Top 50: Jason Kidd, no. 45
The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.
Will Funn and Jason Kidd have never met. I’m almost certain of it.
Funn, 27, is a 6-3 point guard who dropped oodles of dimes when he played at Portland State. He actually led the NCAA in assists in ’04–05. His semi-pro career has taken him to Mexico, England and by a random twist of fate, to Edmonton, Alberta Canada. Funn ran the point this spring for the Edmonton Energy of the International Basketball League.
If the league had a Most Valuable Player and if I had a say in determining who got that non-existent award, I would say that it should have went to Funn. He averaged 14 points, 12 assists and 8.9 rebounds in Edmonton, leading them to a league-best record.
While Funn’s coaches and teammates will remember him as the catalyst to their run-and-gun offense, I’ll remember him for one thing: he made me appreciate Jason Kidd.
Over the last seven or eight years, I’d downplayed JKidd’s game.
I knew he was good in Dallas and Phoenix. I knew that in his New Jersey days, he was a true triple-threat for every minute he spent on the floor. He’d reel off triple-doubles the way that Shaq drops LOL’s on the end of his tweets.
The thing was, though, that the triple-double was very rarely the overwhelming, oh-my-god-did-you-see-what-JKidd-did-last-night kind of line. He’d hit the floor, do a little bit of everything and his team won. A lot. His stat line would often read 14 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists. My brother and I started calling these low double-digit triple-dips “Jason Kidd Triple-Doubles.” They were nice, but not eye-popping. The fact that he did it so regularly actually worked against him when we watched him.
Over a two-month span, Will Funn changed that for me. With a courtside seat, I watched this guy become the embodiment of his job title. Defenses wilted when he pushed the rock. He’d grab a rebound on the defensive end and be gone up the court before the big man he out-rebounded would have a stride behind him. Guards and forwards would be on their heels as they backpedaled, trying to figure out what would come next.
Would he drive and draw the double, then kick it out to a dead-eye three-point shooter on the wing? Would he lose his defenders on a spin-dribble and drop the ball in the hoop like he was the only one on the court? Was there a trailer on the break, salivating at the prospect of lowering the boom on his opponents? The same questions would come up all night. The answer: 15 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists. And another W.
Seeing these subtle Jason Kidd triple-doubles up close had me mentally backpedaling like one of the guys who had to guard Funn. I wanted more of JKidd, Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles, Keith Van Horn and Jayson Williams…er, maybe Dikembe Mutombo. But of course, it’s gone.
In his second run in Dallas, Kidd isn’t the same player he was. Known as -ason Kidd in his prime, a jab at his lack of a jumper, he may as well be Jason Ki– in the present. Once feared across the League on the defensive end of the floor, his age seems to be catching up to him. He might be producing at a decent clip, but the stops aren’t there like they used to be. In signing Kidd to a $25 million, three-year deal with the Mavs, maybe Mark Cuban sees something that we don’t; maybe he inked the point guard wearing a retro Mavs Kidd jersey and an old pair of Zoom 95s. We’ll find out this year.
While the triple-doubles don’t come as often as they used to, they’re still there some nights. His three of them in ’08-09 were third-most in the League, behind LeBron (7) and Chris Paul (6). A MVP candidate in New Jersey, Kidd is still an adequate point guard, who finished fifth in the league in assists (8.7 per game), and averaged 9 points and 6 rebounds a night last season.
I talked with one of Will Funn’s teammates at the end of their season in July. As the marksman on the wing in my earlier scenario, the guy told me he might have had a triple-double once in his life. To almost average one? To even be a threat for one every night? It was unimaginable to him.
“I’ll tell you this,” he said to me, in full on admiration of the guy. “That was the best point guard I’ve ever played with. He made this so much fun.”
I’d imagine Kenyon Martin, Kittles, Van Horn and a slew of other NBA players would say the same for Jason Kidd.
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’09-10 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Brett Ballantini, Russ Bengtson, Toney Blare, Shannon Booher, Myles Brown, Franklyn Calle, Gregory Dole, Emry DowningHall, Jonathan Evans, Adam Fleischer, Jeff Fox, Sherman Johnson, Aaron Kaplowitz, John Krolik, Holly MacKenzie, Ryne Nelson, Chris O’Leary, Ben Osborne, Alan Paul, Susan Price, Sam Rubenstein, Khalid Salaam, Kye Stephenson, Adam Sweeney, Vincent Thomas, Tzvi Twersky, Justin Walsh, Joey Whelan, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.