The NBA’s Top Ten Point Guards Of All-Time

It’s nearly impossible to make a top 10 of All-Time list. The game has changed so much – the style, the toughness, the way the game is refereed and perceived, so it’s pretty darn hard comparing an MVP point guard in the mid ’00’s like Steve Nash to someone like Walt Frazier who was at his peak during the 1970’s. Stats come into play, but they mean different things in different eras. Plus, some things, like leadership and toughness don’t show up on the stat lines. After taking titles, awards and statistics and era of play into account, the bottom line and most important factor is this – Who would we rather have as our starting point guard? This is what we came up with – The Top 10 point guards in the history of the NBA.

Other Top 10 All Time – Top 10 Shooting Guards Top 10 Small Forwards Top 10 Power Forwards Top 10 Centers

Number 10 – Steve Nash

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First, some numbers – 14.6 points per game, 8.3 assists (10th best all-time) while shooting 48.9% from the field, 43.2% from the three (5th best all-time) and 90.3% from the line (2nd best all-time). One of only four point guards to win the MVP award and one of only three guards to win the award back to back. The bottom line, Nash, more than anyone else in the league in the last 10 years, made players around him better, much better. Best example? His return to Phoenix in 2004 – taking a team that won 29 games in the 2003-2004 season to win 62 in the next season, taking them all the way to the conference Finals. Next year? Without Amar’e, who played only three games in 2005-2006, Nash led the Suns to 54 wins, with six other players scoring in double-figures. Seven of his teammates that season averaged career highs in scoring. Maybe Nash isn’t as great as those two MVP’s suggest, but he has probably been the funnest player to watch in the last six-seven years and it’ll always be a great question to ask – If Nash would have stayed with Dallas, would he and Dirk won a title?

Number 9 – Nate Archibald

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If you search the name “Nate Archibald” on the web today, you’ll find some guy from Gossip Girl. The “Original” Nate Archibald, aka “Tiny”, named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996. Archibald is the only player to lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season (34 points, 11 assists per game) playing for the Kansas City Kings, an later version of the Cincinnati Royals and an early version of the Sacramento Kings. Archibald was one of the fastest and quickest guys to play the point, one of the more efficient open court players in the history of the game. In 1978, after missing an entire season due to an injury, Archibald got traded to Boston, where he overcame a rough start and adjusting to life as not being the quickest guy around, helping Boston win the NBA title in 1981. He finished his career after 13 NBA season averaging 18.8 points and 7.1 assists.

Number 8 – Bob Cousy

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Probably the first real great point guard, Cousy played 13 seasons in the NBA (we’ll forget about that short stint with the Royals in 1970), making the All-Star game 13 times, began the Celtics dynasty, winning six titles with Boston, one MVP award in 1957, leading the league in assists for eight consecutive season, back when the assist calculation was much harsher (career average 7.5) and averaged 18.4 points per game. More than anything, Cousy was ahead of his time with this ball handling and passing skills and influenced, at least in some way, every point guard that came after him.

Number 7 – Walt Frazier

Frazier (left) awarded the All-Star game MVP by Bill Russell
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The man who led the Knicks to two NBA titles in 1970 and 1973, besides being one of the best point guards of his generation and maybe the best point guard ever when it comes to defense (although I prefer the guy coming up next) was probably the coolest guy outside the basketball courts with a sense of style matched by no one since. A member of the Hall of Fame and the 50 greatest ever, Frazier finished his NBA career (13 seasons, 825 games) averaging 18.9 points, 6.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game, making seven All-Star games, four All-NBA first teams and seven All-NBA defensive First Teams.

Number 6 – Gary Payton

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I never watched Frazier play besides some “Classics” re-runs and youtube clips, so I gotta go with Payton on this one, as the greatest defensive point guard in history and one of the greatest one on one defenders in NBA history. After all, he was the only player to keep Jordan below 30 points per game in an NBA Finals series, limiting Michael to “only” 27.3 points per game during the Sonics-Bulls finals in 1996, with Jordan going over 30 only once during those six games. Payton is also the only point guard in NBA history to win the Defensive player of the year award, which the league started handing out in 1982-1983. Payton was voted to the NBA’s Defensive first team nine times, a record he shares with Michael Jordan. Payton was much more than defense, by the way. He averaged 16.3 points and 6.7 assists in his career and is in the NBA’s all time top 10 in games, minutes played, assists and steals. Unlike a couple of other guys on this list, Payton does have a title – 2006 in Miami. He’ll also go down as one of the most durable men who played the game, missing less than 30 games in 17 NBA season.

Number 5 – Jason Kidd

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The second active player on this list, Kidd has just started his 16th NBA season with no intention of stopping. Like Nash, Kidd is one of those guys who just makes, or tries to at least, everyone around him better. He has led the league in assists five times (by average) and holds a career average of 9.2, sixth best all-time. He is second on the all time assists list, way behind John Stockton who probably won’t be beaten. A 10 time All Star, six time All-NBA First team and three time All-NBA first defensive team, Kidd was probably at his best during the early 00’s, leading the very limited New Jersey Nets team to two consecutive NBA finals before being beaten by the Spurs and Lakers. Still, Kidd was exceptional in the 2002 and 2003 playoffs, scoring around 20 points and averaging near a triple double in both campaigns. He is third on the NBA’s all time triple-double list with 105 and second in the playoffs with 11.

Number 4 – Isiah Thomas

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An amazing NBA career by the second best point guard during the 1980’s is forgotten bit by bit while Thomas had fun playing Knicks coach and GM and destroying the CBA. But we’re here about his playing career, which was absolutely brilliant. The number 2 pick in the 1981 draft after leading Bob Knight’s Hoosiers to the national championship, Thomas played his entire career with the Detroit Pistons, averaging 19.2 points and 9.3 assists in 13 NBA seasons. Thomas was the leader of the Detroit Pistons team that grew and improved throughout the decade and finally peaked in their back to back title year in 1988-1990, with Thomas winning the Finals MVP in 1990, beating the Blazers 4-1. The Pistons’ all time leader in Points, Assists and Steals, Thomas played in 12 All-Star games and was in the All-NBA first team three times.

Number 3 – John Stockton

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It’s a shame Stockton had to retire, after 19 seasons, making the playoffs in each and every one of them, including two NBA Finals, without an NBA title. Still, Stockton is the NBA’s all time leader in Steals and Assists, with marks in both categories that probably won’t be beaten in the foreseeable future (15,806 assists and 3265 steals). A fantastic and underrated defender (no selection in the NBA’s first defensive team), Stockton led the league in assists for nine consecutive seasons and has seven seasons in which he dished out over 1,000 assists. Isiah Thomas and Kevin Porter are the only two other players with over 1,000 assists in a season, and they both had just one. Stockton set those incredible records, besides being a great player who was one of the hardest workers in the league, because he was amazingly durable, missing only four games in his first 13 seasons. Only in 1997-1998, at the age of 35, an preseason injury made him miss 18 games. Stockton didn’t a miss a single game, even when playing into his forties after that season.

Number 2 – Oscar Robertson

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The only player in NBA history to finish a season averaging a triple-double (1961-1962 with the Royals, averaging 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game) and a player who recorded 181 career triple-doubles, by far more than anyone else, finishing his career averaging 25.7 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds. Robertson was more than just a point guard. He was the first complete player, able of doing anything, especially during the first half of his career, playing in Cincinnati. He won the NBA title in 1971, playing with Kareem in Milwaukee and retired three seasons later. He was a 12 time NBA All-Star and won the MVP in 1964 (31.4, 9.9, 11.0). He is also probably the first player to use the head fake and the fade away jump shot, plus paving way for “Big Guards”, and the guy we’ll talk about next.

Number 1 – Magic Johnson

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In my opnion – the second greatest player of all time, and the most versatile player ever. Magic, 6’9, could have probably played any position and be considered one of the top 10 players all time in it. There isn’t a more famous out of position game than game 6 of the 1980 Finals, with Magic playing for the injured Kareem at Center and scoring 42 points along with 15 rebounds and 7 assists. Oh yeah, they won the title. Magic is the greatest passer in the history of the game, with an NBA best career average of 11.2, three MVP titles and 5 championship rings. He saved the NBA, along with Bird, and that Lakers-Celtics rivalry, which was much more than just a basketball rivalry – class, style, race. Johnson didn’t just win, he did it with style, more style and flash than anyone else. His career was cut short due to testing positive for HIV but he did make a brief return to the game in 1996, playing much better than anyone expected from a guy aged 36, 5 years out of the league. If it wasn’t for Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson would be the greatest of all time.