Remember when Steve Nash was running around here for the Phoenix Suns waving his wand around like a Grand Master Wizard granting talent and career years to lowly peasants like Harry Potter (with Hermoine's talent) not too long ago? With a flick of his wrist a bum could dunk and a wave of his hand a scrub could shoot.
Give Nash, Mike D'Antoni, and "the system" anyone and they will whistfully turn them into an NBA player overnight. Right?
Well now, with some ironic serendipity, Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye, are on the Wizards and the Magic respectively earning nice contracts after playing very well Post-Nash.
They did not have the Grand Master Wizard feeding them the rock every night and still managed to be very productive players. The market favors big men, always, so Gortat and Frye are getting paid for vertical gifts as well, but in no way were they "made" by the play of Nash and Nash's play alone. He was a great facilitator who highlighted the strengths of these two like no other point guard has before or since. Then they were passed off to Goran Dragic and John Wall.
In Frye's solo year without Nash (spent the 2012-2013 season out with a heart condition) he averaged about the same exact numbers in points per game, field goal shooting, three-point shooting, had the second highest win share (5.3) of his career, and shot the ball from an efficiency perspective at a career-high level across the board.
Then there is the Polish Hammer who was treated like the () member of the cast of the Wizard of Oz after Nash left like he had no talent and needed to follow the yellow brick road to Los Angeles to get it back from his creator.
Well, since Nash's departure Gortat, on two teams, foound a way to be a near nightly double-double, upped his team game with assists, blocked more shots, and while he shot the ball less efficiently, Gortat showed a more diverse offensive game.
Sure there were cases where Nash and "the system" highlighted a players game in a very flattering way, but people got ahead of themselves in crediting the maestro of the assist and the Czar of 7 Seconds or Less with the careers of so many.
How has Boris Diaw done since leaving the Suns and venturing out on his own? He has put up quality numbers 9.7 points per game4.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, won a championship, and earned 22 for the next 3 years.
So Gortat, Frye, Diaw and... Who else?
Joe Johnson became an All-Star leader on a playoff team after he left (ironically for Diaw) so the system surly did not make him. Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion were great simultaneously in harmony with Nash so they are not his creations. Who are we missing?
Plenty of players have their games highlighted by a system from the Triangle, to Seven Seconds or Less, and various others. Systems highlight strengths and hide weaknesses.
Let's not take away from the sophistication of the system and the brilliance of what Nash and D'Antoni did here. They were great for the team and ran a legit contender for four seasons before D'Antoni left, with an extended three years of Nash with D'Antoni's successor Alvin Gentry running things. In that time frame the Suns rejuvenated the career of Quentin Richardson, made Jim Jackson relevant again, got Johnson paid, gave James Jones a niche career, won a lot of games, and did a lot of fun things.
Behind all the smoke and mirrors though the Great Wizards Nash and D'Antoni were two guys that worked well together and had a cast of pieces that all clicked at the right time.
Frye, Gortat, and Diaw are going to earn 114 million dollars over the next 3-4 years respectively because they earned it. Not because Steve Nash passed them the ball and they lucked into their successes. Not because a coach drew up a great play set for them in the system.
Because they earned it.