Best point guard in NBA history? That’s easy. Magic Johnson. Three MVP awards. Five championship with the Lakers. He was MVP of the Finals three times!
But after Magic?
If you want to stay in the modern era, then John Stockton (led the NBA in assists for nine straight years), Isiah Thomas (two NBA titles with Detroit, one NBA Finals MVP award) and Steve Nash (two NBA MVP awards) all have a strong case.
If you want to go back 50+ years, Oscar Robertson was the best point guard in the NBA and averaged a triple double for a season.
But one player has swept past all of them into 2nd place with a whirlwind five seasons full of accomplishments. The advanced stats love him. He was the face of the NBA for two years. Was the first unanimous MVP in NBA history. Has led the league in 3-point shooting for five straight years.
That player is Stephen Curry.
Here’s a couple advanced stats to dive into, if that’s your thing. As the NBA has drifted from the lumbering big men of the 80s and 90s to the pace-and-space guard play now, Curry and Chris Paul have had considerably better seasons than, say, Thomas and Stockton. With the exception of this season in Golden State, Curry and CP3 have been the best player on their team the last few years.
BEST PER SEASON EVER FOR A POINT GUARD
Stephen Curry 31.56 (2015-2016)
Russell Westbrook 30.70 (2016-2017)
Chris Paul 30.04 (2008-2009)
Russell Westbrook 29.12 (2014-2015)
Chris Paul 28.39 (2007-2008)
Stephen Curry 28.06 (2014-2015)
Win Shares is another category where Curry and Paul excel. Remember, Magic Johnson played on loaded teams where Byron Scott, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were scoring 15-20 ppg a night. Stockton was never the best player on his own team. In Robertson’s best season below, there were only 10 teams in the league.
HIGHEST WIN SHARES SEASONS EVER FOR A POINT GUARD:
Chris Paul 18.29 (2008-2009)
Stephen Curry 17.87 (2015-2016)
Chris Paul 17.79 (2007-2008)
Oscar Robertson 17.42 (1966-1967)
Oscar Robertson 16.95 (1964-1965)
Magic Johnson 16.55 (1989-1990)
James Harden 16.44 (2015-2015)
Besides the advanced metrics, there’s individual honors like:
POINT GUARD WHO HAVE BEEN AN NBA MVP
Magic Johnson 3
Stephen Curry 2
Steve Nash 2
Oscar Robertson 1
Bob Cousy 1
Derrick Rose 1
Odd fact I did not know before researching this: Stockton had one 1st place MVP vote in his career. So did Thomas.
ELITE POINT GUARDS WITH NBA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Magic Johnson 5 (9 Finals appearances)
Isiah Thomas 2 (3 Finals appearances)
Stephen Curry 1 (2 Finals appearances)
Oscar Robertson 1 (2 Finals appearances)
Gary Payton 1 (2 Finals appearances)
Jason Kidd 1 (3 Finals appearances
John Stockton 0 (2 Finals appearances)
WAIT, WHY ISN’T HE A POINT GUARD?
Take Allen Iverson. According to basketball reference, he played point guard for the first two seasons of his career, then pivoted to shooting guard when Eric Snow was ready to run point. He’d drift back to point guard later in Philly, but was a shooting guard in Denver.
BUT YOU FORGOT …
Jerry West? The logo was one of the best combo guards in NBA history. He won one MVP award of the Finals – in a losing effort – and later won a Championship. Somehow was never the NBA MVP. At the start of his career, Bill Russell dominated; at the end, it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. West led the league in scoring once, and assists once, and was 1st team All-NBA 10 times.
James Harden was a shooting guard for the early portion of his career; he’s transitioning this year to point guard, and led the NBA in assists. It’s too early for him to make this list.
1. Magic Johnson
2. Stephen Curry
3. Isiah Thomas
4. Steve Nash
5. Oscar Robertson
6. John Stockton
7. Jason Kidd
There aren’t many places on the web that have attempted to rank the point guards in NBA history. Here’s one at ESPN in 2016 that went Magic, Oscar Robertson, John Stockton, Stephen Curry, Isiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd. Also in 2016, Fox put together a list, and it went Magic, Oscar Robertson, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Walt Frazier, Bob Cousy. The further you dive into the web, the more groupthink you see.