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Phoenix Suns: Why Steve Nash was a Better Point Guard Than Kevin Johnson

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Ask a younger Phoenix Suns fan who the best point guard in team history is and you're likely to get Steve Nash. Ask an older fan and you're likely to get Kevin Johnson. Who's right?

For once, the younger generation got it right. Nash, he of the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player award is the better of the two and the reasons are simple.

Don't get me wrong here, Johnson was a terrific point guard that had an ability to get to the basket. His career averages of 17.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 9.1 assists and 1.5 steals stand up to all but the very elite in NBA history.

Johnson had a four-year peak from his second to his sixth year in the league, in which he averaged 21.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 11.1 assists and 1.6 steals. He shot 50 percent from the field and 84.3 percent from the free-throw line. Pretty good, right?

Let's also not forget that those Suns teams routinely made the playoffs and Johnson was generally terrific for them (please ignore the 1991 playoffs).

Johnson also got to play with Tom Chambers when he was at his best. Chambers averaged 25.7 and 27.2 points per game in Johnson's first two years. When Charles Barkley came along in 1992-93, that was when the Suns got to the NBA Finals.

Nash's peak lasted much longer. He was arguably at his best for a full seven years, starting when he came to Phoenix in 2004-05 and ending in 2010-11. He averaged 16.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 11.0 assists with a shooting line of .508/.440/.913.

Although his ability to perform at a higher level longer than Johnson is a part of why he's better, the real difference is how they each affected their teammates.

The point guard, whether he's a facilitator or not, is supposed to enhance the games of those around him. Johnson did that to an extent, but Nash was the master. Nash took role players like Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa and made them valuable rotation guys.

He took the careers of Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion and Amar'e Stoudemire to new heights. Could another point guard have gotten so much out of those guys?

Look at the masterpiece Nash put up with the Suns in 2011-12. The Suns went 33-33 with Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley as their top scorers.

People may want to point towards Johnson because of the fact he actually played in the NBA Finals, whereas Nash couldn't lead his teams there.

Nash put up 23.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 11.3 assists with a shooting line of .520/.389/.919 during the 2004-05 playoff run. In 2005-06, he averaged 20.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 10.2 assists with a shooting line of .502/.368/.912.

It wasn't Nash's fault that he never got to play with a Hall of Famer in Phoenix. The battle between Johnson and Nash is close. In the end, Nash could match stats with Johnson and made his teammates better.

Michael Dunlap covers the Phoenix Suns for HoopsHabit.com , where he is also the Editor-in-Chief.
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