All time lists that aren’t based on numbers and stats, on cold hard facts, are problematic. It’s much easier putting a time frame on the players involved – each generation has it’s own greatest players. It’s hard to say how Cousy and Frazier and even the triple double man himself, Oscar Robertson, would rank against players in a different time, in a different basketball game altogether. That’s why we’re not ranking the best ever, cause it’s hard putting the players above in a list with Kidd and Stockton and others. Here are the top five point guards in the NBA of the last two decades.
Number 5 – Steve Nash, 1996 – still active
The Phoenix Suns point guard, the best Canadian basketball player ever has been with us since 1996. Being a star at Santa Clara University didn’t Steve Nash an immediate starter both with Phoenix who drafted him at 15th overall in the 1996 draft, one of the best and deepest draft classes in history (Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and Ray Allen as the prime examples). He was traded to Dallas and in his third season there suddenly became one of the best point guards in the league, improving with the rising Dallas Mavericks under Don Nelson. Nash pretty soon reached all star status but wasn’t re signed with the Mavericks as their Owner, Mark Cuban, felt it wasn’t safe giving him a long term contract.
Nash returned to Phoenix, getting a 63 million for six years deal with the Suns and jumped even another level, becoming the best point guard in the league for a few years, winning two MVP’s (2005, 2006) and reaching the Western Conference final twice. Maybe his greatest achievement was in 2005-2006, winning his second MVP, averaging 18.8 points and 10.5 assists per game, but more impressively, helping seven of his teammates to post career highs in scoring.
Nash is one of nine players in the league’s history to win back to back MVP’s, second best all time in free throw shooting (90%), fifth best in three point shooting (43.2%) and ninth on the all time total assists list.
Number 4 – Gary Payton, 1990 – 2007
The Glove, the second pick in the 1990 NBA draft out of Oregon State will always be remembered as probably the best defending point guard ever, and one of the best point guards of all time. It took him two-three years to really breakout, but in his fourth season Payton became an all star and for the next ten years was one of the best players in the league.
Payton won the defensive player of the year award in 1996, and was on the NBA’s first defensive team for a record nine consecutive seasons (1994-2002). He led the Seattle Supersonics along with Shawn Kemp to the NBA finals in 1996, but lost to the Chicago Bulls in six games, despite Payton doing a fantastic job on Michael Jordan, limiting him to Jordan’s lowest ever scoring average in a finals series (27.3).
Payton won the title with Miami Heat in 2006 but more as a complementary player. He is the only point guard to win the defensive player of the year award in the leagues history, 21st on the all time scoring list, 7th in total assists and 3rd in total steals.
Number 3 – Allen Iverson, 1996 – still active
Allen Iverson is hard to define by position, but behind all the shooting and scoring and scoring titles, Iverson is a point guard who just shoots first and passes later. Iverson has won the 2001 MVP award and led the league in scoring four times, and still has a career average of 6.2 assists per game while scoring 27.1 points per game in his career, fifth best all time. He actually isn’t signed with any team yet, entertaining offers from the Clippers and even Greek team Olympiakos among others, but that doesn’t change the fact that he has been one of the best players and most exiting players in the league since he joined in 1996.
He reached the finals with Philadelphia 76ers in 2001 but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. He has played also with Denver and Detroit but is still waiting for another shot at the league title. It seems though that teams aren’t keen on giving him another shot, or at least a shot for the money and playing time he’s asking for.
Number 2 – Jason Kidd, 1994 – still active
Like Steve Nash, Kidd is currently playing with the team that drafted him after grazing in foreign fields for a decade. Jason Kidd was the number two pick in the 1994 draft by the Dallas Mavericks. Kidd was co-rookie of the year award winner along with Grant Hill and in the last 15 years established himself as one of the greatest passers in the games history. Despite his scoring numbers dropping in recent years and especially in the last two seasons since returning to Texas, and never being a shoot first type of player Kidd has a career average of almost 14 points per game to go with his 9.2 assists per game average.
He hasn’t won a league title, reaching the finals twice with the New Jersey Nets (2002-2003), losing once to the Lakers and once to the San Antonio Spurs but has been consistently one of the best players in the league, with five All-NBA first team selections and four all defensive first team selections. He led the league in assists per game five times in his career and is ranked third all time in total assists and sixth in assists per game average. He is also 7th all time in total steals and maybe the most impressive out of all those is being third all time in career triple double games (103).
Number 1 – John Stockton, 1984 – 2003
Don’t let the nonathletic frame, short shorts and good boy look fool you. Stockton was a fierce competitor, a fantastic defender and although not a flamboyant player but did his job better than anyone else in the last twenty years. He doesn’t have a title and an MVP award but he did everything he could to make Karl Malone a two time MVP and bring the Jazz as close as possible to a title, twice.Too bad there’s a Michael Jordan in life.
Stockton missed only 22 games in his 19 year career, missing only four in his first 13 seasons. He is the all time leader in total assists and steals by a huge margin, and it’s very unlikely to be reached by anyone anytime soon. Stockton is also part of the NBA’s 50th anniversary All-Time team, but there’s no doubt that his 15,806 assists and 3,265 steals in his career are his most impressive individual achievement.