Photo via flickr
This past week, the NBA enlisted it's newest members to the most coveted basketball brotherhood: The Basketball Hall of Fame. Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Ray Allen, Maurice Cheeks, Tina Thompson were among those of the 2018 class that will forever be enshrined. These players brought such unique strengths and memories to the table. Grant Hill was LeBron James before LeBron James (and before injuries derailed his career, Ray Allen retired with the most three-pointers made in NBA history, Maurice Cheeks was one of the leagues greatest defenders under 6'2, and Tina Thompson in her 16 year career racked up the second most points in WNBA history. Jason Kidd and Steve Nash each have their own individual legacies and qualities, but it's hard to not find similarities in their game. So the question has to be asked, who would you take in their prime?
We're going to look at each players best consecutive five year span in their career as their prime. Yes, a players prime can be up for debate, but this is our website and we get to do what we want with it. Feel free to email me complaints.
Kidd's prime was from the 1998-1999 to 2002-2003 season. During this time he played the first three seasons with the Phoenix Suns and the last two with the New Jersey Nets. Check out his stat line below.
Stats via basketball-reference.com
Kidd had his highest career assist per game in that 1998-1999 season with the Suns and saw his highest career points per game mark in the 2002-2003 season with the Nets. You can also see that his rebounding totals were impressive for a 6'4 point guard. While he didn't see his highest rebounds per game mark during this five year stretch (in 2006-2007 he averaged 8.2 RPG) he was able to consistently pull down rebounds and embrace the nickname "Mr. Triple Double" while distancing himself from his other nickname "Ason Kidd" which poked fun of his inability to shoot, or lack of a "jay." While his low thirty percent marks from deep during this time stand isn't eye opening in today's NBA, he was able to become an average shooter at this point in his career.
During this time we saw Kidd lead his team to playoff success that Nash was ever able to achieve. In those two seasons with the Nets during his prime, New Jersey was able to reach the finals, and lose, twice. Sure, the 2002 NBA Finals are looked back as one of the worst and most boring NBA Finals of all-time, the Nets were able to make things more interesting in 2003 against the Spurs by taking the series to game six. You've got to cut Kidd some slack with the lack of winning in the NBA Finals (2-8 overall) when you look at the roster assembled around him. In 2002 he had the help of Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, and of course Brian Scalabrine. Kidd was asked to do most of the heavy lifting and did all that he could, but the 2002 Lakers are one of the greatest teams ever assembled.
It didn't get much easier for the Kidd and the Nets in 2003. The San Antonio Spurs were in the middle of their dynasty and had both Tim Duncan and David Robinson in the front court and Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Bruce Bowen, Steve Kerr, and Steve Smith in the back court. The addition of an aged Dikembe Mutumbo will not tip the scales in New Jersey's favor.
Kidd had one of the greatest careers in NBA history and his prime will most likely be under-appreciated as we get further and further from it. Kids today will most likely remember Kidd as the below average coach that had one memorable moment.
Nash's prime was from the 2004-2005 season to the 2008-2009 season. These were his first five years back with the Phoenix Suns after coming over in free agency from Dallas. Check out his stat line below.
Stats via basketball-reference.com
Nash had his two highest assist per game seasons (2004-2005 and 2006-2007) and his two highest points per game seasons (2005-2006 and 2006-2007). He also had his highest rebounds per game average during this time, but Nash was never known for his rebounding and 4.2 per game isn't exactly noteworthy when you examine the abilities of Steve Nash. During this stretch Nash was able to shoot over 90% from the free throw line, well over 44% from three, and even led the league in effective field goal percentage at 61.3% in the 2006-2007 season. Not too shabby for 6'3, 190 pound, long-haired Canadian.
While Nash didn't ever see the NBA Finals like Jason Kidd did, he was able to bring home two MVP awards, both of which were won in his prime. Nash's MVP awards came in back-to-back seasons in the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons. While some dispute that those awards should have gone to Shaq or Kobe, but at the end of the day Nash has those MVP's on his mantle, or in a shed, or wherever athletes put their trophies. Nash was able to handle the duties of running the new-age Mike D'Antoni "seven seconds or less" offense and was instrumental in creating the brand of NBA basketball that we see today.
Nash was able to have the perfect group of teammates for the brand of basketball being run in Phoenix. A'mare Stoudemire, Shaun Marion, and Leandro Barbosa were the major consistencies in the Suns roster during Nash's prime in Phoenix. These uptempo, run-n-gun players were always easy to find for a basketball mistro like Steve Nash. Unfortunately, like Kidd, Nash found himself bested by the elite Western Conference powerhouses and was never able to crown himself champion in his prime (Kidd would go on to win a title with the 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks).
Who Do You Take?
Jason Kidd and Steve Nash are two of the greatest passers in NBA history. Kidd ranks second in assists all-time while Nash ranks third. Kidd was the more well-rounded player and was able to rebound and defender at a higher rate than Nash, but Nash was a better shooter during his prime, won two MVP's and found himself at the helm of one of the greatest offenses ever.
Although it's close, I'd have to take Steve Nash in his prime over Jason Kidd. It really is a matter of preferences and splitting hairs when it comes to these two, but the ability of Steve Nash to put the ball in the basketball and push the tempo pushes him over the edge to me.
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