When the Phoenix Suns burst on the scene as contenders during the 2004-05 season, a debate raged within the league about which member of the Suns was most responsible for their surprising success: point guard Steve Nash, forward Shawn Marion or big man Amar'e Stoudemire.
MVP voters ultimately awarded the credit to Nash, choosing him in both 2004-05 and 2005-06. Still, after Marion confirmed to ESPN's Marc Stein on Thursday that he plans to follow Nash into retirement, it's worth revisiting the question a decade later. There's a stronger case for Marion than you might think -- one that makes him a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate when both he and Nash hit the ballot in five years.
The Box Score Stuffer
Here's a crazy but true fact: The two seasons Nash won MVP, he didn't lead his team in PER, Win Shares or my Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) stat. Stoudemire was tops in PER and win shares in 2004-05, while Marion led the team in those categories during 2005-06 and in WARP both years.
It's easy to forget how incredible Marion was statistically in his prime. His best season was 2005-06, when Stoudemire missed nearly the entire year following microfracture knee surgery and the Suns still managed to win 54 games and reach the Western Conference finals, effectively eliminating Stoudemire from the "most crucial" debate. Marion posted a .591 true shooting percentage while using 22.3 percent of the team's plays. He pulled down 16.3 percent of all available rebounds, came up with steals on 2.5 percent of opponents' plays and blocked 2.9 percent of opponents' 2-point attempts.