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Steve Nash: Unfairly Villified?

 

 When you hear the name Steve Nash, the first thing that pops into your head is likely "dynamic playmaker," and with good reason. The second thing, if you are like many people, is "terrible defender." The perceived inability to defend anyone, whether right or wrong, has become as much a part of the two-time MVP's legacy as his his record-setting shooting accuracy or his mystical passing. The question posed here is, is this label completely justified?

 

There is no doubt that Steve Nash is a poor one-on-one defender. He is routinely burned any time he is matched up against good perimeter scorers. He is too slow to stay in front of the lightning-quick guards that are so common in  today's game. He's also not strong enough to body up the bigger perimeter players. He just isn't very athletic by modern NBA standards.

Yet he does not let his physical limitations prevent him from trying. Statements like "Nash plays no defense" are the misconceptions that lead to this bad reputation. "No defense" is a phrase that should only be applied to those that have the ability to to play at least adequate defense, yet do not put in the necessary effort. That may describe a certain former Sun, but it certainly isn't the case with Nash.  He may be a poor man-on-man defender, but that is a result of his lack of athleticism more so than a lack of effort.

The defensive side of the ball also consists of more than one-on-one isolations. Team defense is an integral aspect in stopping the opposition. Nash may not be able to handle guys by himself, but he definitely understands the concept of team defense. Nash is often among the first players to rotate and frequently double-teams the player with the ball. He also happens to be one of the best in the league at sacrificing his body to take charges, which further debunks the myth that Nash doesn't give effort defensively.

When facing talented point guards, the Suns often elect to "hide Nash" on defense by having him defend the opponents worst perimeter scorer. Detractors say Nash hurts his team because of this. Kobe Bryant, a perennial member of the of the All-NBA Defensive First Team, also often guards the weakest threat. The Los Angeles Lakers utilize this tactic to allow Bryant to save his energy for offense and to free him up to roam defensively. So why is it that Nash is ridiculed for this while Bryant is awarded with defensive accolades? The Suns' motives are the same as the Lakers': to allow their best offensive player to conserve energy and play to his strengths as an off-ball defender. This tactic is intelligent game-planning, not a reason to discredit a player.

It is true that Steve Nash is a poor one-on-one defender. The term 'pathetic' may even be appropriate. But the notion that he "plays no defense" is not only ignorant but is a disservice to the player himself. Try giving the man credit for what he does rather than dwelling on the negative.

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