In our ongoing "Steve Nash versus Kobe Bryant" debate, mustachioed wonder David Friedman posed the following question: "If Nash's points/assists combos are more impressive than Kobe's scoring explosions, how come Kobe's scoring explosions are much more rare in NBA history?"

An excellent question, which requires an even more excellent answer. A special thanks goes out to reader scoots who -- despite being a mildly embittered Mavericks fan* -- directed me to Steve Nash's NBA.com bio page, which lists the little canuck's most historically significant accomplishments. The best of his best include:

1. During the 2006 playoffs, Nash became just the third player (behind Magic Johnson and John Stockton) to post double figures in assists in seven consecutive playoff games (May 12-26, 2006).

2. During the 2004-05 regular season, he became the only player in NBA history to record double figures in assists in 11 consecutive victories.

3. During the 2004-05 playoffs, he joined Wilt Chamberliain and Michael Jordan as the only players to score 40-plus points in one playoff game and then collect a triple double in the next game.

4. During the 2004-05 playoffs, he became the first (and still only) player in NBA history to record four consecutive games with at least 25 points and 10 assists in the postseason.

So there you have it. Nash can boast accomplishments that are, indeed, as rare as Kobe's recent scoring outbursts. And, most notably, three of the four I've listed were accomplished in the playoffs, versus the best competition. As opposed to, say, lottery teams. Which leads me to the second part of this post.

Whenever I present arguments in favor of Steve Nash, I usually get bombarded by "but" statements. BUT he's a bad defender. BUT he has talented teammates. BUT he's never won a title. BUT his hair is silly. And while these points have varying degrees of validity, they certainly do prove one thing: every player, and every accomplishment, comes with an asterisk. This has been true ever since Wilt Chamberlain dropped 100 on the Knicks (he was playing against undersized centers, it was a blowout, his teammates were fouling to get the ball back) and the Celtics won 11 out of 13 championships (they had the best players, the best coach, and leprechauns). And, in that spirit, Kobe's recent 5-game scoring streak also has a few "buts":

1. Kobe's recent scoring binge has come against five lottery-bound teams with a combined record of 141-209. For those of you who like math, that's a .403 winning percentage. The "best" team in that bunch is the Golden State Warriors, who are ninth in the West and have a slim chance of making the playoffs (but won't). But their 33-38 record is kind of deceiving, since they're 25-10 at home and an abysmal 8-28 on the road. Hey, guess where they were playing when Kobe dropped 43 points on them? Yep: in L.A.

2. The Lakers have won all five games during Kobe's scoring tear. Of course, they've done so by a combined total of 21 points (including a 4-point victory over the Portland Trailblazers in overtime). That's not to take anything away from the victories; a win's a win, period. The point, rather, is that all the games were close (two 2-point games, a 4-point game, a 6-point game, and a 7-point game). The fact that they were close means that Kobe had to stay in the game and continue shooting. There have been plenty of games throughout NBA history where a great player was hot and could have gone for 50 or 60. I know of several Larry Bird game where The Legend had 40+ by the third quarter, then sat out the fourth because it was a blowout. Same for Michael Jordan.

3. Over this 5-game stretch, Kobe has dished 11 assists and committed 15 turnovers (including 0 assists and 7 turnovers in Sunday's game against Golden State). That's a 0.7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. That's...not good.

Kobe has been on fire, no doubt about it. His scoring has been extremely impressive (historically so), and, most importantly, the Lakers have won the last five games. But let's put things in perspective. The man beat up on a handful of lottery teams with less-than-stellar defenses and little to play for (Golden State's outside shot of making the playoffs notwithstanding). He also had to keep shooting in all five games because the Lakers couldn't pull away in any of them, despite his otherworldly scoring contributions. And that might be because he sacrificed getting his teammates involved because, well, he was too busy filling up the basket.

The thing is, I'm not saying any of this to take anything away from Bryant or his accomplishments. I may not like Kobe as a person, but I genuinely enjoy watching him play. I have repeatedly stated that he's the best scorer in the NBA, and one of the greatest in league history. I even think he's one of the best players in the game today. But I simply don't equate scoring with being The Best Player. That's why, if I was starting a team, I'd take a Magic Johnson over a Jordan, and I'd take a Nash over a Bryant, despite all the "buts" out there.

Now with that said, I admit to being a little tired of discuing Nash/Kobe. So I'll do my best to respond to any outstanding comments to this and past posts. However, going forward I intend to return to the fart and penis jokes that are my hallmark.

* Look, scoots, I feel your pain. It's always traumatizing when a player leaves your team and goes on to do great things. But honestly, Steve had to scale back his game when he played in Dallas. He was usually the second (behind Dirk Nowitzki) or third option (behind Dirk and Michael Finley). He simply filled his role and did what the coaching staff asked him to do. Which is remarkable, when you think about it. He never pouted or made bitter comments to the press about how he could be an MVP if he didn't have to defer to Dirk. He didn't demand a trade or try to get someone else traded. And when he was asked to be "The Man," he just flat out did it. But all that aside, you still have the Mavericks, who are the best team in the league and (in my mind) a lock to win the title this year (or as close to a lock as you can get in today's league).

Labels: , , , , , ,

4 Comments:
Blogger David Friedman said...
I wouldn't think that playoff accomplishments are where you want to go in the Kobe-Nash debate, because then you have to address the fact that Kobe has three rings plus one other Finals appearance. Yes, Kobe played with Shaq--and Nash played several seasons with MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki and is currently playing with All-NBA caliber players like Amare and Marion.

What you and Scoots are doing is the classic "bait and switch." First you say that 32+16 is better than 65 points. Then I say that crediting the passer with 2 full points for an assist makes no sense and that there have been many similar or better points/assists games in the last 20 years. You of course completely ignore that. Instead, you switch to a completely different argument that is even less convinvcing: Nash is a better playoff performer than Kobe.

Kobe led the Lakers in assists each of the three championship years. He made the All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams each year. In the '01 playoffs, Kobe averaged 29.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 6.1 apg, leading the team in assists and ranking second in scoring and rebounding (Shaq averaged 30.4 ppg). This is a shooting guard leading a championship team in assists and ranking second in rebounding while scoring almost 30 ppg.

You want great individual playoff games by Kobe? OK, how about leading his team in scoring, rebounding and assists (25, 11, 7) in a game 7 come from behind win over Portland in the 2000 WCF? Without that win there might not have been a Lakers dynasty. Two years later in game seven of the WCF Kobe had 30, 10 and 7. How about game four against Sac in 2001? All Kobe had was 48 points and 16 rebounds. In his next game he had 45 and 10 versus the Spurs in the first game of a WCF sweep.

I know what comes next. You completely ignore the above and go straight to game seven last year against the Suns. What happened there? Kobe scored a ton in the first half to keep the Lakers close. In the third quarter he tried to get his teammates involved, they kicked the ball all over the place and the Suns blew them out. By the way, check out what happened to LeBron and the Cavs in game seven versus Detroit: almost exactly the same thing. The Suns had the better team but somehow Kobe and the Lakers took them to a seventh game.

As for your next five points:

1) If scoring a lot against losing teams is so easy how come no one other than Wilt has scored that much in the history of the NBA? Also, Kobe had 62 points in three quarters last year against eventual NBA Finalist Dallas. By the way, since you are so fond of W-L records, check out the Suns' record against the top teams this year (Dall, Spurs, Utah).

2) I'd like to know which Bird games you are talking about? Was he guarding Jeff Foster? I'm not sure that I trust your memory. Here's a game for you to look up: Bird's career high 60 versus Atlanta. Check out the end of the game: it's a blowout and the Celtics are fouling the Hawks to get the ball back so that Larry can go for 60. Classy. At least Kobe's 50+ games came in competitive contests.

3) Assist to turnover ratio is a meaningless stat. All high possession guys are high turnover guys, Nash included. Why not look at Kobe's points/turnover ratio?

By the way, have Nash and the Suns recovered from their allegedly draining win over Dallas? The Mavs are undefeated since then and pulling away from the Suns, who are 2-3 since that game and just lost to the sub .500 Kings. I guess beating sub .500 teams is not as easy as you think.

Blogger Joe said...
Doesn't Kobe's low assist ratio also have to do with his team mates ability to make the basket...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Is something wrong with me if both Nash and Kobe are two of my favorite players?

Anonymous peedee said...
YOURE POINTS ON NASH

1. During the 2006 playoffs, Nash became just the third (NOT ENOUGH, SORRY. BECAUSE KOBE BECAME JUST THE SECOND TO: 81 IN ONE GAME, 4 50`S IN A ROW, 7 40`S IN A ROW, JUNGEST ALL-STAR ETC…THIRD IS NOT ENOUGH) player (behind Magic Johnson and John Stockton) to post double figures in assists in seven consecutive playoff games (May 12-26, 2006).

2. NOT SURE ABOUT THAT. I WANT YOU TO REMEMBER THAT THE ASSIST-RULE CHANGED DURING THE YEAR`S. SO YOU CAN COMPARE CHAMBERLAIN`S POINTS TO KOBE`S (OK, WILT DIDN`T HAD THE 3-POINT LINE BUT WOULD HE HAVE USED IT?) BUT YOU CAN`T COMPARE LET`S SAY BIG O`S ASSISTS (AND EVERYONE BEFORE) TO THOSE OF TODAY.

3.AGAIN, HE`S “JUST” THE THIRD TO DO SO…AND BESIDES THAT. TRIPLE-DOUBLES???? DO YOU REALLY WANT TO COMPARE THOSE TWO ON TRIPLE DOUBLES?)

4.THAT`S VERY IMPRESSIVE! BUT EVEN WITH YOU MATHS THAT`S NOT BETTER THAN 225 POINTS IN 4 GAMES. OK, BUT IT WAS IN THE PLAYÒFFS SO IT`S REALLY IMPRESSIV. NO REALLY!)

So there you have it. Nash can boast accomplishments that are, indeed, as rare as Kobe's recent scoring outbursts (SURE HE CAN. HE IS A TWO TIME MVP, WICH SETS HIM APPART OF KOBE, IVERSON, GARNETT, BARKLEY, STOCKTON, KIDD ETC.). And, most notably, three of the four I've listed were accomplished in the playoffs, versus the best competition. As opposed to, say, lottery teams. Which leads me to the second part of this post.

” every player, and every accomplishment, comes with an asterisk. This has been true ever since Wilt Chamberlain dropped 100 on the Knicks (he was playing against undersized centers, it was a blowout, his teammates were fouling to get the ball back) and the Celtics won 11 out of 13 championships (they had the best players, the best coach, and leprechauns). And, in that spirit, Kobe's recent 5-game scoring streak also has a few "buts"” A LITTLE SARCASTIC BUT TRUE! LET`S SE YOU`RE POINTS ON THIS ONE:

1. OK, SO KOBE ISN`T GOOD ENOUGH TO SCORE 268 POINTS AGAINST 5 PLAY-OFF TEAMS. THAT`S RIGHT!!! SHAME ON HIM!

2. MAYBE THE MOST WEAK-MINDED THING YOU WROTE. KOBE`S 5-GAME STREAK WAS THERFORE BAD BECAUSE HE SCORED WHEN HIS TEAM NEEDED HIM THE MOST??? IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE SAING? PLUS KOBE HAD SOME BLOWOUT GAMES TO. ONE CAME AGAINST A FINALIST (MAVS) WHERE HE OUTSCORED THE WHOLE TEAM (63) DURING 3 QUARTERS AND THE OTHER CAME AGAINST THE RAPTORES WHERE HE PLAYED THE WHOLE GAME AN SCORED 81. NO MATTER WHAT HE DOES, YOU`LL ALWAYS FIND SOMETHING THAT JUST ISN`T RIGHT.

3. 15 TURNOVERS OVER 5 GAMES? THAT`S 3.0 PER GAME. WHAT`S NASH`S AVERRAGE THIS SEASON? 3.87!!!
11 ASSISTS??? HE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR 268 + 22 (11ASSIST x 2) = 290 POINTS. IF HE WOULD HAVE AVERRAGED 30 OVER THIS STRECH, HE`D STILL HAVE 14 ASSIST PER GAME!!!! WHEN DID NASH HAD THE LAST 30POINTS-AND-14ASSISTS-FIVE-GAMES-WINNING-STREAK?

”But I simply don't equate scoring with being The Best Player” 100% CORRECT!.

That's why, if I was starting a team, I'd take a Magic Johnson over a Jordan, and I'd take a Nash over a Bryant, despite all the "buts" out there. “WELL THAT`S ANOTHER DISCUSSION”

BESIDES EVERYTING: I LOVE YOU`RE SITE AND ALL THES DISCUSSIONS. SORRY FOR THE BAD ENGLISCH BUT THAT`S HOW WE DO IN SWITZERLAND!!!

greets peedee

Links to this post:
Create a Link