Why we were wrong about Steve Nash
Updated: December 15, 2006, 5:58 PM ETBy John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
Mark Cuban was wrong, and so was I. In July 2004, when Steve Nash got a six-year, $65 million offer from the Phoenix Suns, Cuban thought it would be a mistake to match it. That was because he thought Nash, as a 29-year-old player at a position where players tend to decline quickly with age, would be unlikely to provide value commensurate with that salary, something Cuban outlined in incredible detail on his blog:
"I said ... that if another team came in and paid him a max-like deal, what I called an extreme deal, outside the norm, then he would have to take it," he wrote then. (When I emailed Cuban to ask if he had any further comment, he said, "It's all in the blog.") I used similar logic in chiding the move. At the time I wrote, "The Suns took a huge risk in giving him five guaranteed years and part of a sixth. At the end of his contract, he'll be 35, making well over $10 million a year, and probably won't be more than a bit player." Well, we all know how the rest went. Nash won consecutive MVP awards and helped the Suns become instant contenders. This year, he's been even better. In addition to his perennially league-leading assist total, Nash is shooting 52.8 percent from the floor, 48.8 percent on 3-pointers and 90.8 percent from the line, producing an insane 65.5 true shooting percentage. The net result is that at the age of 32, Nash's player efficiency rating (PER) of 24.75 through Tuesday is easily the highest of his career. As such, Nash's career arc is highly unusual. We say "arc" because it's supposed to go down eventually, but with Nash it's been pretty much straight up. He's been better as a Sun in his 30s than he was as a Mav in his 20s, and his stock has steadily risen throughout his career -- this year would be the sixth time in 11 pro seasons that he has set a career best in PER. And if he keeps this up for a couple more years, he'll go down as the best post-30-year-old point guard of all time. To understand how incredibly rare it is for a point guard to play this well at Nash's age, consider the daunting list of men who were out of the league by age 32 -- a list that includes Magic Johnson, Kevin Johnson, Phil Ford and Norm Van Lier. Those are just the ones who were gone entirely -- the list of guards who were diminished is considerably longer. Isiah Thomas and Pete Maravich played their final seasons at 32; while Clyde Frazier, Fat Lever, Tiny Archibald and Mark Price were mere whispers of their former selves by this age. And these are the stars -- the list gets much more depressing if you look at the league's rank and file. So of all the point guards to defy the odds, why Nash?
Rocky Widner/Getty ImagesSteve Nash is getting better with age, a tough feat for a PG.