by Ben York / @bjyork

I pride myself on being ignorant (and by ‘ignorant’ I mean ‘apathetic’) in many facets of life, but after nearly 30 years on this planet there are three things I’m downright sure of:

1. Human beings need food, water and shelter to survive.
2. The Earth is round. Trust me; I’ve seen pictures.
3. When you mention the name Steve Nash, it has to be followed by a conjunction (I.e. ‘but’) or we’ll all die.

I’m 100 percent convinced of this.

And since I’m not ready to die yet…

Steve Nash has phenomenal vision offensively, BUT he’s not a good defensive player.

In related news, the sky is blue and grass is green.

The great thing about Nash is that he has never pretended to be someone different. He isn’t like a box of chocolates; with Nash, you always know what you’re going to get. He’ll help your team score a ton of points but he can be a liability on the defensive end of the floor. This isn’t anything new, mind you; it has obviously been his Achilles heel (for lack of a better term) over the course of his career.

The question then becomes: Is it (still) worth it? Is it worth sacrificing comprehensive defensive schemes to win a lot of games in the regular season? Based on what he’s been able to do with Phoenix Suns teams since 2004 that have featured an abundance of talent as well as squads with mediocre talent (at best), I think the answer is, unequivocally, yes.

Why? Simple—because in this case, there isn’t an equal and opposite reaction. Nash’s offensive prowess and leadership continue to FAR outweigh his defensive inefficiencies.

Steve Nash makes others infinitely better, BUT he’s the beneficiary of an up-tempo system.

Nash is the BASF of the NBA; he doesn’t make the product, he makes the product better. Isn’t that what you want in a point guard? We can delve into this chicken and egg debate (and many have over the years) but if you’re honest with yourself, there isn’t one definitive answer. More clearly, one isn’t contingent on the other.

Any point guard worth their salt can run an up-tempo system. Some (like Nash) simply run it better than others.

Does the system help make Nash more effective? Absolutely. Conversely, does Nash make the system more effective? No doubt about it.

To this day, that still holds true.

Steve Nash is one of the best point guards in NBA history, BUT he’s never won a ‘chip.

Unless something drastic changes, in all likelihood, Nash will never win an NBA Championship. Based on the Suns’ salary cap situation in the next 37 five years, hope isn’t exactly knocking on the door.

Adam Morrison has two titles. Nash has zero. I don’t have anything against Adam Morrison but that reality physically hurts me.

Should this affect Nash’s legacy? Should he even have a legacy? Knowing Nash, he wouldn’t care either way but I’d argue that he should. After all, he is a two-time MVP recipient and has managed to make the point guard a vastly more relevant position in the coming decade.

With Nash, every time he and the Suns have generated sustainable momentum and began to build a team that could feasibly compete for a championship, something dramatic changes. (Don’t call it rebuilding!) Joe Johnson signs elsewhere. Shawn Marion is traded. Amar’e Stoudemire was lowballed.

But Nash doesn’t want you to feel sorry for him and neither do I. One could make an argument that the Suns haven’t caught a break in the Nash era but he’ll be the first to tell you that maybe they just weren’t good enough.

***

Steve Nash is 37 years old and has the potential, at the very least, of being among the league-leaders in assists for the next several years. That alone solidifies him as a top-20 player. The fact that he could help the Suns finish remotely close to .500 last season is nothing short of remarkable.

Ultimately, Nash’s No. 20 ranking means that, in a general sense, 19 players in the NBA are currently better/more valuable. I’m OK with that. In fact, when I submitted my rankings I had Nash much lower on my list. Not long ago, there was a time when Nash was undeniably the best (and most important) point guard in the game. But as the NBA evolves and the Roses and Pauls continue to make a stirring impact on their teams and the League, the balance of power has quickly shifted.

Even so, the dude managed to lead the League in assists again last season without Amar’e Stoudemire. Perhaps more compelling, he also led the Suns in scoring by the end of the year.

If you ask me, that’s pretty damn impressive.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
RankPlayerTeamPositionPos. Rank
50Luol DengBullsSF8
49Andrew BogutBucksC7
48Ray AllenCelticsSG9
47Marc GasolGrizzliesC6
46David WestHornetsPF15
45Kevin MartinRocketsSG8
44Andrew BynumLakersC5
43Brandon JenningsBucksPG11
42Lamar OdomLakersPF14
41Gerald WallaceBlazersSF7
40Brook LopezNetsC4
39Joakim NoahBullsC3
38Carlos BoozerBullsPF13
37Kevin GarnettCelticsPF12
36Eric GordonClippersSG7
35Tony ParkerSpursPG10
34Andre Iguodala76ersSG6
33Al JeffersonJazzPF11
32Al HorfordHawksC2
31Stephen CurryWarriorsPG9
30Tim DuncanSpursPF10
29Josh SmithHawksPF9
28Manu GinobiliSpursSG5
27Tyreke EvansKingsPG8
26Rudy GayGrizzliesSF6
25John WallWizardsPG7
24Danny GrangerPacersSF5
23Monta EllisWarriorsSG4
22Joe JohnsonHawksSG3
21Paul PierceCelticsSF4
20Steve NashSunsPG6

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.