The Phoenix Suns have been around since the 1968-1969 season, and when it comes to the best point guard in franchise history, it has between Steve Nash and Kevin Johnson .
Nash known for his passing ability, shooting and being able to run the high-octane offense employed by Mike D’Antoni and then Alvin Gentry will always be remembered fondly for his outstanding years in Phoenix.
He was originally drafted by the franchise in 1996 with the 15th pick and struggled in his first two seasons before joining the Dallas Mavericks . In 141 games including 11 starts he averaged 6.4 points, 2.8 assists, 1.6 rebounds and shot 45.1 percent from the field, 41.6 percent from the three-point line and 84.7 percent from the free throw line.
Under the tutelage of then Mavericks head coach Don Nelson , Nash began to flourish in an offense that relied on scoring the basketball regardless of if the opposing team scored on the other end. He then returned to the Suns after the 2003-2004 season.
From 2004-2005 till the 2011-2012 season he averaged 16.3 points, 10.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds and shot 51 percent from the field, 43.7 percent from beyond the arc and 91.2 percent from the free throw line.
With D’Antoni the Suns got the playoffs in four consecutive seasons and Nash won back-to-back MVP Awards, yet never got to the NBA Finals even with teammates such as Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion .
He’ll also get credit for making his teammates better such as Joe Johnson who had a tremendous season in his last season with the Suns in 2004-2005 shooting 47.8 percent from the three-point line while averaging 17.1 points.
Quentin Richardson in that same year led the NBA in three-pointers with 226 though he shot 35.8 percent from beyond the arc and shot under 40 percent from the field.
Even with all the positives when it comes to Nash there’s also negatives. For one he wasn’t the most important piece to the team that was Marion who picked up the slack for Nash and Stoudemire defensively and rebounded, which got the transition game going.
Marion’s best season with the Suns came in 2005-2006 when he averaged 21.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2 steals and 1.7 blocks on 52.5 percent shooting, 33.1 percent from three and 80.9 percent from the free throw line.
There’s another notion that is false that Nash made Marion better and that’s a myth that’s easily discredited as in 2002-2003 he was an All-Star and in that season he averaged 21.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.2 blocks.
When D’Antonio got forced out it was Nash and Stoudemire not believing in the system that Terry Porter implemented, which focused more on defense. Ultimately, Porter got let go and that’s when Gentry took over.
When it comes to the positives that Nash brought the outstanding shooting, passing ability, making a few teammates better and MVP Awards. Negatives include not playing defense, refusing to buy into a new system after bringing in a new coach and lack of playoff success.
The positives do not outweigh the negatives and that is why Kevin Johnson is the greatest point guard in the Suns history.
Johnson started his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers as the seventh overall pick in the 1987 draft and in February of 1988 got traded to the Suns.
Excluding his rookie year in which he played for two teams he averaged 18.9 points, 9.6 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals and shot 49.5 percent from the field and 84.1 percent from the free throw line.
With his best season coming in 1989-1990 as he averaged 22.5 points, 11.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals and shot 49.9 percent from the field and 83.8 percent from the free throw line.
Unlike Nash he didn’t excel from beyond the perimeter, he got to the rim with authority some of the best highlights of his career were dunks on the best centers in NBA history. He, also helped lead the Suns to the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls .
He also truly made his teammates better and is why Tom Chambers had his best years of his career in Phoenix, Cedric Ceballos got on track and why Dan Majerle became a household name and was clearly the best players on the roster.
When Charles Barkley came over via trade, Johnson became the secondary option which wasn’t an issue for him.
What also sets him apart from Nash is that he played in an era with outstanding point guards that were tremendous defensively. The list includes Gary Payton , Magic Johnson , Tim Hardaway , and John Stockton .
It’s also worth noting during this time he averaged 20 points and 10 assists for three straight seasons, Nash didn’t have any and he also could thrive in any system not just one.
So, when it’s all said and done Nash doesn’t come close to comparing with Johnson.