Since everyone is in a giving mood for the holiday season, my latest blog will be about two of the greatest passers and most unselfish players in NBA History, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. Both point guards were the best of their generation and both were inducted together into the Basketball Hall of Fame this past summer but Who Was Better?
These two great players will forever be connected and actually when Nash came into the league, he was Jason Kidd’s backup. They both had strong ties to the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks, although Kidd’s best years were clearly in New Jersey when he was an MVP candidate.
The two players played the game very differently and other then their unique ability to find open teammates, they were both very different basketball players with very different strengths and weaknesses. Despite these clear differences, I must say this is one of the closest comparisons you will ever find between two players. It’s a fair statement to say that half the world thinks Jason Kidd was better and the other half thinks it was Steve Nash…. it’s that close.
So to make a full comparison, I will be looking at all aspects of their career including career stats, playoff performances, team success, All Star selections, All NBA selections, MVP voting and finally physical and mental attributes. Then at the end of the article I will list the top 10 point guards of all time to see where Jason Kidd and Steve Nash rank all time.
Passing / Assists
2 of the best 5 passers to ever play in the NBA, both Nash and Kidd had the incredible ability to see plays before they happen. They both lead the league in assists 5 times and they had amazing vision and basketball IQ, with the ablility to hit shooters in the pocket or big men for easy layups and dunks at will. Although Nash’s best assist seasons were higher than Kidd’s, this was mainly due to him playing in the fast paced ‘7 seconds or less’ Phoenix Suns offense under Mike D’Antoni . He also had the luxury of playing with two of the best finishers in the NBA at the time, Amare Stoudmeire and Shawn Marion.
Jason Kidd’s 12,091 assists is 2nd all time to the untouchable John Stockton who had an unbelievable 15,806 assists in his career. To break that record somebody will have to average 800 assists a year (10 a game) for 20 years straight without missing any games at all!
Kidd got as close to Stockton's record as anybody will and his vision was just on another level. He had the ability to get the rebound, lead the fast break at full speed and go coast to coast, setting up his teammates for easy dunks and 3 pointers. For this reason I am giving the slight edge to Jason Kidd by the slimmest of margins.
Edge: Jason Kidd by a hair
Both players were reluctant scorers, but due to his far superior shooting ability, Steve Nash had far more potential to be a great scorer. This was evident by his much more impressive 17.3 ppg playoff scoring average showing Nash was willing to be more aggressive with his shot when the stakes were the highest.
In the 2005 playoffs when he won his first MVP, the Suns split the first two games at home against Nash’s old team the Dallas Mavericks in the 2nd round. Nash knew he would have to up his scoring to have any chance to advance against the high scoring Mavs. So the MVP responded with:
27 points and 17 assists in Game 3
A career high 48 points in Game 4
A 34 point 13 reb, 12 ast triple double in Game 5
And finally a 39 point 9 rebound 12 assist masterpiece to close the series out.
He would go on to score another 29 and 13 assists and 29 and 15 assists in games 1 and 2 of the conference finals showing once again he could score with the best of them. But he would ultimately fall short against the soon to be NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, a recurring theme for the years to come.
Jason Kidd also had a couple years in the playoffs where he upped his scoring and in the 2002 and 2003 playoffs he averaged 20 points leading the Nets to the NBA finals twice.
But Steve Nash gets the nod here for his consistent increase in playoff scoring and his ability to score 30 and even 40 plus points when his team needed him the most.
Edge: Steve Nash but closer than you think
Although Nash showed on occasion in the playoffs that he can be a decent rebounder, this category is not even close. Jason Kidd is the best rebounding guard (not just point guard) with Oscar Robertson in NBA History. In the 2007 playoffs in 12 games, Kidd averaged 10.9 rebounds along with 10.9 assists becoming the first player since Oscar Robertson 45 years earlier to average a triple double for the whole playoffs. Russell Westbrook who could challenge Kidd as the best rebounding guard ever also achieved this feat 10 years later in 2017 (but played in just 5 games).
Kidd would go on to get 107 triple doubles in his career, 3rd All time behind Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. Some of Jason Kidd’s best games have stat lines that hardly any other NBA player could obtain:
Jason Kidd’s 10 most insane triple doubles:
37pts / 16 reb / 25 ast 38pts / 12reb / 17ast
43pts / 16 reb / 19 ast 41pts / 13 reb / 18 ast
38pts / 16 reb / 18 ast 33pts / 16 reb / 19 ast
33pts / 13 reb / 18 ast 30pts / 15 reb / 19 ast
32pts / 14 reb / 17 ast 35pts / 15 reb / 17 ast
Edge: Kidd in a landslide
When it comes to shooting, few players if any in NBA history can match Steve Nash’s efficiency from 2, from 3 and from the free throw line. He was part of the famous 50/40/90 club (50% from the field, 40% from 3 and 90% from the line) an unbelievable 4 times in his career. Outside of Nash, this remarkable feat has only been recorded 7 times in NBA History! Reggie Miller, Mark Price, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki all achieved this one time and only Larry Bird managed to achieve this twice. Those are all the best shooters in NBA history so the fact that Nash has done this 4 times speaks volumes to his shooting ability. Nash actually has career averages of 49% FG, 43% 3P and 90% FT meaning he barely missed out on averaging it for his whole career!
Kidd on the other hand has below average career shooting percentages of just 40% FG, 35%FG and 78.5%FT. Early in his career Kidd even earned the nickname ‘Ason’ because of his lack of a ‘J’. To his credit he kept improving his shot every year and turned into a reliable 3 point shooter in the second half of his career and even made about 2,000 career 3 pointers, good for ninth on the career list and much higher than Nash (who is 19th on the list).
Of course Kidd took a lot more 3 pointers then Nash which is why he could be above him on that list as there is no comparison when it comes to efficiency. But if you only take 10 and half shots and less then 3 free throws a game, then being that efficient won’t help your team that much. Steve Nash’s biggest crime was that he only shot 11 times a game when he should have shot closer to 20 times.
Edge: Steve Nash and it’s not even close
By far the weakest part of Steve Nash’s game is his matador defense, as he routinely let his man beat him off the dribble or sink open shots.
Kidd on the other hand was a gifted defender who could guard elite scorers and switch onto bigger two guards that Steve Nash would have no chance guarding such as Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and even Michael Jordan. Kidd finished second in NBA history in steals (again to John Stockton) and although not a great shot blocker, he was above average for a point guard and a lot better than Nash.
Nash barely recorded 0.7 steals and 0.1 blocks a game for his career which is well below average for a point guard. Nash never came close to making an All Defensive Team, but Jason Kidd made 9 All Defensive Teams including 5 first team selections, cementing his place as one of the greatest defensive point guards in NBA history.
Edge: Jason Kidd by far
All Star / All NBA Selections
Kidd has more All Star Appearances, 2 more All NBA 1st team selections, 9 All Defense Teams (compared to none for Nash) and Kidd was Co-Rookie of the year as well with fellow 2018 Hall of Fame inductee Grant Hill. Steve Nash had a couple 2nd team and 3rd team All NBA Selections and more All NBA selections altogether (7 to 6), but Kidd still wins this category.
Edge: Jason Kidd
MVPS / MVP Voting and Other Awards
Although both players careers overlapped almost exclusively and they were inducted into the Hall of Fame together, both player’s career path was quite different. Kidd as mentioned earlier was a star right out of college winning Co Rookie of the Year Honours and earning an All Star Berth in just his second season. Kidd would receive MVP votes 7 years in a row from 1997 to 2004 peaking in 2002 when he narrowly missed out to Tim Duncan when many people believed Kidd should have been league MVP.
Nash on the other hand was a very late bloomer not making his first all star game until his sixth year when he was already 28 years old. He then peaked in his 30s famously winning 2 MVP awards over the likes of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, transforming the Phoenix Suns into the most exciting team in the league.
Overall Kidd only had 1 top 10 MVP finish after the age of 30 but Nash had 6 top 10 finishes and 2 MVP’s after 30. So although their careers overlapped you could see when Kidd was in his prime Nash had not yet arrived, and when Nash hit his prime Kidd was declining and no longer an MVP candidate.
Edge: Steve Nash Clearly with 2 MVP Awards to 0
Looking at team success, Jason Kidd clearly seems to have the edge here. Steve Nash’s run and gun Phoenix Suns teams may have won more regular season games than Kidd’s teams, but in the playoffs Jason Kidd has experienced much more success. Kidd has a championship with the Mavericks and 2 Finals appearances with the Nets in his prime, whereas Nash could not get over the hump of the Conference Finals, usually at the hands of Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. Steve Nash will probably go down as the greatest ever player to never make an NBA finals and he is the only MVP never to make it, a label Nash would probably rather forget.
Edge: Jason Kidd
Speed / Strength and Athleticism
Jason Kidd Steve Nash
Height: 6ft 4 Height: 6ft 3
Weight: 205lbs Weight: 195lbs
Nash was pretty quick in his prime and his sixth sense and soccer background allowed him to see plays before they happened. Nash, generously listed as 6 ft 3 was small but very tough, and a fierce competitor especially in the playoffs. But Kidd’s superior size, strength and athleticism gives him the clear edge here. You don’t get over 100 triple doubles in your career and be one of the greatest rebounding and defensive point guards in NBA history without strong physical attributes.
Edge: Jason Kidd
Leadership / Mental / Intangibles
The final category is the mental side of the game including Leadership, Basketball IQ and Intangibles. Both players have two of the highest basketball IQ’s in NBA history, but Kidd gets the nod here due to his more vocal leadership style coupled with his aggressive defense, helping to set the tone for many of his teams to be more successful.
Kidd was chosen on the 2008 USA Olympic Team purely for his leadership qualities and he used to lead his All Star teams every year. It was no surprise that he ended up being a head coach as soon as he retired. Even when Kidd joined the New York Knicks for his final year as a 40 year old in 2013, he lead them to the 2nd round of the playoffs - further then they have been since the turn of the century.
Edge: Jason Kidd
See the Table Below for a Full Comparison Summary:
As you can see Jason Kidd has a higher score of 89.5 compared to 85.5 for Nash. In terms of advanced stats, Steve Nash has a higher P.E.R (20 to 17.9) mainly due to superior shooting ability and Kidd has slightly more Win Shares in his career (138.6 to 129.7 Win Shares for Nash). But the truth is if it wasn’t for Nash’s 2 MVPs, it wouldn’t have been as close. Kidd was the better rebounder, defender and leader and in my opinion was the slightly better passer as well. He was faster with the ball, stronger and had better career stats and team success, including an NBA Championship. Nash was the better scorer and shooter, but that was it really and Kidd was better at almost everything else and could affect the game in more ways without even scoring.
So now that we established who was better, where do they rank on the all time list?
Top Ten Point Guards All Time:
1). Magic Johnson
No debate here, the consensus best point guard ever with 5 championships and 3 MVPs. The fact that he is clearly regarded as the best ever even though he was forced to retire at just 32 years of age shows just how great he was.
2). Oscar Robertson
The Big 0 had the most triple doubles in history with 181 including averaging a triple double for the first 5 years of his career.
3). Stephen Curry
2 time MVP and 3 time NBA champion, Steph Curry is quite simply the greatest shooter in NBA History. He has changed the way the game is played and is already a top 3 point guard in history even though he is only half way through his career.
4). John Stockton
The NBA All time leader in Assists (15,806) and Steals (3,265) by such a large margin that it is safe to say those records will probably never be broken.
5). Isiah Thomas
‘Zeke’ was one of the most clutch performers in NBA history, somehow managing to get 2 championships during the tough 1980s beating Jordan’s Bulls, Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers - a truly remarkable achievement.
6). Jason Kidd
Checking in at number 6, Kidd is 2nd All time in Assists and Steals to John Stockton, but unlike Stockton, Kidd has a championship to show for all of his efforts.
7). Steve Nash
Next up is Steve Nash with 2 MVPS and only Magic Johnson among point guards has more. But he never reached the NBA finals which means he can go no higher on this list.
8). Chris Paul
Creeping up on Jason Kidd and Steve Nash is 9 time All Star Chris Paul. Similar to Jason Kidd with multiple ALL NBA and ALL Defense selections, Paul is the much better shooter and scorer. His repeated playoff failures hurts his ranking, but CP3 has a chance to climb this list and pass Kidd if he can play at an elite level for a few more years and win a championship.
9). Bob Cousy
The pioneer of point guards, The ‘Houdini of the Hardwood’ won an amazing 6 championships and was a 13 time All Star and 12 time All NBA team selection, including a remarkable 10 straight 1st team All NBA selections. He had great vision, was a magician with the ball and was light years ahead of his time.
10). Walt Frazier
Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier was super tough on the court and super cool off it. He orchestrated the Knick’s ball movement offense and was a terror on the defensive end as well. Still a hero in NYC, Frazier lead the Knicks to their only two championships including an unforgettable game 7 performance (36 points, 19 assists and 7 rebounds!) to win their first chip in 1970.
Coming Soon: Russell Westbrook
Surely the next point guard to break into this top ten list will be Russell Westbrook, and he has an MVP to his name as well as multiple seasons averaging a triple double - something that was thought to be impossible just a few years ago. He probably should already be on the top 10 list, but since he is still early in his career, we will respect the NBA legends before him and keep him on the edge for now.
So there's your Top Ten Point Guards of All Time!
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