Posted Oct 6 2010 6:23PM - Updated Oct 10 2010 11:19PM
The teacher was stopped as he left class.
"All the top point guards are terrific passers," Steve Nash said after a game.
OK, but some are obviously better than others.
"Deron Williams, Chris Paul, [Rajon] Rondo," Nash continued. "Jason Kidd's a great passer."
Fine, but some must impress you more than others.
"Not really," said Nash, the point guard for the Suns when he isn't loving every city the same, wanting all dishes just as much and knowing every actor is Academy Award worthy. "Everyone's a little bit different and brings something different to the table."
But others in the game, given anonymity to speak without fear of retribution from an overlooked candidate moving into revenge mode for the next meeting, were more candid. Nash and Paul, as expected, are the easy choices for the All-Passing Team, the only question being the specific ranking. Kidd is still one of the best despite rarely getting mentioned in conversations for star point guards. LeBron James gets top-five votes. And Dirk Nowitzki, while not one of the best, should get more credit for the way he sets up teammates.
The All-Passing Team is not actually a team either. It is understandably and obviously loaded with point guards, not one representative per position. It is also current players, distributing the great debate of All-Time All-Passing for a later date. (But feel free to smile and remember the work of Pete Maravich, Bill Walton, Arvydas Sabonis, Magic Johnson and Wes Unseld and his outlets.)
To the starting five, without diplomacy.
Paul-Nash, Nash-Paul. There's no wrong choice -- 1 and 1A. Both got votes in the very, very scientific survey.
"Those two guys, for sure, are at the top of the list," one player said.
But then the NBA.com poll of general managers was released Wednesday with overwhelming results for Best Passer:
Nash -- 75 percent.
Paul -- 14.3.
Kidd -- 7.1.
James -- 3.6.
And Nash carried 58.6 percent of the vote to win last season as well. Tough to go against that.
He led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio last season and is the only player to finish in the top three each of the last four seasons.
Why it's meaningless: Jose Calderon made it three of the four.
Why it means a lot: Paul is a jet of a point guard and playing fast can create more turnovers. Not only that, he plays for Hornets, so opponents don't have to sweat stopping a lot of other guys. CP3 doesn't twitch without the defense -- and the players on the bench, and the coaching staff, and the guy pedaling hot dogs -- reacting, is just 6-feet and 175 pounds, and he still gets votes as the best distributor.
"He would rather run his team," one executive said. "He would rather get 15 assists than 30 points."
This isn't some lifetime achievement award.
Kidd still commands great respect at age 37, and becoming a dependable, if not dangerous, 3-point threat late in his career has become an unexpected bonus. Developing a kind of perimeter game, with consecutive seasons better than 40 percent from behind the arc, forces opponents to come out on him where they once sent engraved invitations begging him to shoot. Stretching the defense like that creates more passing opportunities.
He was voted best point guard by GMs, and not because he scores or is a dream-like combination of size and speed.
The assist numbers will be worth watching this season, with Carlos Boozer and shooter Kyle Korver gone from the Jazz and Al Jefferson in. But Williams gets anywhere he wants on the court and can deliver the ball in half-court sets or on the run.
It's not possible any part of his game, or life, is underpublicized, but LeBron and his passing comes close. It just takes pushing through the forest of talents in scoring, rebounding and the strides to go from adequate to a defensive star.
Much like Williams, the new season and new set of teammates could create a statistical shift. In James' case, though, it could be his assists increasing, now that he doesn't have to carry the same scoring burden as in Cleveland and has Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mike Miller as potential targets.
Honorable Mention, a.k.a. Big Men Division
• Pau Gasol. His passing is as critical to the Lakers' success as his scoring, rebounding and ability to play two positions.
• Nowitzki. "He will find a guy that's open," one personnel boss said. "But what Dirk has had to do is decide, 'Why would I pass it to Dampier?' "
• Tim Duncan. The Big Fundamental, indeed.
• Kevin Love. Elite passing skills combined with great basketball IQ to see the right play.
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