What if Steve Nash had never left the Dallas Mavericks?

After six successful seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, Steve Nash left in 2004 for the Phoenix Suns. His tenure in Dallas included two All-Star Game appearances and was named to the All-NBA Team twice. The Mavericks made the Western Conference Finals in 2003 with Nash leading their offense.

Mark Cuban declined to offer Nash a new contract due to concerns over his health in his thirties. “I’m really sad to leave my teammates, but I’m happy to go somewhere they really want me,” Nash said at the time. Nash went on to win back-to-back MVPs with the Suns.

Things worked out for the Mavericks. They made it to the finals in 2006 and won a championship in 2011. But we’re all still wondering: what if Nash had never left Dallas?

There are some easy things to say. Nash probably never wins an MVP award if he stays in Dallas. Despite his incredible talent, he would have no way of putting in the kind of numbers needed to win MVP. The Mavericks offense would always revolve around Dirk Nowitzki, no matter how much Nash improved. With his size and skill, Nowitzki was the most elite player.

“Sometimes you think Nash, the player he developed into in Phoenix was amazing. I think the athletes he had around him, we didn’t have any here. He was a two-time MVP This system and what they had around it was absolutely perfect…” Nowitzki said years later.

The Mavericks might not have won a championship either. In Nash’s six years in Dallas, the Mavericks only reached the third round of the playoffs once. Dallas would find success in later years by surrounding Nowitzki with four other players capable of defending at a high level. Defense has never been Nash’s or Nowitzki’s strength.

As the playoffs progress, teams become more adept at attacking weaknesses on the defensive end. You can get away with an average defender, especially if he has size. But if two of the five players on the field can be exposed in defense, the attack has too many options. And despite their scoring ability, Nash and Nowitzki made it difficult for the Mavericks to get consistent saves on defense against elite teams in the final rounds of the playoffs.

Maybe the Mavericks are ending up like the Utah Jazz lately, flaming over and over in the playoffs while clinging to the dream that continuity would give them an edge. But we would have lots of funny stories of Nowitzki and Nash on the court together, as well as around town. That is, until Nash was traded because it just wasn’t working.

That’s the problem, when we imagine these “what if” scenarios, we tend to lean towards the positive. Not only does it work for everyone, but it works almost like a fairy tale. Nash and Nowitzki don’t just win one championship together, they win three. Nash retires and takes over as coach, and they gain another couple. Etc.

What if Nash stayed, and things worked out with your college girlfriend, and your best friend never left, and you took that job with the startup that took off. The thing is, it almost never works the way you think it does. The fact that the Mavericks finished their fairy tale in 2011 is incredible in itself. It’s a rare thing in sport.

Nash would have continued to put numbers in Dallas. He and Nowitzki would have won a lot of games together. And maybe a year things would have broken for them. The two would have held the Larry O’Brien trophy together, smiling, beaming with pride at what they had accomplished. An ending that only Hollywood could write. What if that had happened.

Posted In NBA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.