Far too often, we label players as franchise players before even seeing them do things that franchise players do. For instance, I like Danny Granger a lot, and so the Indiana Pacers. When healthy, he is one of the best scorers in the NBA. He does it in a variety of ways: jump shots, drives, put backs and occasional post ups. He is probably the Indiana Pacers’ franchise player. But is he an NBA franchise player? There is a difference.
Granger helps the Pacers sell tickets and helps his team be somewhat competitive. But does he shift the balance of power in the NBA? Not at all. The Pacers are unable to compete for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference, so that settles the debate in my opinion. But I figured that we needed some guidelines when trying to decipher just who exactly is and is not a franchise player. Click here to get a list of the criteria required to be a franchise player. Here’s the list of players that I have covered so far. Feel free to click on their names to be redirected to the feature I wrote on them.
Let’s get this started then…
I reside in Montreal, Canada. Consequently, I understand the hardships that a Canadian ball player faces if he wants a shot to play in the NCAA. Back when high school seniors skipped college to make it into the NBA, the American universities started scouting talent in Canada because they needed players that would stay with the program for two or three years. Talented players from Eh Land (you know you make fun of Canadians by ending your sentences with the term “eh”) finally had a shot at making it big in the States; but here’s the thing: our featured player came long before such opportunities were available to him. He had to make it the tough way. He had to send tapes to colleges in the hopes that someone would notice him and give him a shot. No one was coming to recruit in Canada, therefore if he wanted an opportunity, he had to make it himself. Santa Clara University saw his tapes and had him come in and be part of their program.
After graduating from Santa Clara, our player was drafted by the Phoenix Suns. Afterwards, he got traded to the Dallas Mavericks and was given the chance to play his game as the Mavericks starting point guard. Steve Nash teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki to make the franchise a perennial playoff contender. Then by the summer of 2004, Nash had become a free agent and signed with the Phoenix Suns, returning to where he started out.
Nash has since gone on to shine in the Desert and inspire tons of Canadian basketball players. Canadians are getting scouted now more than ever and are now given a fair chance to succeed or fail at the collegiate level. You see, while Young Jeezy and Jay-Z were busy putting their cities on the map (in their hit song Put On, Jeezy raps about putting Atlanta on the map, while Jay-Z raps about making the Marcy projects famous), Kid Canada put his whole country on his back. That’s why Nash is treated like royalty whenever he comes back to his homeland. With that said, is Steve Nash at this stage of his career a franchise player? Let’s get to it.
The Kobe Bryant Exception
Steve Nash might be the one guy that is toughest to apply this rule to. The reason is that Nash was not drafted to be a franchise player. He was in fact drafted to be the back up point guard on a Suns team that regularly made the playoffs (the last time they had missed the playoffs up to that point was 1988). He was then traded to Dallas in 1998; but he was still just a small piece of the puzzle. By his fourth season in the NBA, he started to see some regular playing time but injuries derailed his season a bit. He missed 26 games during the 1999-00 season and consequently only started 27 games for the team because he was often in and out of the line up. By 2000-01 though, the Mavs made it to the playoffs and never looked back. Nash eventually made it to Phoenix where the Suns became playoff regulars. However the Suns did miss the playoffs last season (2008-09). Normally Nash would fail to meet this requirement, however the fact that he missed some games due to injury during the 1999-00 season gives him a pass for this criteria. He cut it close, but he’s in for this one.
The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Standard
In terms of awards, Nash has been able to acquire a few throughout his career. He has participated in seven NBA All-Star games and has appeared six times on the All-NBA team (three times on the All-NBA 1st team, two times on the All-NBA 3rd team and once on the All-NBA 2nd team) and has captured two NBA League MVP trophies. Put this into perspective, Steve Nash has won as many MVP trophies as Tim Duncan. Kid Canada basically gets this criteria rather easily.
The Karl Malone Rule
We look at Steve Nash and see a basketball player that lacks athleticism, quickness, speed and the ability to contain his man. In addition, it’s no secret that Nash plays too many minutes and that it puts some strain on his already bad back. As a result, Nash ends up missing some games and every now and then but not as many some people might expect. Much like Carmelo Anthony, I was expecting to see a huge amount of games missed throughout his career; but he has actually been durable during the span of his career. The Suns point guard has appeared in 1,062 out of 1,181 NBA games; which is an 89.9% participation rate. Needless to say, Nash shows up to play for most of his team’s games.
The Magic Johnson Provision
Whether he’s bouncing a pass with his left hand between his defender’s legs in February, or just hitting a contested jump shot in early November, we all know that Steve Nash brings it each and every night.. But such has not always been the case. Earlier I mentioned that Nash missed 26 games during the 1999-00 season and consequently was not viewed as a permanent solution at point guard for the team. However, the following season (2000-01), the British Columbia native (province in Canada) came back strong and took control of the starting point guard spot for the Mavericks and never relinquished it. Since he only started to get some real burn as of that season, wouldn’t it be interesting to know what his career numbers look if we use the 2000-01 NBA season as a starting point? Glad you asked. Here are Steve Nash’s regular season numbers stemming from 2000-2001 up to this season (2009-10):
761 games, 16.9 PPG, 9.6 APG, 3.3 RPG, 49.6 FG%, 43.6 3PT%, 90.8 FT%.
Steve Nash has been a very steady point guard for the last decade; he does exactly what you want your lead guard to do: runs the offense, finds the open man, shoots when open, shoots with shot clock going down and makes a ridiculously high rate of his field goal attempts (considering he shoots off the dribble and rarely gets lay up opportunities). But let’s be real though, Nash didn’t reach Jay-Z status (Jay-Z has written classic hip hop records such as Big Pimpin’, Song Cry, Run This Town, Empire State of Mind, Sunshine and 99 Problems; needles to say, Jay-Z does things big, and so does Nash) by just being a steady player. Indeed, when Steve Nash went to Phoenix, head coach Mike D’Antoni had an offense tailor made for Nash, and his point guard ran it to perfection. Look at the win totals that the Suns have managed in the last decade with Nash as their point guard:
In addition, let’s look at his numbers during that same timeframe:
Still not convinced that Nash has stage presence? Let’s take a quick look at Steve Nash’s production in the playoffs this past decade as a member of the Phoenix Suns:
That my friends is what we call a playoff performer. Just to put things in perspective, look at Magic Johnson’s career playoff averages:
19.5 PPG, 7.7 RG, 12.3 APG, 50.6 FG%.
Let’s be clear though: In no way, shape or form is Steve Nash the equal of Magic Johnson; however if he can be mentioned in the same discussion as him, I think that he passes the Magic Johnson Provision.
The Diesel Test
Steve Nash is currently 36-years old. So let’s be honest with ourselves here, Steve Nash’s production is soon going to take a dip. However, I doubt that he will have a big drop off because his game has never been based on athleticism and speed. Nash’s strengths are his court vision and his ability to make open jumpers. Hence, even if he goes through some type of decline, he will still be an above average point guard. As a result, if I were an NBA general manager, I would feel comfortable giving him a $20 million for a year or two. Anything more is playing with house money. Nonetheless, our favorite Canadian is still eligible for the money; and therefore passes The Diesel Test.
Steve Nash has been the NBA point guard of the decade and continues to amaze us with his game. He is a gifted passer and phenomenal shooter. Perhaps some people fail to appreciate his greatness, but it’s probably time that they had a good look at what he does on a basketball court. Nash is the ultimate team player; always looking to set his guys up. Picture this scenario: if your life depended on you hooking up with a girl in a club and you needed an NBA player to act as your wingman (meaning he wouldn’t try to swipe her from you either), is there a better choice than Steve Nash? We want our heroes to be selfless team oriented individuals that grasp the big picture and always give you their best. Steve Nash epitomizes those traits perfectly and still carries his country on his back every time he hits the hardwood. Not only does he meet all of the criteria, but he also helped Canada’s finest basketball players get noticed. When March Madness starts and you hear the announcers give you the backgrounds of some Canadian players participating in the tournament, just remember that Steve Nash indirectly helped them get there. Franchise player indeed…
You can follow Shyne on Twitter by visiting his account @ShyneIV.