So, how did we determine our list of the best NBA point guards ever?
We looked at essential stats like assists steals and points as well as a player’s ranking in assists percentage PER (player efficiency rating) and win shares just to name a few. We also took into consideration their individual achievements, NBA playoff performances, and any other pertinent accolades. You probably saw a few of these players on our recent list of the best ball-handlers in NBA history, too!
Okay here’s our list of the 10 best point guards in NBA history:
#10. Walt Frazier
18.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.1 APG, .490 FG%
2 (1970, 1973)
“Paradoxically tough on the court and flashy off of it, Frazier epitomized the ’70s-era backcourt style in which roles were less defined.” – Doolittle
Walt, or Clyde Frazier, set many franchise records while playing for the New York Knicks. While many of them were eventually broken, he still holds the franchise record for the most career assists with 4791. While with the Knicks, he won two championships and one all-star MVP in 1975.
He made the NBA all-defensive team seven times, and the All-NBA First Team four times. In the 1970 NBA Finals, while matched up against greats like Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, Walt scored 36 points, dished out 19 assists, and had five steals to seal a championship for the Knicks. It’s hard to say what Frazier is known more for; his stellar defense or his stylish attire. Either way, teammate Willis Reed put it best when he said, “It’s Clyde’s ball, he just lets us play with it once in a while.”
#9. Gary Payton
Gary Payton played for several franchises including the Miami Heat where he won an NBA championship as a part of his farewell tour. However, he’s best known for his time with his Seattle Super Sonics where he earned the nickname, “The Glove” for his inescapable defense and sick handle. Oh, and setting up all those nasty dunks for Shawn Kemp!
In fact, Gary Payton is the only point guard to win Defensive Player of the Year, and was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First team nine times; a record he shares only with Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant. Pretty elite company! Gary Payton is number four all-time in total steals, and 20th all-time in steals per game.
Payton wasn’t just an elite defender, he’s also eighth all time in total assists. He was a complete point Garten able to score, defend, and grab rebounds.
#8. Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is always held in high esteem by NBA fans, but he’s even more amazing to talk about when you look at some of his career achievements. He ranks sixth all-time in assists per game for the regular season and the playoffs, ninth all-time in assists percentage, eighth all-time in assists percentage for the playoffs, and 11th all-time in offensive rating.
In just his second season in the NBA Johnson averaged over 20 points and 12 assists. That same year in the playoffs he averaged nearly 21 points and 11 assists while shooting almost 50% from the floor. Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas are the only other players to average at least 20 points and 12 assists and Kevin Johnson did it in his second year in the league!
He averaged at least 20 points and 10 assists for the next three seasons, joining Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players to do that for three consecutive seasons. He never won a championship but he had several remarkable player performances out-playing Magic Johnson, beating John Stockton, and of course dunking on Hakeem Olajuwon while on his way to scoring at 38 points. (see video above!)
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#7. Bob Cousy
6 (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963)
18.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.5APG, .375 FG%
“The undisputed first great point guard, Cousy remains the only guard in NBA history to be named First-Team All-NBA in 10 straight seasons.” – Adams
Now it’s time to go real old-school. Bob Cousy was ahead of his time, or maybe he was just the beginning of everything, and everyone has just been copying him ever since. Cousy was magic before Magic Johnson. His flashy passes were something no one had really seen before. Aside from winning six NBA championships, he also won League MVP in 1957.
He’s 15th all time in total assists, 19th all-time in assists per game for the regular season, and ninth all-time in assists per game in the playoffs. He actually led the league in assists for eight consecutive seasons. With an attitude that matched his game, Cousy was not just a fan-favorite. He was considered by many to be the greatest basketball player ever; or, at least of his generation.
Cousy set the tone for future players like Magic Johnson and Steve Nash. He had excellent court-vision and amazing ball handling and passing skills. His behind the back dribble moves may not seem flashy today, but it got the ball rolling in the direction of creativity and showmanship. That’s what makes him one of the best NBA point guards ever.
*Related: Best 10 NBA Centers in History
#6. Chris Paul
18.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 9.9 APG, 2.3 SPG
There was a time when Chris Paul was on his way to becoming the greatest point guard of all time. However, after 10 seasons in the league without making it past even the second round of the playoffs, he started to slide in the minds of some NBA fans; and rightfully so. However, he is still done plenty through his career to earn this spot.
He’s third all-time in assists per game, third all-time in steals per game, second all-time in assists percentage, sixth all-time in PER, and has the highest offensive rating ever. In the playoffs he’s top ten in PER, assists per game, assists percentage, and offensive rating That’s incredible! His short playoff runs are definitely a black mark on his career, but he’s still one of the greatest point guards of all time.
#5. Jason Kidd
12.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.9 SPG
Probably the most versatile point guard in NBA history, Jason Kidd had a long and illustrious career. After 21 seasons he finished second in total assists, second in total steals, and seventh in assists per game. His size made him an excellent all-around player. He could score, pass, rebound, and defend. In fact, he’s the only player in NBA history with at least 15,000 points, 10,000 assists, and 7,000 rebounds. He’s also third all-time in triple-doubles.
Despite having a reputation for being a terrible jump shooter, he’s actually fifth all-time in three-pointers made. His defense and smart play helped win him a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Before that, he made back-to-back Finals appearances with teams featuring Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, and Keith van Horn. Pretty impressive, and without a doubt Kidd is one of the best point guards in NBA history!
#4. Isaiah Thomas
19.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 9.3 APG, 1.9 SPG
2 (1989, 1990)
“The only players in NBA history with more games with 20 points and 10 assists are Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.” – Adams
Known as the point guard that led the bad-boy Pistons to back-to-back championships, Isaiah Thomas was part of some of the most memorable Playoff moments ever. His battles against the Celtics Knicks and Lakers made for great TV, and solidified his reputation as an elite player who could score pass and defend. Any team that beats Jordan has to be great, right? He won two rings with the Detroit Pistons, and won Finals MVP for his efforts in the 1990 playoffs.
He’s often known for his grittiness, toughness, and style, and the numbers back up his elite reputation. He’s seventh all-time in total assists. Not bad for a guy that had a relatively short career! He’s also 5th all-time in assists per game, in the regular season, and seventh all-time in assists per game in the playoffs. On top of that, he’s top-20 all-time in steals and assists percentage.
He even set the record for the highest assists percentage in league history at 13.9 in the 1984-85 season. That record was later broken by John Stockton. After several injuries, Isaiah Thomas retired at only 32 years old. What more could he have done if he had stayed healthy? It’s hard to say, but he still earned a high spot as one of the best NBA point guards in history.
#3. Steve Nash
14.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 8.5 APG, .428 3P%
“Today’s children will ask, ‘Who was the Steph Curry before Steph Curry?’ Steve Nash is the answer.” – Haberstroh
“Wayne Gretzky on the court.” For the younger generation, Steve Nash is probably the greatest point guard we actually got to watch we’ll just ignore his two years of the Lakers. After growing as a player with the Dallas Mavericks, Nash had his best years with the Phoenix Suns; perfectly orchestrating their high-octane offense with Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, and Shawn Marion.
it’s there that he won two MVP awards beating out Shaquille O’Neal and becoming just the third point guard ever to win the award and the second to win it multiple times along with Magic Johnson. Steve Nash is third all-time in total assists, 10th and assists per game, 3rd in assists percentage, and 10th all-time in offensive rating. Basically, he was one of the greatest passers of all time.
However, Nash was also a very underrated shooter. He’s actually 10th all-time in three-point shooting percentage, and had four 50-40-90 seasons. He and Larry Bird are the only players to do that more than once, and even Larry Bird only did it twice.
What could Nash and Dirk have accomplished if they had stayed together? Probably multiple rings, but it’s hard to say. Either way Steve Nash cemented his legacy as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history.
#2. John Stockton
13.1 PPG, 10.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, .384 3P%
Did you know that John Stockton led the NBA in assists for 9-straight seasons starting from 1987-1996?
It’s true. John Stockton might be the most under-appreciated player in NBA history.
We all think we know how great John Stockton was, but chances are he’s even better than you think. Just listen to some of his accomplishments: he’s number one all-time in total assists, a record he holds by a margin of more than three thousand assists. Number one in total steals, number two in assists per game for the regular season and the playoffs, number one in assists percentage for the regular season and the playoffs, and number four in offensive rating
He holds the record for assists per game average over one season at 14.5, led the league in assists for nine seasons; a record, and had five of the top six assist seasons in NBA history. Stockton is known for his offense and passing and rightfully so but he wasn’t a bad defender either.
Stockton was number one in total steals and number seven in steals per game. He was also selected to the NBA all-defensive second team five times and was known to be one of the toughest players in the league. The Jazz never missed the playoffs during Stockton’s career and they reached the Western Conference Finals five times in a seven-year span.
We could go on with these stats, but the point is that Stockton owned the court. He was the quintessential point guard and set records that will probably never be broken. He was never able to beat Jordan and win a ring and surprisingly he never won MVP, but he’s still easily one of the greatest point guards of all time.
#1. Magic Johnson
19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, .520 FG%
5 (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
“No one was more dynamic, or magical, with the ball in the open court than Earvin Johnson. He lifted the Lakers, and transition basketball, to ethereal levels. He was transcendent.” – Rob Peterson
You can probably already guess that we were going to put Magic at the top of the list of best point guards of all time, and with good reason. Of the 15 point guard related stats, Magic is top-20 in 13 of them and top 10 in 8. On top of that, Magic Johnson won five championships, is a three-time MVP, and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He’s number five in total assists, number one in assists per game for the regular season and the playoffs, number five in assists percentage, number three in offensive rating, number one in offensive rating for the playoffs. He also has a 5th most win-shares for the playoffs in NBA history!
Those achievements are amazing playing alongside other NBA Hall of Fame players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy Magic could have blended into the scenery and let his teammates run the show. Instead, he had the greatness to stand out among those legendary players and established himself as the leader of the team.
His size, mobility, and ball handling skills made him one of the most complete players ever. Proof of this is the fact that he’s second only to Oscar Robertson in triple doubles! Magic Johnson is our choice for the best point guard to ever play in the NBA!
A Number of Other NBA Point Guards Could Have Made This Top 10 List:
OK, that’s Nasty Dunk’s list of of the top 10 point guards in NBA history.
There are a few legendary players that you won’t see on this list including Steph Curry, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Allen Iverson. That’s because we are listing those players as shooting guards.
While it’s impossible to compare players, we hope you enjoyed this post, and agree with most of the rankings!