Who’s Better: Steve Nash or Jason Kidd?

By: 08.12.09  •  129 Comments
Nash vs. Kidd

Nash vs. Kidd

We argue. You decide.

STEVE NASH (by Ben York)
He’s lost a step. He can’t play defense. He’s old. He’s overpaid. He’s a system point guard.


The so-called debate on whether Steve Nash can still play effective and consistent basketball is ridiculous and, frankly, irresponsible. Last season, in the most tumultuous and difficult year of his 13 year career, Nash put up numbers that almost bested his first MVP season in ’04/05.

’08-09: 15.7 ppg, 9.7 apg, 3.4 tpg, 93.3 FT%, 43.9 3PT%, 50.3 FG%
’04-05: 15.5 ppg, 11.5 apg, 3.3 tpg, 88.7 FT%, 43.1 3PT%, 50.2 FG%

Those are sick numbers, and he did it with much less options to work with, even from his 2nd MVP season (with Amar’e out) in ’05-06. The real question here is right now, who is the more effective player — Kidd or Nash? The answer to that, my friends, is obviously Steve Nash.

The Mavs system, with Jason Kidd at the helm, isn’t PG centric or guard focused; the bulk of their points and creativity on offense comes from the wings and Dirk‘s ability to play inside-out. I mean, for God’s sake, J.J. Barea could run that team just as good as Kidd has, sometimes better. One way to illustrate how much better Steve Nash is than Jason Kidd, at this point in time, is to hypothesize how the Suns and Mavs would be if Kidd and Nash switched teams. Yes, each team plays a different style and has different personnel, but can you honestly say that if the Mavs had Nash they wouldn’t have a legitimate shot at beating the Lakers? On the flip-side, if the Suns had Kidd, they’d be a bit better defensively but they’d lose out on Nash’s ability to take over games on the offensive end of the floor; having Kidd on the Suns certainly wouldn’t lead to any more wins or make the Suns a better team — Nash on the Mavericks makes them better.

There’s no question that Kidd is still a better defender, but at what point do we give Nash a break? He’s had three of the all-time worst defenders of the pick & roll (Dirk, Amar’e, and Shaq) as “help” for his entire career! Of course, this isn’t to say that Nash is a great defender by any means. Rather, there are just so many other facets to his game (leadership, creativity, shooting, encouragement, support, and work ethic) that he should be let off the hook a bit for his defense.

Back to the question at hand — right now, there shouldn’t be any question who is the better player. From a statistical point of view, it’s not even close. Nash beats Kidd in points, assists, FT%, 3PT%, FG%. How about intangibles? Nash is a clear leader of men by example; he’s the first off the bench to high-five and encourage teammates (even in a blowout), consistently deflects credit, and shoulders the blame when things aren’t going well. In simple terms, Nash personifies the true definition of a leader, and backs it up with his game.

Kidd vs. Nash

Kidd vs. Nash

JASON KIDD (by Austin Burton)
If any two players stood a chance of remixing the SportsCenter-bred basketball fan’s mentality, it was Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. Preceded by Maravich and Magic, succeeded by CP and D-Will, Kidd and Nash were the ground-bound magicians with the ball, the ones who drew “Did you see that sh*t he did?” reactions without touching the rim or taking a shot. And nearing the end of their careers, the debate over who’s better is still out there.

When Nash inked a two-year, $22 million extension with the Suns this summer, there was a sense that it was more of a “Thanks for everything” than a “Take us to the promised land” deal. When Kidd re-upped with Dallas for $27M over three, it was no lifetime achievement trophy. Kidd is still expected to deliver the goods; in large part because he’s better at it right now than Nash, the man he once fought for Best Point Guard in the World status.

Admittedly, the contract thing is pure perception. In judging Kidd vs. Nash, the facts take me back to one game in April. On national TV, the Suns went into Dallas needing a win to stay in the playoff picture. The Mavs were also fighting—there were no giveaways in the West at that point—but it clearly meant more to Phoenix. So all Kidd did was rip Nash apart, dropping 19 points and 20 assists (with two turnovers) in three quarters, orchestrating an offense that scored 140 points and effectively ended Phoenix’s season. It was Kidd’s best all-around effort of the year and a near-flawless display of how to play point guard on an NBA court.

In guiding Dallas to the second round of the playoffs, Kidd averaged 9.0 points, 8.7 dimes, 6.2 boards and 2.0 steals in ’08-09. Nash inevitably scored more and put up more assists in a system that dictates greater numbers, but he can’t match the rebounding, steals and just all-around effectiveness Kidd offers. Steve Nash is an offensive basketball player; Jason Kidd is threat across the board. Kidd had three triple-doubles last year, and two other times he recorded double-digit rebounds and assists but fell short on the scoring part. True, Kidd’s defense is suspect at this point, but it’s still better than Nash’s, whether it’s straight-up D or playing the passing lanes. And while Nash has either tabled or dropped in every area of his game, Kidd is actually getting better in at least one facet: Last season, Kidd hit 40.6% of his threes, the best line of his career, and his 41.6% from the field was his best since 1999.

The PG position has changed since the Magic era — from teams coveting pure playmakers to preferring explosive scorers — and then changed back again. In that time, Kidd and Nash have been both the prototypes and the throwbacks. Except for a year or two along the way, Kidd has always been the better player. With little left but the Hall of Fame in their sights now, he’s still got Nash in his rearview mirror.

Who do you think is better?

Follow Ben York on Twitter: @bjyork
Follow Austin Burton on Twitter: @AustinatDIMEmag
Follow DIME on Twitter: @DIMEMag

“Who’s better?” archives
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2/26 — Kevin Durant vs. Danny Granger
2/19 — Paul Millsap vs. David Lee
2/17 — Caron Butler vs. Tayshaun Prince
12/24 — Marcus Camby vs. Andrew Bynum
12/19 — Deron Williams vs. Chauncey Billups
12/17 — Manu Ginobili vs. Tracy McGrady
12/12 — Amare Stoudemire vs. Al Jefferson
12/10 — Dirk Nowitzki vs. Chris Bosh
12/9 — Derrick Rose vs. O.J. Mayo
12/8 — Rasheed Wallace vs. Elton Brand
12/5 — Kevin Martin vs. Vince Carter
12/4 — Brandon Roy vs. Joe Johnson
12/3 — Dwight Howard vs. Yao Ming
12/2 — Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony

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