The Dish on Assists

Ever since rejoining the Phoenix Suns, Steve Nash has been better at setting up his teammates than anyone else in the NBA.

Averaging a league high 10.9 assists per game during the past six seasons, Nash is the only player in league history to win an MVP award based solely on his ability to make his teammates better.

Magic Johnson won the award three times during his career, but averaged over 20 points per game each of his MVP seasons. Nash garnered the most MVP votes in consecutive seasons (2004-05, 2005-06) by boosting the Suns win total by 33 games to win his first award and retained the honor the following season by dishing out 898 assists for an injury depleted Phoenix team.

With five seasons averaging 10 or more assists per game, Nash has become one of the top distributors in NBA history.

His success has made the assist just as valuable as scoring the ball and other players from around the league are following suit.

Four players are averaging double digits in assists and three others are mere percentage points away from joining them.

During the 1989-90 season, a record five players averaged 10 or more assists per game (John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Kevin Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, and Gary Grant), four players have achieved the feat during the same season on four different occasions.

This year, superstars have gone out of their way to set up teammates instead of shooting the ball.

Shatter the Glass takes a look at the top distributors throughout the league and breaks down their chances of finishing the year posting 10+ assists per game.

Rajon Rondo– Boston Celtics

Through 10 games, Rondo’s season low assist total is nine, coming during the second game of the season.

No player has made a more concentrated effort to distribute the ball more than Rondo, each time down the court his primary focus has been finding teammates. The strategy has worked well, he’s averaging a league high 15.1 assists per game.

Already with 151 assists on the season, Rondo is looking to become the fourth player in NBA history to finish with 1,000 or more on the season, joining John Stockton (7 times), Isiah Thomas (1984-85) and Kevin Porter (1978-79).

Only one player since the 1996-97 season has totaled 900 assists in a season.

Rondo has dished out 15 or more assists seven times this year, something he accomplished a total of eight times in 81 games a season ago.

Likelihood Rondo averages 10 assists or more per game: 99%


Jason Kidd– Dallas Mavericks

Among the premier passers of all-time, even at 37-years-old, Kidd remains one of the best in the game.

Starting the season with 18 assists, one shy of an opening day record, Kidd hasn’t slowed down following his exceptional beginning.

Surprisingly, only three times during his 16-year career had Kidd averaged more than 10 assists per game.

It’s obvious Kidd has made a concentrated effort to pass the ball, attempting just 7.4 shots per game, the lowest of his career. Playing for the 6-2 Mavericks, there is no reason to think he can’t maintain his 10.5 assist per game pace.

Likelihood Kidd averages 10 assists or more per game: 45%


Chris Paul– New Orleans Hornets

The only active player to have dished out over 900 assists in a season, Paul is the catalyst for the only remaining undefeated team in the league.

Tallying double-digit totals in assists for each of the past three years, Paul has made a push to reclaim the top point guard title in the league.

Submitting his finest performance during his toughest challenge of the season, Paul recorded 19 assists while leading the Hornets to a 96-93 victory over Miami, snapping a four game win streak for the Heat.

Throughout his five-year career, the only thing capable of slowing Paul down is an injury, otherwise he’s as much of a lock to average 10 assists as anyone in the league.

Likelihood Paul averages 10 or more assists per game: 95%


Deron Williams– Utah Jazz

As the assist total goes up for Williams, so does the win total for Utah.

The Jazz are off to a 7-3 start this season, and in each of their three losses, Williams has managed just six assists, his low for the year.

His 15 assist effort against Oklahoma City earned Utah its first victory of the season as Williams finally began to click with new teammate Al Jefferson.

Having finished three seasons with 10 or more assists, Williams can be penciled in for another superb year passing the ball.

Likelihood Williams averages 10 or more assists per game: 90%


John Wall– Washington Wizards

Trying to become the first rookie since Mark Jackson (10.6 in 1987-88) to average a double figure total in assists, Wall is facing the daunting task of having to be the leading scorer and passer in Washington.

Playing on a team full of uncertainty, Wall has surpassed 10 assists four times already this season.

The burden of carrying a franchise may have already taken a toll on Wall, as he was seen in a walking boot following Saturday’s loss to Chicago. Since the Wizards manage just 95.8 points per game (25th in the league) asking a rookie to keep up the high distribution total on a mediocre offense is a tough task.

Likelihood Wall averages 10 assists or more per game: 30%


Derrick Rose– Chicago Bulls

The only candidate on this list also likely to finish among the scoring leaders in the league, Rose has evolved into one of the top point guards in the NBA.

After eight games, Rose is averaging 9.5 assists without Carlos Boozer, the prized off season addition and first legitimate post presence the Bulls have had in years.

Once the 21-year-old Rose and Boozer begin to jell, the Bulls will improve on their already gaudy offensive numbers. Ranking sixth in the league in scoring (105 points per game) Rose will have plenty of opportunities to tack on more assists.

Likelihood Rose averages 10 assists or more per game: 80%


Steve Nash– Phoenix Suns

Still adjusting to playing without pick-and-roll partner Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash is starting to find his passing precision with a new cast of Suns.

Flanked with outside shooters, Nash has turned the corner over the past four games and started to find his teammates. Leading Phoenix to an upset win at Atlanta, he dished out a season high 15 assists and his13 assists last night handed the Lakers their first home loss of the season.

Nash is finally starting to click with Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick, the forwards brought into replace Stoudemire.

Bombarded by trade rumors over the past few weeks, Nash has elevated his game amongst the speculation. No matter the four players alongside him, Nash is going to find a way for them to get easy buckets.

Likelihood Nash averages 10 assists or more per game: 75%


LeBron James– Miami Heat

The de facto point guard in Miami, James has taken on the role of trying to facilitate the offense with alongside two superstar players. Still adjusting to the new role, James is averaging 10.8 assists per game over his past six outings.

Once the Heat are fully acclimated to its new system, James should thrive in the open court and thus far, has taken a secondary scoring role behind Dwyane Wade. James has always been unstoppable with the ball in his hands and has tried to become more of a facilitator.

Averaging a career high 8.6 assists per game his final season in Cleveland, James is the only non-point guard with a legitimate chance to average 10 assists per game this season.

Likelihood James averages 10 assists or more per game: 40%

About Brendan Galella

Brendan Galella founded Shatter the Glass to make the NBA even more accessible to basketball fans. Composing player rankings, team evaluations and intriguing observations, he hopes to turn every reader into a dedicated and educated basketball follower.

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