearly as many assists. Jason Kidd was the assist leader for five seasons; in the 1998-1999 season he averaged 10.78 assists, 1999-2000 he averaged 10.12 and 2000-2001 he averaged 9.78 assists. During the 2001-2002 season Andre Miller was the league assist leader with 10.89, and Kidd led in 2002-2003 with 8.89 and 2003-2004 with 9.22. However, in the years after Nash, all assist leaders had more than 10 assists, and eight out of the last 10 have had more than 11 assists.
I do acknowledge that John Stockton owned the league with assists between the years of 1987-1996, however the players who followed him did not all assist in the double digits. All of the players who have followed Nash have.
Teams are scoring more, but it is not only the era of offensive domination…. it also due to the fact that we have some of the greatest passers playing now, partly because of Steve Nash.