Today’s point guards don’t spend a lot of time playing the way Steve Nash did. Just look at today’s top MVP candidates: Russell Westbrook and James Harden are hyperactive offensive threats who push the ball rather than distribute it. So, can a traditional, pass-first point guard still be effective in the NBA? Nash joined The Bill Simmons Podcast to discuss.
Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.
Bill Simmons: I’ve been really impressed by how the point guard position has evolved in all these different directions. I think, [when] you were a point guard there [were] basically two types. The traditional point guard like you, and then there was the Gilbert Arenas–type point guard. The "I’m gonna shoot first, clear out" [kind of guy], which was kind of the nephew of the Michael Jordan era. Now you have all of these guys, like, I guess Kyrie Irving’s a point guard, but it’s more like they’re creators now.
Steve Nash: Sure.
Simmons: I don’t even know if we should necessarily use the word "point guard" anymore. James Harden’s not a point guard. He just creates stuff.
Nash: Playmakers. I think, in the purest sense of the word, there are not a lot of point guards, because the position’s changed. I don’t even think it’s worth arguing or saying, "You’re not a point guard." Who cares? You’re a playmaker, you make plays, it doesn’t matter.
Kyrie [Irving] may not be a point guard in the purest sense of the word, but ever since Gilbert and then Derrick Rose and Russell [Westbrook], those guys, they just make plays. They just attack and they put so much pressure on the defense with their overall game. And why do you need a pure point guard if you have a guy that’s putting that much pressure on the defense?
Simmons: With that said, then you see somebody like Lonzo, and you’re like, "Ohhh, yeah … "
Nash: Right, that’s a pure point guard. Yeah.
Simmons: Anytime they get a rebound, you just see the big guys like, "Where’s Lonzo? I gotta get it [to him]." And everybody else is running because they know they can get the ball. I miss that.
Nash: There’s still room for pure point guards for sure. It’s just a matter of how many are there. And why would you take a pure point guard just for the sake of it?
T.J. McConnell. I mean, he’s a pure point guard. He makes your team better. I like watching Philly a little bit.
Simmons: I do too.
Nash: He’s kind of overmatched in a lot of ways, but he’s smart, he’s tough, and he can make plays, and he’s a pure point guard and there’s still tons of value for that, I think.
Simmons: Well, how about Jameer Nelson? I think he was in your draft and he’s still on Denver because he’s just old-school, getting everybody the ball in the right spots.
Nash: You know, I don’t think that was him when he came in the league.
Simmons: No, I don’t either.
Nash: He was the opposite. But now he’s realized how to have longevity. There’s still a value in the pure point guard, there’s just not a lot of them. I think Lonzo Ball, he’s an interesting one because he has a feel and can read and make guys around him better.