Kevin Johnson vs. Steve Nash
Double-threat point guards who are defensive liabilities are part of the folklore of the Phoenix Suns. With the exception of Magic Johnson – who was just a physical anomaly with wonderful vision – Kevin Johnson (KJ) was the first point guard (at least in the modern era of my memory) who could both pass and shoot. Cotton Fitzsimmons used to say that only good things could happen when KJ went to the hoop.
For you younger readers, Chris Paul looks a heckuva (from the John Madden drinking game) lot like KJ. Trust me on this one. The problem was that KJ took such a pounding that he was quickly reduced to making guest appearances during the regular season (his understudy was Negele Knight) and the playoffs. He took a short break, though, and came back to the Suns.
Pass-first point guards who can nail their shots and carry their team. Both create for themselves and their teams with dribble penetration. KJ, like Nash, was wonderful at pulling up on the break and hitting the jumper.
Does anyone else in Phoenix listen to the Al McCoy broadcast while watching the game on TV? During that Game 5 in Utah, the radio feed was a split second faster than the TV feed and Al told us that the shot was in while, on TV, it looked to be still in the air.
Nash is great at that, too. I love to watch the fundamentals. A jump-stop followed by a jump-shot is a great thing to see.
At this point, it is interesting to note that Jason Kidd was a great Suns’ point guard that did not have the jumper but had the defense. I guess you can’t get everything you want.
Steve Nash’s three-point range and his MVPs. KJ had neither of those two things.
On the MVP front, it is interesting to note KJ’s relative lack of acclaim. KJ averaged better than 20 and 10 in 1988-1989, 1989-1990 and 1990-1991. He narrowly missed his 20-10 average in 1991-1992 (19.7 and 10.7), 1993-1994 (20 and 9.5), and 1996-1997 (20 and 9.3). In Barkley’s first year, he laid (pun intended – it’s kind of like a Jeep Thing, if you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand) off the scoring, averaging only 16 and 8. For his career, he averaged 18 and 9. Perhaps his biggest fault lies with his poor playoff performance during the 1993 Finals.
Nash, on the other hand, has never averaged more than 20 points in a season, but does have four seasons with double-digits in assists. His star is also burning hotter and more quickly, with career averages of only 14.1 and 7.7 (current).
It is interesting to note that KJ’s career, at least statistically speaking, is better than Nash’s career thus far. KJ went deep in the playoffs and made a Finals appearance. That having been said, would KJ in his prime on this current team mean that the Suns have a better squad? I’m not sure, what do you think?