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.

Player Team Position 2010 2009 2010 2009
Ray Allen Celtics SG 50 36 10 9
Gilbert Arenas Wizards SG 49 34 9 8
Lamar Odom Lakers PF 48 33 14 10
John Wall Wizards PG 47 NR 13 NR
OJ Mayo Grizzlies SG 46 46 8 12
Al Horford Hawks C 45 NR 6 NR
Jason Kidd Mavs PG 44 45 12 10
Joakim Noah Bulls C 43 NR 5 NR
LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 42 39 13 12
David West Hornets PF 41 31 12 8
Monta Ellis Warriors SG 40 NR 7 NR
Andrew Bogut Bucks C 39 NR 4 NR
Yao Ming Rockets C 38 NR 3 NR
Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 37 NR 11 NR
Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 36 NR 11 NR
Stephen Curry Warriors PG 35 NR 10 NR
David Lee Warriors PF 34 NR 10 NR
Brook Lopez Nets C 33 NR 2 NR
Gerald Wallace Bobcats SF 32 NR 7 NR
Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 31 29 6 7
Tony Parker Spurs PG 30 15 9 3
Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 29 13 9 3
Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 28 44 6 9
Josh Smith Hawks PF 27 40 8 13
Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 26 26 5 6
Al Jefferson Jazz PF 25 23 7 7
Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 24 NR 8 NR
Chauncey Billups Nuggets PG 23 19 7 5
Tyreke Evans Kings PG 22 NR 6 NR
Danny Granger Pacers SF 21 21 5 5
Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 20 32 6 9
Paul Pierce Celtics SF 19 17 4 4
Joe Johnson Hawks SG 18 20 4 4
Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 17 27 5 8
Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 16 16 5 6
Steve Nash Suns PG 15 22 4 6

• 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.