These 2 point guards are the best of my generation of basketball. Their careers have been so similar, having played for the same teams (aside from Kidd’s stint with the Nets). Yet their style, what they excel at, and how the facilitate for their teammates have been drastically different.
To keep it simple, I’ll lay out the comparisons in 4 categories – pure scoring, defense, distribution of the ball, and ability to close.
To be fair, Kidd and Nash haven’t experienced the same ups and downs throughout their career. For example, Nash didn’t see a lot of playing time his 1st 2 years as a Suns; because Kidd was already sharing the PG spot w/ Sam Cassell and Wesley Person. Out of 23 starts, Kidd averaged 35 minutes per game when Nash was a rookie. Nash only played 12 games his 1st year in the league. 2 years later, he was the dominant PG with Dallas and in 40 starts, he was playing almost 32 minutes per game.
In terms of pure scoring, Nash is obviously the better shooter. They come from the class of traditional 1 guys where the point guard isn’t expected to score 20+ points every night. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Nash has shot his career-best all while playing in Phoenix, shooting 47% from the arc in 2007-08 and 93% from the stripe in 2009-10. He averaged his 2nd straight double-double in a regular season and increased his shooting production; going from 15 ppg to 19 ppg. I attribute Nash becoming the 2nd option scorer because the Suns were a hodge-podge of young and old, textbook and flashy, inconsistent and damn-near irrelevant then. Also, Stoudemire sat out much of 2005-2006 due to knee surgery, leaving the scoring load up to Nash. Sure the Suns had guys like Barbosa, Raja Bell, Kurt Thomas, and Eddie House contribute. But I think this was such a huge year in Nash’s career, as he carried them to the Western Conference Finals.
Kidd on the other hand has had a few stand out career seasons. I weigh his 2002-03 season with the Nets and his 2009-10 season with the Mavs. For me, these 2 seasons as a pair give a great snapshot of Kidd’s pure scoring ability as it compares to Nash’s. For a long time, Kidd had no “J” to speak of. He got much of his points from driving to the basket or the foul line. But the 2002-03 season with a bum Nets squad allowed him to be the go-to scoring option. He was also playing some of the best defense of his career too. Much like Nash, he carried an inconsistent team comprised of Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson, and even an aging Mutombo to the NBA Finals. Many people wonder how did this team do it twice? Well, I think that speaks to the value of Kidd in that offense. This Nets roster didn’t have a clear star like Nash had with Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson. So Kidd got many open looks in the 16-18 foot range. Now as far as his 2009-10 numbers, his scoring has taken a dip because of age obviously. But Dallas has built their team around Dirk Nowitzki (a major reason why Cuban didn’t keep Nash), so the Mavs didn’t (and still don’t) require a volume shooting point guard. Plus that team was extremely loaded with great role-players like Eduardo Najera, Josh Howard, JJ Barea and of course Jason Terry.
In terms of defense, like I said, because Nash is such a great shooter, he hasn’t had to develop much of a defensive game. You can also attribute that to playing for Mike D’Antoni for so long. Nash is a horrible rebounder and seldom tries for a steal. Kidd’s slight size advantage has given him a defensive presence that not many point guards (past and present) have. He’s always been able to handle the switch defensively too. Kidd overwhelmingly wins that category!
Distributing the ball relies heavily on having your teammates being able to knock down shots. In looking at Kidd’s and Nash’s body of work, I think Kidd has been surrounded with better consistent talent than Nash has; aside from the players they both played with Phoenix and Dallas. I think Kidd has always been able to find his teammates’ strengths and play to those. For example, Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin blossomed into great defenders and decent free throw shooters while playing alongside Kidd. Jefferson went on to have a great year statistically in Milwaukee on a piss-poor roster. I’m not quite sure what his deal has been in San Antonio these last couple years. Nash, on the other hand, is the type of PG who makes some players look better than they really are. In Phoenix, Shawn Marion, Raja Bell, and Leandro Barbosa looked good out on the floor. Without Steve Nash? Um………yeah (exception might be Shawn Marion in Miami w/ D-Wade)
Neither 1 of these guys are closers in the modern definition of the adjective. Because again, they’ve each played with stars like Stoudemire and Nowitzki. So all they had to do was set up the play and make the pass at the right time.
If I had to pick between the 2, taking into consideration all the statistics and playing styles of both guys, I’d choose Jason Kidd in his prime over Steve Nash in his prime. The great thing about these 2 is I think they both have 1 good season left in them. Rumor has it that Steve Nash wants to play in Miami. And if the Heat don’t win it all this year, I think he’d be the missing piece that they’d need for next year.
Who’s the better point guard to you? Do you think Nash will wind up in Miami next year?