The best point guards all have one thing in common: they can distribute the ball and make plays. This goal can be reached in many ways.
Some point guards thrive on shooting the ball and proving to be such a deadly threat that the only way defenses can stop them is by leaving one of their teammates wide open. Other point guards have the ability to always find the open man. These point guards are always trying to utilize as many different players as they can, making their offense hard to shut down.
Point guards are also responsible for protecting the ball and making sure the offense runs as smoothly and mistake-free as possible.
Due to so many different playing styles, ranking point guards can be tricky. Making it even harder is how the game and the point guard position have evolved and changed over the years. Rule changes like outlawing hand-checking and allowing zone defenses have brought us into the 3-point era, where many championship-winning teams often have a deadly perimeter shooting game.
This obviously has affected how point guards play.
In short, it’s very difficult to compare different playing styles to others as well as compare people from different eras. Yet we’re going to do our best!
This list ranks each point guard in terms of their ability to make plays, both offensively and defensively. Passing and scoring are therefore very important stats to consider from the offensive side. A point guard should also be able to play exceptional defense, making plays on the other side of the court as well.
Among players who didn’t make the cut are Kyrie Irving, Mark Price, Kevin Johnson, and Lenny Wilkens. Nothing against these guys, but we can only pick so many, and it was extremely challenging narrowing it down.
20. Tim Hardaway
Individual Awards: 5x NBA All-Star (1991-1993, 1997, 1998), Second fastest player in NBA history to record 5,000 points and 2,500 assists (262 games), Steals in a playoff game (8, tied for 2nd)
Team Accomplishments: Olympic Gold Medalist (2000)
Being able to dribble well is another important skill for a point guard. Tim Hardaway was an amazing dribbler. He killed people with his crossover and routinely left defenders helplessly guessing in fear. To add to defenders’ fear, Hardaway also knew how to shoot.
His 806 3-pointers, while he was with the Miami Heat, is still a franchise record.
With all the of the dribbling and shooting Hardaway did, he was also a great teammate and often distributed the ball, as any great point guard should. In fact, his 1,947 career assists with the Heat was a franchise record until Dwayne Wade passed him in 2010. All of this makes him worthy of being on any list talking about great point guards.
19. Dimitris Diamantidis
Individual Awards: EuroLeague MVP (2011), 6x Greek League MVP (2004, 2006-2008, 2011, 2014), Mister Europa Player of The Year (2007)
Team Accomplishments: 3x EuroLeague Champion (2007, 2009, 2011), 9x Greek League Champion (2005-2011, 2013, 2014)
If you ask any young up and coming European basketball player who their favorite basketball player was growing up, they’d probably say Dimitris Diamantidis. His resume and list of awards speak for itself. Diamantidis was simply phenomenal.
When he retired in 2016, Diamantidis was honored with the EuroLeague Basketball Legend Award; an award that only 5 other men have received.
To highlight his dominance, in addition to all of his individual and team awards throughout his career, Diamantidis retired as the all-time leader in steals in both the Greek League and the EuroLeague.
Diamantidis also had international success representing his home country, Greece, winning gold in the Stankovic Cup in 2006. Although never playing in the NBA, Diamantidis stands toe to toe with some of the best point guards in history.
18. Allen Iverson
Individual Awards: NBA Most Valuable Player (2001), 11x NBA All-Star (2000-2010)
Team Accomplishments: FIBA Americas Championship Gold Medalist (2003)
Being the #1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, Allen Iverson had high expectations. Expectations that he somehow far exceeded.
Remember Tim Hardaway’s crossover? Yeah, well Iverson had a crossover of his own, and it was unstoppable. This crossover propelled Iverson to a hall of fame NBA career.
Relying on his crossover, Iverson was the NBA scoring champion 4 times. On the defensive side of the ball. he made a living off of pickpocketing players and was the NBA steals leader 3 years in a row from 2001-2003.
Iverson also played on the USA men’s Olympic team in 2004 that won the bronze medal.
Although he had a better career than many ahead of him on this list, Iverson played a lot of shooting guard in addition to point guard, so if this list was less focused and focused on guards, he would be much higher.
17. Chauncey Billups
Individual Awards: 5x NBA All-Star (2006-2010), NBA Finals MVP (2004)
Team Accomplishments: NBA Champion (2004), FIBA World Championship Gold Medalist (2010)
Chauncey Billups is the definition of a good teammate. In fact, in 2013 he won the NBA Teammate of the Year award.
The 6′ 3” Billups scored 15.2 points per game along with 5.4 assists per game throughout his 17 year NBA career. Although he bounced around the league and played for 7 different NBA teams throughout his career, Billups put up consistent numbers and earned his spot on this list.
Billups had a big impact on the Detroit Pistons, and in 2004, he gifted them with their 3rd NBA championship as a franchise. This along with 7 other great seasons with the Pistons lead to them retiring his jersey number, No. 1.
Billups had a very successful career and his longevity of greatness made him one of the greatest point guards in NBA history.
16. Dennis Johnson
Individual Awards: 5x NBA All-Star (1979-1982, 1985)
Team Accomplishments: 3x NBA Champion (1979, 1984, 1986)
Averaging 14.1 points per game and 5 assists per game, Dennis Johnson put up solid numbers of the offensive side of the ball. On the defensive side, Johnson was very impressive. He made the NBA All-Defensive First Team 6 times throughout his career.
This well-roundedness made Johnson a deadly weapon proving he built to be a great point guard. Johnson was every coach’s dream. He controlled the pace of the game on offense and shut down opposing players on defense.
Since retiring in 1990, Johnson has had his jersey number, No. 3, retired by the Boston Celtics, and has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Being a 3-time NBA Champion, Johnson has the resume to be much higher on this list. The only reason he isn’t is that he spent most of the beginning of his career playing shooting guard, and remember, we are focused on what these players did as point guards.
15. Tony Parker
Individual Awards: 6x NBA All-Star (2006, 2007, 2009, 2012-2014)
Team Accomplishments: EuroBasket tournament Gold medalist (2013), 2x L’Équipe Champion of Champions (2003, 2013), 4x NBA Champion (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014)
Parker began his professional career as an 18-year-old in the LNB Pro A league. Two years later, he was playing in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs. For the next 18 years, 17 with the Spurs, Parker experienced a lot of success.
Parker won 4 NBA Championships, he was the Finals MVP in 2007 and carried the Spurs successful offense for 18 years.
In the offseason, Parker usually didn’t rest. He represented his home country, France, in numerous EuroBasket tournaments and other FIBA tournaments. He was the FIBA Europe Player of the Year 2 times and in 2013 he was the FIBA EuroBasket MVP.
14. Gary Payton
Individual Awards: 9x NBA All-Star (1994-1998, 2000-2003), NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1996)
Team Accomplishments: NBA Champion 2006, 2x Olympic Gold Medalist (1996, 2000)
Defense wins championships and Gary Payton was a magician on defense. He made the NBA All-Defensive First Team 9 times throughout his career and his 1996 season was one for the ages and nearly ended in an NBA championship.
In addition to his amazing defensive stats, Payton also excelled on offense. He averaged 16.3 points per game and 6.7 assists per game proving that he could distribute the ball and make plays when needed.
Payton was a lockdown defender who made plays on both sides of the ball as a point guard.
13. Nate Archibald
Individual Awards: 6x NBA All-Star (1973, 1975, 1976, 1980-1982), NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
Team Accomplishments: NBA Champion (1981)
Nate Archibald was your textbook point guard. He could shoot, pass, and zip past defenders for an easy layup. You can’t ask for much more out of a point guard.
In 1973, Archibald had a terrific season. He led the NBA in scoring and assists and was selected to his first of 3 career All-NBA First Teams.
From 1971-1977, Archibald was great. He averaged 26.7 points per game and 8.6 assists per game.
Archibald was known for his speed and quickness which created a big distraction for defenders, making for easy, wide-open assists.
12. Russell Westbrook
Individual Awards: 9x NBA All-Star (2011-2013, 2015-2020), 2x NBA Scoring Leader (2015, 2017), 2x NBA Assists Leader (2018, 2019), NBA Most Valuable Player (2017)
Team Accomplishments: Olympic Gold Medalist (2012)
Russell Westbrook is simply electric. The triple-double king has made 8 All-Star games and led the league and assists in scoring twice.
Westbrook is the definition of a playmaker. He can dribble, pass, shoot, and overall just make things happen.
He is the triple-double king for a reason. His 144 career triple-doubles are 2nd to only Oscar Robertson. In fact, he averages 23.0 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, and 8.3 assists per game.
The only hit on Westbrook is his lack of winning and selfishness, although his numbers are impressive and since being traded to the Houston Rockets, his chances of winning a championship are significantly higher.
11. Walt Frazier
Individual Awards: 7x NBA All-Star (1970-1976), 4x All-NBA First Team (1970, 1972, 1974, 1975), NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
Team Accomplishments: 2x NBA Champion (1970, 1973)
Like many on this list, Walt Frazier was a great all-around point guard. His 183.9 points per game to go along with 5.9 rebounds per game and 6.1 assists per game. These great stats allowed Frazier to make the All-Star team 7 straight years along with the NBA All-Defensive First Team 7 years straight as well.
Frazier’s ability to play great on both sides of the ball allowed his teams to have great success. He won 2 titles with the New York Knicks along with numerous other playoff games.
Frazier was one of the most dominant players in the NBA throughout the 1970s and his ability to be an asset both offensive and defensively made him a deadly weapon and therefore a great point guard.
10. Bob Cousy
Individual Awards: 13x NBA All-Star (1951-1963), NBA MVP (1957), 8x NBA Assists Leader (1953-1960)
Team Accomplishments: NCAA Champion (1946), 6x NBA Champion (1957, 1959-1963)
Kicking off the top 10, we have Bob Cousy. Cousy led the Boston Celtics to 6 NBA championships, including a streak of 5 in a row, throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
In addition to his team’s success, Cousy proved himself by being successful himself. He made it to 13 straight All-Star games in a row, made 10 All-NBA First-Team’s in a row, and led the league in assists 8 seasons in a row.
Cousy was simply a dominant player playing for a dominant team. The end result was a Hall of Fame career on a historically great, record-breaking squad.
9. Chris Paul
Individual Awards: NBA Rookie of the Year (2004), 10x NBA All-Star (2008-2016, 2020), 4× NBA assists leader (2008, 2009, 2014, 2015), 6× NBA steals leader (2008, 2009, 2011–2014)
Team Accomplishments: Olympic Gold Medalist (2008, 2012)
Chris Paul is the definition of consistent. Putting up good numbers every year, Paul has snuck up on this list fast. Although he’s never in the conversation as the best player in the NBA, Paul proves time after time that he deserves respect.
After easing into the league his first couple of years, Paul has been incredible over the last decade or so. Since 2008 he has made 9 NBA All-Star teams, including 4 All-NBA First-Team’s, has made the NBA All-Defensive First or Second Team 9 times, has led the league in assists 4 times and has led the league in steals 6 times.
At 34-years-old, Paul is starting to simmer down, but his legacy is only becoming greater. If he can add a ring or two to his resume along with perhaps a couple more good years, Paul has great potential to move higher up on this list and maybe even crack the top 5.
8. Jason Kidd
Individual Awards: 10× NBA All-Star (1996, 1998, 2000–2004, 2007, 2008, 2010), 5x All-NBA First Team (1999-2002, 2004), 5× NBA assists leader (1999–2001, 2003, 2004)
Team Accomplishments: Olympic Gold Medalist (2000, 2008), NBA Champion (2011)
Jason Kidd had quite a career at point guard. He was a 10-time All-Star, made the All-Defensive First or Second team 9 times, led the NBA in assists 5 times, and topped it all off with an NBA championship.
Kidd was one of the best at spreading the ball around. In fact, his 12,091 career assists rank second all-time only to John Stockton, whom we’ll discuss later.
Kidd routinely achieved triple-doubles and he ranks fourth all-time in career triple-doubles with 107.
7. Steve Nash
Individual Awards: 8x NBA All-Star (2002, 2003, 2005–2008, 2010, 2012), (3x All-NBA First Team (2005-2007), 2x NBA MVP (2005, 2006), 5× NBA assists leader (2005–2007, 2010, 2011)
Team Accomplishments: FIBA AmeriCup Silver Medalist (1999)
Steve Nash is one of the greatest players in NBA history to never win an NBA Championship. He played on some great squads that had great potential, but they could never get it done.
Nash himself, however, was a great NBA point guard and player. The Canadian won 2 MVPs, made 8 All-Star teams, and led the NBA in assists 5 times.
Nash also had individual success representing Canada. He won the FIBA AmeriCup MVP award twice and medaled 4 times with the Canadian national team.
Although he never won a championship, Nash played a phenomenal career and his personal stats are undeniably superb.
6. Jerry West
Individual Awards: 14x NBA All-Star (1961-1974), NBA Finals MVP (1969), NBA All-Star Game MVP (1972), 10× All-NBA First Team (1962–1967, 1970–1973), NBA Scoring Champion (1970), NBA Assists Leader (1972)
Team Accomplishments: NBA Champion (1972), Olympic Gold Medalist (1960)
Jerry West, AKA the NBA logo, accomplished just about everything you can accomplish in an NBA uniform. Playing 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, West made the All-NBA First Team 10 times, made the NBA All-Defensive First Team 4 times, was an NBA scoring champion, and led the NBA in assists for a season.
Being more of a scorer, West put up ridiculous numbers on a consistent basis. He averaged 27 points per game, which added up to a career total of 25,192.
In his 15 years with the Lakers, West brought the Los Angeles Lakers a lot of success and proved he was dominant himself at the point guard position. In fact, he made the All-Star team every year of his career after his first season. He was awarded for his dominance by being selected to the NBA 50th Anniversary Team.
West’s stats are off-the-charts incredible. The only reason he is not even higher on the list is that he played some shooting guard in addition to point guard.
5. Stephen Curry
Individual Awards: 6x NBA All-Star (2014-2019), 3x All-NBA First Team (2015, 2016, 2019), 2x NBA MVP (2015, 2016)
Team Accomplishments: World Cup Gold Medalist (2010, 2014), 3x NBA Champion
Stephen Curry has been a trailblazer for the game of basketball. He has redefined what it means to be a 3-point shooter and be a threat on the perimeter.
His resume is outrageous and perhaps the even more outrageous part is that he is only 31 years old.
Since 2014, Curry has been on a roll. In that time frame, he’s won 3 NBA Championships, won the NBA MVP award twice and has led the league in scoring and steals.
Although he is a well-rounded player, Curry’s best attribute is his 3-pointer.
He has the record for the most 3-pointers in a season with 402 and ranks third all-time for the most made 3-pointers in NBA history. To most experts, he is considered the greatest pure shooter in NBA history.
4. Isiah Thomas
Individual Awards: 12x NBA All-Star (1982-1993), 3x All-NBA First Team (1984-1986), NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
Team Accomplishments: Pan American Games Gold Medalist (1979), 2x NBA Champion (1989,1990)
Isiah Thomas nearly averaged a double-double. With an average of 19.2 points per game and 9.3 assists per game, Thomas was both a great scorer and passer.
Although he never put up ridiculous stats like many others on this list, Thomas was still a great point guard. He was a terrific game manager and leader for the Detroit Pistons and led them to back-to-back NBA championships in 1989 and 1990.
Despite never putting up crazy numbers, Thomas was still able to build-up a great resume. He led the league in assists one year and made it to 12 straight All-Star games.
3. John Stockton
Individual Awards: 10x NBA All-Star (1989-1997, 2000), 2x All-NBA First Team, 9x NBA Assists Leader (1988-1996), 2x Steals Leader (1989, 1992), NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
Team Accomplishments: 2x Olympic Gold Medalist (1992, 1996)
Although he never won a championship, John Stockton’s resume is nothing short of impressive. He made it to 10 NBA All-Star games, 8 All-NBA First or Second Teams, 5 NBA All-Defensive Second Teams, led the league in steals twice, and led the league in assists 9 years in a row.
He averaged a career double-double, with 13.1 points per game and 10.5 assists per game. In fact, he ranks first in NBA history with 714 career point-assist double-doubles, which is 200 more than Magic Johnson who ranks second.
Stockton also holds the record for the most career assists with 15,806, which is over 3,500 more than his nearest contender. Showing his defensive prowess, he also has the most steals all-time with 3,265. This is over 500 more than his nearest contender.
In addition to his NBA success, Stockton also won 2 gold medals in the Olympics representing the USA.
2. Oscar Robertson
Individual Awards: 12x NBA All-Star (1961-1972), 6x NBA Assists Leader (1962, 1963, 1964-1966, 1969), 9x All-NBA First Team (1961-1969), NBA MVP (1964)
Team Accomplishments: Olympic Gold Medalist (1960), NBA Championship (1971)
Oscar Robertson made the most of his time in the NBA. He made the All-NBA First Team 9 times, won an MVP, and an NBA championship among other things.
As mentioned earlier, Robertson still holds the NBA record for most career triple-doubles with 181; a record that has stood since he retired in 1974.
Robertson’s numbers were great. He averaged 25.7 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, and 9.5 assists per game.
Roberston excelled in all areas of the game. He could pass and score on offense, play lockdown defense, and come up with rebounds. All of this allowed his team to control the ball as long as possible.
1. Magic Johnson
Individual Awards: 12x NBA All-Star, 4× NBA assists leader (1983, 1984, 1986, 1987), 2× NBA steals leader (1981, 1982), 3x NBA MVP (1980, 1982, 1987), NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
Team Accomplishments: NCAA Champion (1979), 5x NBA Champion (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988), Olympic gold medalist (1992)
Magic Johnson was a winner in every sense of the word. On a team level, he won 5 NBA championships and won an Olympic gold medal in 1992 as part of the “Dream Team.”
On an individual level, Johnson was a 2-time All-Star game MVP, 3-time Finals MVP, and 3-time regular season NBA MVP. He led the league in steals twice and assists four times, en route to making 9 All-NBA First Teams.
Johnson achieved a lot. He had success in every aspect of the game and his resume is as complete as one’s can get. Johnson without a doubt deserves to be atop of this list, making him the greatest point guard of all time.
The craziest thing of all? He left the game in his prime due to finding out he was HIV Positive. While he did attempt to return, the climate was just too fearful at the time. Thus, he retired from the game. Many feel he could have played at a high level another 5 years at worst. Imagine if he did. How many stat-lines could he still own today?