To the Point
For the first round of the NFL Draft I had a couple of buddies over for some pizza, wings and a couple of cold ones. And while the main event clearly revolved around most things football and the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants (just let me dream), something special took place on the NBA hardwood that caught our attention. Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns put on a legendary playoff performance with 33 points on 14 for 14 shooting, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds to clinch the Suns first round victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. This led to a well-debated discussion on where Chris Paul ranked on the all-time point guard list, with opinions abound about not only Paul, but where some of the other all time greats rank.
Some maintain that top 10 lists and "Rushmores" of greatest athletes are fruitless and settle nothing. Then there are other irrational fans like me who feel like debating and analyzing the greats are what makes sports so fun. So without further adieu, here are my top 10 Point Guards of all time:
10. Jason Kidd - Kidd's resume stacks up to almost any player on our list. He was a 10 time All Star, Rookie of the Year, 9x All Defensive Team member, and 5 time assist champ. Kidd also added a championship to his resume in 2011 as a key member of the Dallas Mavericks who knocked off a loaded Miami Heat team led by LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. In my opinion however, Kidd's most impressive performances came in leading the New Jersey Nets to back to back Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. While those rosters had good complimentary players, it was clear that Kidd was the catalyst that carried those Nets teams to success.
9. Bob Cousy - Bob Cousy is certainly not the flashiest name on this list, but the fact that he is still in the top 25 of all-time assists leaders after retiring in 1963 (he technically played 7 games in 1970 at age 41 as a player coach) is a testament to what he did to revolutionize the point guard position. Cousy was not just a passer but also a gifted scorer averaging 18 PPG for his career. He was a 6x NBA champ with the Boston Celtics and a 13x time all-star. A legend before his time.
8. Gary Payton - Some may say that Gary Payton is too high here, however I would argue that Payton had as solid of a career as others on this list. He was a 9 time all star, 9x All Defensive Team member, a Defensive Player of the Year, and an NBA Champion as a veteran leader on the 2006 Miami Heat. In his prime he was a consistent 20 ppg scorer, amongst the league leaders in steals and assists, and was probably the best defensive player in the league. As someone who watched Michael Jordan beat great after great, Payton's Supersonics may have given Jordan his toughest test in the late 90's.
7. John Stockton - Unparalleled consistency. Led the league in assists 9x, led the league in steals 2x, was an 11x All Star. He's the all-time NBA leader in assists and steals and he missed only 22 games in a 19-year career. The combo of Stockton and power forward Karl Malone was one of the most lethal in NBA history and the only thing that could stop them in their primes was Michael Jordan's Bulls in 1997 and 1998. With a championship on his resume he may be higher on this list.
6. Chris Paul - Paul's case is one of the most difficult to evaluate. No one can deny his greatness and talent. His resume almost has it all - 12x All Star, Rookie of the Year, 9x All Defensive Team selection, 4x assist champ, and 10x All NBA selection. At 36 years old he led the league in assists once again this year and has shown little signs of slowing down when healthy. Where Paul falls short is in the playoffs success category. He's won a conference championship just once and is 2-5 in Western Conference semifinal matchups. If he's able to win a ring this year, he can easily vault to the #2 spot on this list.
5. Walt Frazier - Walt "Clyde" Frazier's greatness is often overlooked because his stats may not be as gaudy as other's on this list, however that was more because of what he was asked to do as a player by former head coach Red Holzman. He's one of the greatest defensive point guards of all time as evident by his 7 selections on the All Defensive teams, was a 6x All NBA selection, and 7x All Star. He led the Knicks to championships in 1970 and 1973 and unlike some others on this list, retired when he was relatively young. Through 13 years of his career, his performance ranked with the best of the best.
4. Oscar Robertson - Before averaging triple doubles became so easy in today's watered down defensive environment, Oscar Robertson practically invented the term. In 1962 (keep in mind well before the advent of the 3 point line), Robertson AVERAGED 30.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG, and 11.4 APG. For his entire legendary career he averaged 25.7 PPG, 9.5 APG, and 7.5 RPG. He was an 11x All NBA selection, Rookie of the Year, and helped lead the 1971 Milwaukee Bucks along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Still remains underappreciated.
3. Stephen Curry - I find it much easier to evaluate Steph Curry the player than Steph Curry the point guard. The reason why? Because Steph doesn't "feel" like a point guard. He feels like a 2 guard with extraordinary ball-handling skills, however his place on this list is unquestionable. 3x NBA Champ, 2x NBA MVP, 2x scoring champ. The list of players who revolutionized the game is small. Steph Curry ranks at or near the top of that list. He's the greatest shooter in NBA history and he still has a lot left in the tank.
2. Isiah Thomas - Some may think that this is too high, however Thomas's greatness can't be measured in just stats. His Detroit Pistons knocked off Larry Bird's Celtics, Magic Johnson's Lakers, and Michael Jordan's Bulls enroute to back to back championships. That alone vaults him to lofty status on this list. He was a 12x All Star who averaged 19.2 PPG and 9.3 APG for his career - which ended at the young age of only 32 years old. He was one of the greatest ball handlers of all time and personified the grit and toughness of those Detroit Pistons teams. Those who didn't see him play truly missed out.
1. Magic Johnson - Easiest selection on this list. Almost any other player on this list had holes that you could poke into their game but Magic's resume is nearly flawless. Averaged 19.5 PPG and 11.2 APG for his career. 12x All Star, 10x All NBA selection, and 4x NBA assist leader. Magic led the Lakers to 5 NBA Championships and was a 3x NBA Finals MVP. All of this before being forced to retire at the age of 31 years old. Make no mistake about it, Magic Johnson was the greatest point guard in NBA history.
Honorable Mention: Steve Nash, Allen Iverson (my notes on Curry apply to him)