Position Breakdown: Suns Point Guards
Posted: Sept. 21, 2010
One of the most underrated moves of the 2009 NBA offseason is when the Suns signed two-time MVP Steve Nash with a two-year extension. Coming off a disappointing season where the Suns just missed the playoffs for the first time in years, the organization made it a point to lock up the cornerstone of its franchise.
And boy did it pay off.
In his 14th season, Nash played up to his MVP form, earning All-NBA Second Team honors and a start in the 2010 All-Star Game in Dallas. The seven-time All-Star averaged 16.5 points and a league-leading 11 assists, registering the best-ever statistical season for a point guard over 35 years old.
“I didn’t see any signs of him slowing down last year,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “To me, he had the best year that he’s had since I’ve been here. I thought that he had a better year than the years when he was MVP of the league."
After 14 seasons of playing run-and-gun and putting more miles on his body than any other point guard in the last decade, one would think that there would be signs of Nash slowing down. But not only did he become the oldest player to ever lead the league in assists, but he shot over 50 percent from the floor (50.7 percent), over 40 percent from behind the arc (43.7) and over 90 percent from the line (a career-high and franchise-best 93.8) for the fourth time in his career.
To put things in perspective, that feat has only been achieved nine times in NBA history, and only Larry Bird has done it twice. Nash was second among all NBA guards in field goal percentage, 10th overall from three-point land and first in free throw percentage.
“You’re not going to see this type of guy come along too often,” Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright said. “He’s similar to Tiny Archibald in that he can score and be one of the league-leaders in assists, if not the league-leader. And very few guys can orchestrate an entire offense.”
Now, for maybe the first time since playing with Jason Kidd early in his career, Nash may have the ability to play off the ball as a shooter. With the signing of Hedo Turkoglu, No. 8 on the all-time assists list may actually have the opportunity to play off the ball and not handle 95 percent of the ballhandling responsibilities.
It’s well-known that Nash, who led all NBA guards in double-doubles this past season, is the engine that makes the Suns’ attack go. Since joining the Suns in 2004, his team has led the NBA in field goal percentage and scoring five out of the six years he’s been running the show.
Due to the depth of the team and the emergence of Goran Dragic, the Suns’ co-captain was able to log the fewest minutes of his career since 1999-00. Employing a tireless work ethic towards his conditioning, Nash is said to be feeling better coming into this season than last season.
That’s good news for Suns fans, but the rest of the league can’t like the sound of that.
Into the Wind
Nash Trades in High-Tops for Cleats
Video: Exit Interviews
Video: Nash Spreads the Love
Nash Plays 1000th Game
Photos: All-Star Gallery
Nash Flies to Skills Challenge Victory
Nash Carries Olympic Torch
Last-Minute Casting Change Nearly Foils Avatar Spoof
Video: Avatar Spoof
Nash Named All-Star Starter
Nash Blogs About Giving Back
Nash and Co. Play Home Game in Vancouver
Nash Gives Tour of His Sports Club
A Man and His Hoop
Nash Receives Honorary Degree
Nash Goes Hollywood for "Entourage"
Photos: Showdown in Vancouver
Suns Sign Nash to Two-Year Extension
Decoding the Nash Diet
No player made a greater name for himself last season than Goran Dragic.
Dragic shot 39 percent from downtown during the 2009-10 season.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Slovenian point guard, who will be heading into his third NBA season, grew before everyone’s eyes last season from an unproven backup to a potent offensive and defensive weapon. While Suns fans were well-aware of the 6-3 guard’s skills by the playoffs, Dragic became world renown after torching the Suns’ playoff nemesis and the team that drafted him.
One day after his 24th birthday, Dragic racked up 23 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, drilling 5-of-5 from downtown as he powered the Suns past the Spurs in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals. What’s more amazing was that Dragic unleashed his offensive explosion in just 17 minutes.
“He’s so athletic and such a good student of the game,” Gentry said. “I think it was just a matter of putting him out on the court and trying to instill confidence in him and letting him know that you can’t harp on your mistakes. You just have to go ahead and make the next play.”
Although the drafting of Dragic in 2008 may have appeared to be an unceremonious pick to outsiders, the emergence of the combo guard last season illustrated why the Suns’ war room erupted on draft night when they acquired him from San Antonio.
The Spurs, who chose Dragic in the second round with the 45th overall pick, received Malik Hairston, a 2009 second-round pick and cash in return. After averaging 4.5 points, 2.0 assists and 1.9 rebounds a game in 13.2 minutes his rookie season, Dragic improved to 7.9 points, 3.0 assists and 1.9 rebounds on 39.4-percent shooting from behind the arc in 2009-10.
“The main thing that the Suns scouts saw was that he plays with no fear,” Cartwright said. “He’s not afraid to take chances or of big shots or of putting himself in a situation where he’s not going to be successful. When you get a guy that’s willing to work and put himself out there and take some chances where you can be successful, he can be pretty good.”
Originally drafted as the heir apparent to Steve Nash, Dragic has also shown the ability to slide to the shooting guard and contribute as an offensive threat. On Jan. 25 of this past season, Dragic erupted for a career-high 32 points on 10-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-7 from downtown against Utah.
As well as he can attack on the offensive end, Dragic is also impressive on the defensive end. During the 2009 European Championships, Dragic dramatically outplayed Spain’s Ricky Rubio, forcing the young Spaniard into five turnovers and a tough night from the field.
The Suns coaching staff believe that his long arms and quick feet can be a bother to opposing point guards. Last season, he regularly pressured the opposing teams’ ballhandlers. Dragic will be entering his third season brimming with confidence after leading underdog Slovenia to just one loss in group play of the 2010 World Championships. During the tournament, he led his country in both scoring and assists.
Now, it’s just a matter of keeping the momentum rolling for Dragic, who will run the show for arguably the best second unit in the league. With a year under their belts playing together and the addition of Josh Childress, Dragic and the reserves could be prove to be even more dangerous for opposing clubs this season.
Dargic World Championships Tracker
Video: Dragic Talks at Summer League
Video: Exit Interview
Dragic Uncorks Epic Effort
Dragic Takes On Former Team
Video: Dragic and Co. Perform "Ladies Night"
Dragic Wraps Up Busy Offseason
Dragic Takes On Vegas
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