by Ben Collins

What if he had a team entirely to his own?

It’s a question old and tired now. I remember first asking it feebly peering over a railing, trying watch this dude shoot jumpshots in practice. Steve Nash was on the Mavericks then, not a two-time MVP but a weird, side-kick character that got judged a lot for his bad defense. People started complaining a lot—that this bad defense was somehow contagious and was limiting Dallas from ever getting out of the second round of the PSteve Nashlayoffs—and, eventually, he left.

Good god, were those people ever wrong.

I guess saying he was “shooting jumpshots in practice” is kind of an unbelievably weak way of putting it.

Here’s what was happening: Steve Nash took a shot from under the basket, then a took a step back, then took another shot. Pretty classic drill. By the end of this exercise, he was about four feet behind the three-point line, still shooting. And you know how many shots he missed of the 20 or so he took from beyond the arc?

Zero. None. Practice ended, it seemed, when the ballboy got tired and everybody else had left. Steve finally recognized the social cues and bolted.

Of course, I repeated this later to friends and family, who handled it as if I told them I had just robbed a bank with Walt Williams after practice. Feel free to do the same.

But I’m telling you this story now to say this: Five years ago, Steve Nash was arguably the best pure shooter on a team that also had Dirk Nowitzki on it.

This is back when you were impressed that your friend’s cell phone had a damn calculator on it. It’s not like his shooting has gotten worse. He just never got a chance to show it.

Then he went to Phoenix. Shawn Marion put up those ungodly numbers, got a nickname and almost a rebounding title. Amar’e Stoudemire put up those ungodly numbers, got a nickname and almost a scoring title.

But now one has decided that he might be Jewish, so, naturally, he moved to New York. The other is a “defensive specialist” now, so we mustn’t respect his game ever again, no, never.

Hey, did anybody notice that Steve Nash has a team all to his own now?

Granted, he has Hedo “Permafrown” Turkoglu on his team now. That should expedite the ball movement and/or constant sadness and discontent. Jason Richardson and Grant Hill are two of the best, headiest vets in the league. Robin Lopez looks like a real-life starting NBA center. (He just needs to evade his conviction for trying to kill Bart Simpson all of those years.) And the bench is spectacular, yes, but it’s still a bench.

So this is not debatable: For the first time in his two-time MVP, seven-time All-Star life, Steve Nash is the unequivocal top dog on his own team. And he’s healthier than ever.

This is debatable: Is Steve Nash one of the top shot creators, shooters—hell, scorers—in the NBA?

Look puzzled. Laugh, maybe. I’m giving you some time now, so you’re not too frazzled when it happens.

Ray AllenCelticsSG5036109
Gilbert ArenasWizardsSG493498
Lamar OdomLakersPF48331410
John WallWizardsPG47NR13NR
OJ MayoGrizzliesSG4646812
Al HorfordHawksC45NR6NR
Jason KiddMavsPG44451210
Joakim NoahBullsC43NR5NR
LaMarcus AldridgeBlazersPF42391312
David WestHornetsPF4131128
Monta EllisWarriorsSG40NR7NR
Andrew BogutBucksC39NR4NR
Yao MingRocketsC38NR3NR
Brandon JenningsBucksPG37NR11NR
Zach RandolphGrizzliesPF36NR11NR
Stephen CurryWarriorsPG35NR10NR
David LeeWarriorsPF34NR10NR
Brook LopezNetsC33NR2NR
Gerald WallaceBobcatsSF32NR7NR
Manu GinobiliSpursSG312967
Tony ParkerSpursPG301593
Kevin GarnettCelticsPF291393
Rudy GayGrizzliesSF284469
Josh SmithHawksPF2740813
Andre Iguodala76ersSG262656
Al JeffersonJazzPF252377
Russell WestbrookThunderPG24NR8NR
Chauncey BillupsNuggetsPG231975
Tyreke EvansKingsPG22NR6NR
Danny GrangerPacersSF212155
Carlos BoozerBullsPF203269
Paul PierceCelticsSF191744
Joe JohnsonHawksSG182044
Rajon RondoCelticsPG172758
Amar’e StoudemireKnicksPF161656
Steve NashSunsPG152246

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.