Last year, everyone was blown away by the Phoenix Suns. Adding Steve Nash as their point guard, coupled with Amare Stoudemire having a breakout season, catapulted them to the best record in the NBA. They were the darling team in the media. They scored a lot of points and had a lot of fun doing it. I had no problems with Nash being the MVP last year.
This year, however, I don’t think he deserves it. There are a lot of people who will argue that Nash kept the Suns together with Stoudemire being hurt all year. There is some truth to that, but I don’t think Steve Nash is even the Suns best player this year. Shawn Marion has kept that team alive. The problem I have with giving Nash the MVP this year is that he is overated based on the system that the Suns run.
Let me go through some stats. The Suns average 87.4 FGA per game, of which 25.6 are three-pointers. Those are both the highest among the NBA. The next closest FGA is the Charlotte Bobcats (83.4) and the average for the league is about 79-80. The Suns attempt the highest percentage (29%) of their field goal attempts behind the three point line. They are dead last in free throw attempts per game (18.1), with the next closest team (the mighty Toronto Raptors) attempting five more per game. They are also dead last in offensive rebounds per game (9.4).
They do have some really bright points. They are the most accurate team shooting three pointers (39.2%) and second in overall field goal accuracy (47.8%). They’re third in defensive rebounds (32.1), and first in assists (26.6) and points per game (108.3).
In case you’re having trouble grasping the big picture, the Suns are trying to beat you by shooting more shots and beating you in transition. They don’t make an effort to get the ball down low or to get to the free throw line. If they have a somewhat-open shot (especially behind the three point line) they’re going to fire it up. They have people who can make jump shots and they base their entire gameplan on using them.
They remind me a lot of a college team. Watching the NCAA tournament, I was shocked by how often teams would launch (and hit) three pointers. I could tell that some of the players were only on the team because they could hit the three and that was about it. If you’re one-dimensional in college, most NBA teams will pass on you.
What does all this have to do with Nash not deserving the MVP? I believe that the reason Nash is so successful and puts up the big numbers is because he is in a system that rewards people with his skill set. However, if you put almost any other starting point guard in the Suns starting lineup they would do almost just as well. If you look back to the 2003-04 season (the year before Nash arrived), Stephon Marbury put up huge numbers (20.8 ppg, 8.3 apg) for the Suns. The biggest difference between him and Nash is that Marbury is a shoot first, selfish player. In most systems, that doesn’t work well for the point guard. This is especially true in the Suns up-tempo, run-and-gun style.
I think the reason the Suns have done so well these past two seasons is teams just aren’t used to the style they play. Most of the time you don’t have to worry about the other team shooting a three pointer 1.7 seconds after your team just missed a shot. Like I pointed out before, the Suns are most interested in making shots from the outside. Nash just has to find the open player and get him the ball. To me, that is not what being the MVP is all about.