Updated: Apr 8, 2020
In today’s NBA, traditional player roles are changing. Power forwards and centers are just as likely to be found on the perimeter as they are in the paint, and guards and small forwards are leading their teams in rebounding. Despite these changes, one thing has remained constant. The point guard is still the quarterback of the court, dictating much of the action that takes place. The following is a list of the ten greatest point guards in NBA history. As you can see by the presence of both current and former players on this list, the position is just as prominent as ever.
1) Magic Johnson, 1979-91, 96
When he came into the league in 1979, the NBA had never seen anyone like Magic Johnson. Here was a 6’9” guard who could do it all, including play all five positions if needed. Johnson’s dazzling play in the open court and his precision passing were the heart of the “Showtime” Lakers teams of the 1980s. The Hall of Famer and 11-time All-Star averaged 11.2 assists per game for his career, an NBA record. Johnson was also an efficient scorer, averaging 19.5 points on 52 percent shooting, and an excellent rebounder at 7.2 per game. In the postseason, he averaged 19.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 12.3 assists as the catalyst of five Lakers championship teams. Johnson was named First Team All-NBA nine straight years from 1983-91. The Lakers legend also won three league MVP awards, three Finals MVPs and two All-Star MVPs in his illustrious career.
2) Oscar Robertson, 1960-74
With skill, toughness and unprecedented versatility, Robertson forever changed the point guard position. In 1961-62, the second-year guard from Cincinnati introduced the triple double to the NBA lexicon by averaging 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game. The Hall of Famer would go on to dominate the NBA with 12 consecutive All-Star selections, nine straight First Team All-NBA honors, and three All-Star MVPs. “The Big O” also led the league in assists seven times, won league MVP in 1963-64, and won a scoring title in 1967-68. In 1970-71, Robertson teamed with a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA championship. For his career, Robertson averaged 25.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists.
3) John Stockton, 1984-2003
Stockton is the most prolific point guard in NBA history. For 19 seasons, the Utah Jazz could count on number 12 to lead their team into battle, with the Hall of Famer missing only six games in two decades. Stockton became the NBA’s all-time assist leader along the way with 15,806, nearly 4,000 more than the second place Jason Kidd. The 5-time All-Defensive team selection is also the all-time leader in steals with 3,265. In addition to being a great distributor and defender, Stockton was an excellent shooter with a .515 career field goal percentage. The 10-time All-Star and 11-time All-NBA selection led the Jazz to the playoffs in all 19 of his seasons, including back-to-back NBA Finals in 1996-97 and 97-98, where Utah lost two highly competitive series to the Chicago Bulls.
4) Bob Cousy, 1950-63, 70
Cousy was the NBA’s first great point guard, and one of the game’s ultimate champions. The All-American from Holy Cross was drafted by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, acquired by the Chicago Stags, and then sold to the Boston Celtics for $9,000 when the Stags folded. Whether it was fate or circumstance, the acquisition of Cousy led to one of the great dynasties in all of pro sports. With extraordinary court vision and passing ability, Cousy led the Celtics to six NBA championships, including five in a row from 1958-59 to 62-63. The 13-time All-Star led the league in assists eight years in a row, and was named First Team All-NBA 10 straight seasons from 51-52 to 60-61. “The Houdini of the Hardwood” averaged 18.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists in his 14 seasons.
5) Jason Kidd, 1994-2013
At its core, the point guard position is about leadership, selflessness and making the players around you better. No player fit this description better than Kidd. In his 20 NBA seasons, the Hall of Famer was a tenacious defender, fearless rebounder and one of the greatest passers the game has ever seen. Kidd was a 10-time All-Star, a 6-time All-NBA selection and a 9-time All-Defensive team choice. He led the league in assists five times, finishing his career with 12,091, the second highest total ever. A postseason mainstay, Kidd led four teams to 17 combined playoff appearances, including back-to-back NBA Finals with the New Jersey Nets in 2001-02 and 02-03, and an NBA championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2010-11.
6) Chris Paul, 2005-present
Paul is one of the most versatile point guards in NBA history. In addition to being an outstanding ball-handler, superb passer and well-rounded scorer, the 10-time All-Star is also one of the league’s best defenders. Paul has led the NBA in assists four times and steals six times in his first 13 seasons. He is also a 4-time First Team All-NBA selection and a 7-time First Team All-Defensive selection. For his career, Paul is averaging 18.5 points, 9.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game. He was the 2013 All-Star Game MVP, and is averaging a record 12.4 assists per game in the midseason classic.
7) Gary Payton, 1990-2007
“The Glove” is arguably the best defensive point guard the NBA has ever seen. The 1995-96 Defensive Player of the Year was selected to the All-Defensive First Team nine straight years from 1993-94 to 2001-02, and his 2,445 steals rank fourth all-time. Payton was more than just a great defender, though, as he averaged over 20 points per game seven times and has a career average of 6.7 assists per game. The Hall of Famer was both a 9-time All-Star and 9-time All-NBA selection. His 8,966 assists rank ninth in NBA history, and his 21,813 points are the second highest total for a point guard.
8) Stephen Curry, 2009-19
Through his first 11 seasons, Curry has already put together a Hall of Fame resume. The 6-time All-Star has two MVPs, five All-NBA selections and a scoring title to his credit. More importantly, he led the Golden State Warriors to three NBA titles in four years. Curry has accomplished all of this with excellent ball-handling skills, precise passing and seemingly unlimited range on his jump shot. The Warriors’ sharpshooter has led the NBA in made three-pointers five times, and possesses four of the top six single season totals in history. For his career, Curry has averaged 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists, and has shot an outstanding .476 from the field, .435 from three and .906 from the free throw line.
9) Russell Westbrook, 2008-present
From the opening tip to the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Westbrook has one speed, and that’s full speed. The Houston Rockets superstar possesses all the skills of a great point guard, but it’s his nonstop motor that sets him apart. The 9-time All-Star averaged a triple double an unprecedented three years in a row from 2016-17 to 2018-19. The double digit rebounds are particularly impressive for a 6’3” guard. Westbrook is also the only player in history to lead the league in scoring and assists at least two times each. The 2016-17 MVP is a 7-time All-NBA selection and a 2-time All-Star Game MVP. Through his first 12 seasons, Westbrook is averaging 23.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 8.3 assists.
10) Walt Frazier, 1967-80
Frazier earned the nickname “Mr. Cool” for his smooth on-court play and stylish off-court persona, but don’t let the calm exterior fool you. The Knicks great was a fierce competitor. The Hall of Famer was one of the greatest defensive players of his era, earning First Team All-Defensive honors seven years in a row. Equally adept on the offensive end, Frazier averaged 18.9 points on 49-percent shooting, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists for his career. An outstanding clutch performer, the 7-time All-Star averaged 18.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 8.2 assists in three NBA Finals appearances, leading the Knicks to their only two NBA titles in 1969-70 and 1972-73. In the decisive game seven of the 1970 Finals, Frazier had 36 points, seven rebounds and 19 assists, one of the great postseason performances of all-time.