Steph Curry knows. Kenny Smith knows. Brad Daugherty knows. Steve Kerr knows.
1989-1994: the height of the Jordan years in the NBA – when the best shooter and one of the best overall point guards in the league went without much notice outside of coaches, players and fans of his team.
He was the 2nd guy ever, after Larry Bird, to average 50-40-90% in field goals, threes, and free throws for a full season.
Now known as the 50-40-90 club, 5 more players have achieved this shooting mastery since: Reggie Miller, Steve Nash (4x!), Dirk Nowitski, and Kevin Durant.
Mark Price was considered too slow and too small (stretching for 6′) for the NBA. The league was stocked with talent, especially at Point. Price was picked in the 2nd round by Dallas and traded to Cleveland on draft day.
In hindsight I don’t remember much hype or anything about the small white guard that looked like a choirboy.
He was ignored among the bigger stories.
That day Cleveland also picked big Brad Daughtery 1st overall then snatched talented slasher Ronny Harper at pick 8. It was a haul even before they received news that another talented rookie -John Hot Rod Williams – would be cleared of NCAA gambling charges and be allowed to play for the Cavs next season.
Cleveland now had 4 of the 5 future all-rookies that year. I don’t know if that’s been done since.
The rebuild continued with the addition of high-flying forward Larry Nance, turning the late 80’s Cavs into “the team of the 90’s” according to Magic Johnson. To be a Laker fan and read that!
So how did Price do it? By being one of the single most awesome players ever with the ball in his hands.
Similar to Steph Curry, he could shoot so quickly, so accurately, and so consistently that defenses bent to his will.
Similar to Lebron James, he could utilize teammates, spacing, picks, and inventiveness to break your presses and decimate your defense.
His secret weapon was his split dribble. See, the Cavs fed off of pick and rolls with their talented big men. Defenders could either plan to fight over the pick, go under the pick, or switch. As they were deciding this he attacked, dribbling directly between them and forcing them off-balance.
It worked like a charm because of his shooting skills – wherever defenders went, he had a play and could get his shot. And usually drain it, bottom of the net, or use glass.
He also impressed in the 1993 3-point shootout, at one point hitting something like 3 racks straight.
In Cleveland, they were so stacked he wasn’t even the most famous Cavalier! I remember people considering him a John Stockton knockoff. That’s probably racist, like there’s only room for 1 white point guard? Price could out-shoot the Hall of Famer Stockton, and if he had the health and the stability of Stockton, and The Mailman, he’d be right there in the HOF too.
Thinking back, Mark Price might have been the best player on those impressive Cavs teams. He couldn’t even dunk but man that dude could play some basketball.
Unstoppable, made everything happen everywhere on the court, and the model for guys like Steph Curry. Mark Price was like a 6′ Larry Bird, and one of the best ever.