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best nba point guards all time

Top 10 Best Point Guards in NBA History (Greatest Ever!?)

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

walt frazier nba point guard

Career stats
18.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.1 APG, .490 FG%

NBA Championships
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 nba point guard

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 nba suns

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

bob cousy

NBA Championships
6 (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963)

Career stats
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

chris paul

Career stats
18.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 9.9 APG, 2.3 SPG

NBA Championships

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

jason kidd

Career stats
12.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.9 SPG

NBA Championships
1 (2011)

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

best ball handlers all time isiah thomas

Career stats
19.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 9.3 APG, 1.9 SPG

NBA Championships
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

steve nash nba

Career stats
14.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 8.5 APG, .428 3P%

NBA Championships

“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

best ball handlers john stockton

Career stats
13.1 PPG, 10.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, .384 3P%

NBA Championships
None (doh!)

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

magic johnson nba

Career stats
19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, .520 FG%

NBA Championships
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!

Top 10 NBA Ball Handlers of All-Time: Players w/ Best “Handles” EVER

No basketball team at any level can be great without at least one great ball handler. When you don’t have one, it’s like college basketball coach Herb Sendek once said: “it’s like having a running back play quarterback, and no matter how well your line blocked, the ball isn’t going to get where it needs to go.”

Although you could move a few of these players around, or substitute a couple of our honorable mentions into the top 10, these players could never be accused of failing to get the ball where their teams needed it. On the contrary, they’ve often dazzled fans and opponents with how well they get the ball to where it needs to be.

Best Ball Handlers in NBA History:

This video of the best ball handlers is pretty sweet! OK, here’s our list of the best ball-handlers ever:

Honorable mention: John Stockton:

best ball handlers john stockton

John Stockton’s skills would never be described as flashy by anyone, but the NBA’s all-time assist leader has to be on this list. Not only was Stockton the best the game has ever seen at finding his teammates to set up easy baskets, but he took care of the ball.

You can’t average 10.5 assists a game without taking some chances, but Stockton still managed to average less than three turnovers a game. That’s the mark of a man who was almost no flash, but plenty of substance. When you get those kinds of results, it doesn’t matter how little flash there is to your game; you’ve got to get some respect.

#10: Chris Paul:

best nba ball handlers ever chris paul

There’s a reason people immediately got excited about the Los Angeles Clippers when CP3 joined their lineup, and it’s because of how well the guard combines style and substance to devastate opponents. Whether it’s knifing through a defense to create his own shot, or finding a teammate for an easy finish, Chris Paul is one of the most difficult guards to contain if you’re a defender. Much like Stockton, he relies more on substance and intelligence to get the job done, and that deserves a lot of credit.

#9: Isiah Thomas:

best ball handlers all time isiah thomas

If speed was what you needed, Isiah Thomas was who you wanted in your lineup. The Pistons’ guard was a running and jumping machine who adapted his game to become what Detroit needed him to be when they began to compete for titles. Thomas wasn’t as flashy as his career continued, but that was more of a case of him choosing substance over style to allow the Pistons’ Bad Boys to dominate the league in the late 1980’s. When he was at his best, though, he could really make a defender look foolish with his dribbling skills.

#8: Muggsy Bogues:

best ball handlers all time muggsy

At 5-foot-3, the diminutive guard had to be a great ball handler because it was the only way he’d be able to compete with the giants he went up against every night. Compete he did, and he often made them look silly in the process.

Bogues turned his lack of size into an advantage, as bigger players couldn’t keep up with his dribbling skills or his vision on the court. He didn’t rack up assists the way Stockton did, but he really took care of the basketball. Speaking of handling the ball, Bogues is the all-time career leader in assist-to-turnover ratio, boasting a career ratio of slightly over 5. You don’t get to those kinds of numbers without being a great ball handler.

#7. Jamal Crawford:

best ball handlers ever crawford

When you play for as many teams as Jamal Crawford has during his NBA career, that’s either a sign that you’re struggling with your skills or that your skills are in high demand. In Crawford’s case, it’s definitely the latter. He’s competed for six different teams because he’s an expert at moving around the court and making defenders look silly with his ball-handling skills. He can stop on a dime and shift between hands before a defender has any idea what’s happened, usually allowing him to create an open look at a 3-pointer.

#6. Jason Williams:

best ball handlers jason williams

White Chocolate would be higher on this list of the best ball handlers of all time if he wasn’t such a feast-or-famine player. When he was at his best, his “handle” was insane; doing things with the basketball that nobody else could. He made passes that were nothing short of ridiculous to set his teammates up for some easy baskets.

But too often, he got a little too flashy for his own good and would set up his opponents for some easy baskets by trying to make the spectacular move when a simple one would have done the job. Still, when he was on, nobody was as much of a master with the rock.

#5. Bob Cousy:

best ball handlers ever NBA history - Celtics Bob Cousy

Take a look at any video or article about top ballhandlers in NBA history, and there’s a good chance that you’re going to see people asking “Where’s Bob Cousy?” in the comments. There’s a good reason: the Celtics’ point guard was a magician on the court, finding teammates with brilliant passes that made the impossible look easy.

Plus, Cousy’s vision and shot selection led to wins and championships, as the Celtics rode his skills to become a dynasty in the 1960s. Because he played before the NBA became what it is, Cousy is often overlooked by younger fans. That can’t continue. His ball handling skills and his passing vision were second to none in his era, and he’s easily one of the best dribblers in league history. (*You can also get a coupon for $10 off those sweet Chuck Taylor’s from Finish Line here!)

#4. Stephen Curry:

best ball handlers ever steph curry nba

Stephen Curry is perhaps the biggest name in the league besides LeBron James. You know that the ball is coming his way as often as possible. In most cases, teams design their entire defense around slowing him down. And yet they still can’t contain Stephen Curry, in large part because the guard is so good at creating his own shot. Yes, his range is one of the deepest the NBA has ever seen, but he’s also incredible with his ball handling skills; creating that separation that gives him the fraction of a second he needs to get a great look at the basket.

#3. Kyrie Irving:

best ball handlers ever kyrie irving

Whether he’s starring in his own right or helping LeBron James shine on a nightly basis, Kyrie Irving has a well-warranted spot on this list. Since coming into the league, he’s been the one constant the Cavaliers have always had and has done whatever they’ve asked of him with the ball.

He’s quick enough to get around just about anyone and has the touch to finish off a move from wherever he needs to when he’s in the paint. James might get the lion’s share of the attention in Cleveland, but the opportunities created by Kyrie’s ball handling makes James look even better. (and he has a sweet shoe deal!)

#2. Pete Maravich:

best ball handlers nba history maravich

Imagine Pistol Pete on a team that had a supporting cast. Instead, Pete Maravich often had to do everything himself because he just didn’t have anyone else who could produce at the level he could. The results were often special, as Maravich regularly posted 40 and 50-point outings despite opposing defenses focusing almost all of their efforts on keeping him under wraps.

His fakes and ball-handling maneuvers were a trademark all the way back to his college days, and the only thing that ever stopped the Pistol on the court were his knee problems. Gone long before his time, there probably never will be another Pete Maravich, who did things with the ball that haven’t been seen before or since. (*You can use a Foot Locker coupon towards Old School Adidas like Pistol Pete wore!)

#1. Allen Iverson:

best ball handlers all time nba allen iverson

Without Allen Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers of the late 1990’s would probably have looked like… the Philadelphia 76ers of 2014-16. The Answer became one of the best to ever grace the court when it came to creating space.

He was so good at handling the ball, the NBA even attempted to crack down on palming in an effort to even things up… but Iverson was good enough with the rock that even if he were palming the ball, his hands were too quick for him to get caught. No matter how people felt about him, they didn’t dare look away when the ball was in A.I.’s hands. (*Iverson wore some sweet Reebok’s, which you can get at finishline.com (get coupon)

Other honorable mentions: Best dribbling skills / ball handlers ever: