The NBA has shifted from the era of big men to speedy point guards capable of scoring prolifically from range.
Point guards are the most valuable assets of any side as they are responsible for facilitating a team’s offense and also forcing turnovers through steals.
The NBA has witnessed some magnificent point guards over the course of its history, and here, we take a look at 10 of the best:
#10. Chris Paul
Averages Per Game: 18.5 points, 9.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds
Effective Field Goal Percentage: 51.8%
Win Shares: 174.9
Teams: New Orleans Hornets (2005-11), Los Angeles Clippers, (2011-2017), Houston Rockets (2017-present)
Accolades: 9X All-Star, 7X All-NBA selection, 7X All-D selection, Rookie of the Year (2005-06), NBA All-Star MVP (2013)
Chris Paul is the true definition of a two-way player and elite point guard. His ability to orchestrate his team’s offense is second to none and he could also be a prolific scorer whenever he chose to.
Paul began his career with the New Orleans Hornets and starred from the outset, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2005/06. However, the lack of a great supporting cast meant he was never in contention for a championship.
His move to the Los Angeles Clippers truly cemented his status as a great point guard as he linked up with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin to form Lob City, dominating the NBA’s Western Conference but once again failing to land a title.
Despite his respective teams’ lack of silverware, Paul remains an elite guard, as evidenced by his 9 All-Star nominations.
He is also a 7-time All NBA selection and was named All-Star MVP in 2013.
#9. Isiah Thomas
Averages Per Game: 19.2 points, 9.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds
Field Goal Percentage: 46.5%
Win Shares: 80.7
Teams: Detroit Pistons (1981-94)
Accolades: Finals MVP, 12X All-Star, 5X All-NBA selection, Championships: 2X (1989, 1990)
Isiah Thomas was never an efficient scorer and was often overshadowed by the presence of bigger names on his Detroit Pistons team. However, he was arguably the glue that held the Pistons together during his 13 years in the league.
Thomas led the Pistons to two Championships and was named in the All-Star team on 12 occasions. He had the incredible ability to elevate his game in the postseason and was even named Finals MVP on one occasion.
At the time of his retirement, Thomas had racked up 9061 assists, which is eighth on the all-time list.
#8. Russell Westbrook
Averages Per Game: 23 points, 8.4 assists, 7 rebounds
Field Goal Percentage: 46.4%
Win Shares: 98.4
Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder (2008-2019), Houston Rockets (2019-2020)
Accolades: NBA Most Valuable Player (2017), 8×NBA All-Star (2011–2013, 2015–2019), 2×NBA All-Star Game MVP (2015, 2016), 2×All-NBA First Team (2016, 2017), 5×All-NBA Second Team (2011–2013, 2015, 2018), All-NBA Third Team (2019), 2×NBA scoring champion (2015, 2017), 2×NBA assists leader (2018, 2019), NBA All-Rookie First Team
Russell Westbrook has come in for plenty of criticism over the years due to his tendency to stat-pad (chasing personal records over team glory) but that does not take away from the fact that he is one of the most naturally gifted point guards in the league today.
Westbrook burst onto the scene in his rookie year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, making it to the All-Rookie First Team. He continued to develop his game over the next few years, making Oklahoma firm contenders for the Championship.
Westbrook made history in the 2016/17 season when he averaged a triple-double across the entire campaign and also set a record for the most triple-doubles in a season.
He was named the league MVP for his efforts but failed to lead his side to a title. Nevertheless, with averages of 23 points, 8.4 assists, 7 rebounds per game, Westbrook will go down in history as one of the most impactful point guards of all time.
He is also an 8-time All-Star and 2-time scoring champion to boot.
#7. Jason Kidd
Averages Per Game: 12.6 points, 8.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds
Field Goal Percentage: 46.4%
Win Shares: 138.6
Teams: Dallas Mavericks (1994-96, 2008-12), Phoenix Suns (1996-2001), New Jersey Nets (2001-08), New York Knicks (2012-13)
Accolades: 10X All-Star, 6X All-NBA selection, 9X All-D selection, Co-Rookie of the Year (1994-95), Championships: 1 (2011)
Jason Kidd enjoyed tremendous success over the course of his career which included stints with the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks.
He was drafted by the Mavericks with the second overall pick in the 1994 draft and lived up to the initial hype surrounding him, being named co-Rookie of the Year.
Kidd is best remembered for his adaptability on the court. Early on, he used his size and physicality to create mismatches and score with ease. Later on though, he developed a potent outside shot and was a threat from beyond the arc.
A one-time NBA champion, Kidd played a huge role in helping the Mavericks to the title in 2011, although most of the credit for their success does go to Dirk Nowitzki.
Kidd ended his career with a whopping 118 triple-doubles to his name as well as 10 All-Star team selections and six All-NBA selections and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame for his contributions as a player.
At the time of writing, he ranks second on the NBA all-time lists in career assists and steals and ninth in 3-point field goals made.
#6. John Stockton
Averages Per Game: 13.1 points, 10.5 assists, 2.7 rebounds
Field Goal Percentage: 54.6%
Win Shares: 207.7
Teams: Utah Jazz (1984-2003)
Accolades: 10X All-Star, 11X All-NBA selection, 5X All-D selection
John Stockton will forever be remembered as one of the greatest players in NBA history to have never won a championship.
Stockton, who is considered one of the finest pass-first point guards of all time, formed a dynamic partnership with Karl Malone during his time with the Utah Jazz, leading them to the playoffs in each of his 19 seasons with the franchise.
He also made two NBA Finals appearances, in 1997 and 1998, but came up short against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls side.
Stockton set multiple records during his tenure with the Jazz and ended his NBA career with 15,806 assists to his name. Stockton was a 10-time All-Star and 2-time Steals leader as well and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on two separate occasions.
#5. Steve Nash
Averages Per Game: 14.3 points, 8.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds
Field Goal Percentage: 55.6%
Win Shares: 129.7
Teams: Phoenix Suns (1996-98, 2004-12), Dallas Mavericks (1998-2004) Los Angeles Lakers (2012-15)
Accolades: 2X MVP (2004-05, 2005-06), 8X All-Star, 7X All-NBA selection
Steve Nash redefined the role of the conventional NBA point guard with his speed, vision and shooting ability.
Over the course of his career, Nash averaged 14.3 points and 8.5 assists per game and was a two-time league MVP.
He is also one of just three players to have notched up over 10000 assists during his career, and currently sits in the third spot with 10335 dimes.
He was also named to the All-Star team on eight occasions, but never managed to lead any of his sides to an NBA Championship.
Despite the lack of silverware though, he will be remembered as a great point guard, not least because of the fact that the Suns and Mavericks boasted the league’s best offense during his time at the respective franchises.
#4. Jerry West
Averages Per Game: 27.0 points, 6.7 assists, 5.8 rebounds
Field Goal Percentage: 47.4%
Win Shares: 162.6
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (1960-1974)
Accolades: NBA champion (1972), NBA Finals MVP (1969), 14× NBA All-Star (1961–1974), NBA All-Star Game MVP (1972), 10× All-NBA First Team (1962–1967, 1970–1973), 2× All-NBA Second Team (1968, 1969), 4× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1970–1973), NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1969), NBA scoring champion (1970), NBA assists leader (1972)
Jerry West was one of the most influential players in NBA history and even ensured that the logo of the league was molded in his image. West led the Lakers to nine Finals appearances over the course of his career, but managed just one championship which will remain a blot on his legacy. He was also an extremely consistent performer and made it to the All-Star team in each of his 14 seasons.
West truly gave shape to the role of a point guard. He was quick, agile and ran his side’s offense. An efficient scorer, West averaged a whopping 27 points per game to go with 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds.
He also made history back in 1969 when he became the first player from the losing team to be named Finals MVP.
In 1979, West was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame while his No. 44 jersey was also retired by the Lakers a few years later.
#3. Oscar Robertson
Averages Per Game: 25.7 points, 9.5 assists, 7.5 rebounds
Field Goal Percentage: 48.5%
Win Shares: 189.2
Teams: Cincinnati Royals (1960-70), Milwaukee Bucks (1970-74)
Accolades: MVP (1963-64), 12X All-Star, 11X All-NBA selection, Rookie of the Year (1960-61), Hall of Famer, Champion (1971)
A triple-double machine over the course of his career, Oscar Robertson set new standards during his time in the NBA playing for the Milwaukee Bucks and Cincinnati Royals.
While players like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook have notched up triple-doubles on a regular basis in the modern NBA, their achievements pale in comparison to what Robertson did in his heydey.
Robertson became the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double, achieving the feat in 1962. He also averaged a triple double for his first 384 games, which is a truly astonishing feat. What makes his achievements even more spectacular is the fact that he was a point guard and not expected to rack up big rebounding numbers.
Robertson was named Rookie of the Year upon his arrival in the league in the 1960/61 season and continued to impress in subsequent seasons, winning the MVP award in 1963/64.
A 12-time All Star and Hall of Famer, Robertson is considered one of the greatest players of all time and unfortunately ended his career with just one championship to his name.
The legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar even rated Robertson higher than LeBron and Michael Jordan, saying:
“LeBron is awesome, MJ was awesome—but I think Oscar Robinson would have kicked them both in the behind. Absolutely. Oscar was awesome. He had brains. […] He had all the skills. He could rebound and box out guys four and six inches taller than him. He was ruggedly built. He had fluid, quickness, and just understood the game. No flair, he just got the job done every night.”
#2. Steph Curry
Averages Per Game: 23.5 points, 6.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds
Field Goal Percentage: 58.1
Win Shares: 103.1
Teams: Golden State Warriors (2009-present)
Accolades: MVP (2014-15), 6X All-Star, 2X All-NBA selection, Championships 3X (2015, 2017, 2018)
By the time Stephen Curry retires, he could well make it to the top spot on this list. Curry is considered the most prolific scorer and greatest shooter of all time, the next step in the evolution of the point guard.
Curry was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the 2009 draft and after struggling initially, found his footing soon enough.
Curry’s range is unlimited and he has the ability to pull up from the near the halfway line and launch contested threes. This has resulted in a huge shift in the way teams have had to guard Golden State, which played a massive role in their three Championship runs.
Curry is also the only unanimous MVP in NBA history, having managed the feat in the 2015/16 season. He also played an integral role in the development of one of the greatest teams in NBA history when the Golden State Warriors racked up a whopping 73 wins in 2015/16.
At the time of writing, Curry averages a whopping 23.5 points per game and shoots a ludicrous 43.5% from beyond the arc. He is also one of the finest free throw shooters in NBA history, making over 90% of his attempts from the charity stripe.
#1. Magic Johnson
Averages Per Game: 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, 7.2 rebounds
Field Goal Percentage: 53.3%
Win Shares: 155.8
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (1979-91, 1995-96)
Accolades: 3X MVP (1986-87, 1988-89, 1989-90), 3X Finals MVP, 12X All-Star, 10X All-NBA selection, Hall of Famer, Championships: 5X (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
Magic Johnson was responsible for maintaining interest in the NBA during the 1980s and 1990s when ratings were set to decline. The leader of the Showtime Lakers, Johnson is inarguably the greatest point guard in the history of the game and finished with five championships to his name.
He had a storied rivalry with Larry Bird, who was with the Boston Celtics at the time, and their battles have been well-documented.
Johnson had the ability to play any position and, during the course of his career, was named an All-Star 12 times.
He was also a three-time league MVP and was named in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.