Phoenix Suns

Inside Steve Nash's Hall of Fame offensive impact

Steve Nash took the high-scoring Suns to new heights
Steve Nash took the high-scoring Suns to new heights (Getty Images)

Nash is one of only 11 players in NBA history to win back-to-back MVP awards. The others in order: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Company like that is tough to keep and it's an extraordinary accomplishment.

But there's something else on Nash's resume matched by no one, something which does a better job of showcasing his otherworldly talents.

For a nine-year stretch Nash presided over the NBA's most efficient offense. Nearly a decade-long run of dominance, three times longer than any other streak of its kind in modern NBA history.

Most Consecutive Seasons as PG for No. 1 Team in Offensive Rating
Steve Nash 9 2001-10
Stephen Curry 3 2015-18
Magic Johnson 3 1984-87

When reminiscing about Nash, we'll always remember the summer of 2004 as the moment the stars aligned to transform a very good, All-Star caliber point guard into a first-ballot Hall of Famer. After all, Nash himself alluded to the favorable circumstances at his own introductory press conference.

But while Nash's ceiling will forever be linked to Phoenix, his days in Dallas are often far too easily cast aside as simply the prologue.

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Before diving in too deeply, here's a quick exercise involving two different players over a three-year span. On a per-100 possessions basis, Player A averaged 26.3 points and 14.8 assists while shooting 46.9 percent. Player B averaged 25.6 points and 12.2 assists while shooting 47.3 percent.

Given only that information and nothing else, you'd take Player A. But it's not a landslide. There's no way you could definitively say Player A is far superior to Player B.

Player A is Pistons Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas from 1983-86 during the best individual three-year span of his career. Player B is Nash in his final three seasons with the Mavericks. It's an incredibly random comparison but with the important point that Nash hinted at possessing a Hall of Fame game well before landing with the team that vaulted him towards Springfield in fewer than seven seconds.

For the larger purposes of our discussion, the most important part is that each of those Mavericks teams finished atop the NBA in offensive efficiency. And thus, began Nash's nine-year run of captaining the league's top ranked offense.

Finished No. 1 in Offensive Efficiency: 2000-2011
2000-01 Bucks 106.3 Sam Cassell
2001-02 Mavericks 109.5 Steve Nash
2002-03 Mavericks 108.2 Steve Nash
2003-04 Mavericks 109.6 Steve Nash
2004-05 Suns 111.9 Steve Nash
2005-06 Suns 109.4 Steve Nash
2006-07 Suns 111.4 Steve Nash
2007-08 Suns 111.2 Steve Nash
2008-09 Suns 111.2 Steve Nash
2009-10 Suns 112.7 Steve Nash
2010-11 Nuggets 109.5 Chauncey Billups

Of course, he had help and lots of it in the form of Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Antawn Jamison in Dallas or Amar'e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson in Phoenix. The presence of all that top-shelf offensive talent - and what it did whenever their newly minted Hall of Fame point guard sat - is actually what drives home the chisel on sculpting Nash's bronzed bust.

Thanks to Basketball-Reference.com's invaluable team on/off splits, we can see just how each of Nash's teams performed with him on and off the floor. For example, the 2004-05 Suns offense scored over 17 points per 100 possessions fewer whenever Nash sat and went just 2-5 overall in the seven games that Nash missed.

Combining those pages for each of the years during his offensive stranglehold on the league, his teams on the whole performed over 9 points worse offensively in the nearly 12,000 minutes without him on the floor, roughly the same gap annually between the NBA's top-ranked and 25th-ranked offense. Yes, they were dripping with offensive firepower, but make no mistake, it was Nash that made it work.

MORE: Details behind 2018 Hall of Fame ceremony

After dishing 17 assists in a win over Milwaukee in January, Bucks coach Terry Porter - who would later coach Nash in Phoenix - marveled at his ability to elevate those around him. "Right now, I'd say he's the MVP of the NBA. The way he's changed that team around? I don't know if you could bring another point guard in the league and put him on that team and assume they'd have the same type of success they've had."

In terms of fully appreciating Nash's brilliance in elevating the play of those around him, perhaps the most impressive season in the lot isn't one of the MVP seasons or one of the 60-win juggernauts in either Dallas or Phoenix. It's one in which he didn't even make the All-Star team.

In 2008-09, a 34-year-old Nash led the Suns in total minutes as Stoudemire missed 29 games. Second and third on that team in minutes? A 36-year-old Grant Hill and 36-year-old Shaquille O'Neal. Despite all of that - in addition to the loss of Mike D'Antoni who left for the Knicks - the Suns still managed to finish with the league's most efficient offense.

Search "point guard" on Google and the first image that appears alongside the Wikipedia entry is of Steve Nash.

It's not because he's a two-time MVP, eight-time All-Star or five-time assist champion, all bullet points on his Hall of Fame resume that on some level are shared by others.

I'd like to think it's because Nash embodies everything we collectively think about when picturing the perfect point guard: amplifying the strengths of teammates, bringing everyone together into a single cohesive unit and extracting as much value as efficiently as possible.

In the grand scheme of things, there may have been better point guards. But when it comes to pulling the strings offensively and getting the most out of those around him, the numbers suggest that nobody comes close to touching Nash.

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