In this day and age, NBA teams seem able to function pretty well without a true center. After all, most big men playing in the forward position can do just about anything a center can.
From scoring in the post, to rebounding, to blocking shots and protecting the paint, other players can do whatever it takes to fill in. On that same basis, teams can get by pretty well without forwards and shooting guards too. But it’s hard to imagine any kind of good fortune with no point guard in the fray.
The point guard’s role is most crucial to a team’s success. They are supposed to be the floor generals who dictate the pace of a game, move the basketball, set teammates up with chances to score, as well as lead the team. A point guard can either make or break a side, and his position is not one that coaches throw around lightly.
Over the years, we have seen some brilliant point guards take to the hardwood, but in the same breath, we’ve also seen some really poor ones.
In this list, we take a look at some of the best NBA point guards in recent times, as well as some of the worst – as hard as they are to remember. Here are eight of the best and seven of the worst since the year 2000.
15. Best – Rajon Rondo
The Chicago Bulls point guard has been playing in a reduced role as of late, but during his time with the Boston Celtics, the Kentucky native was one of the best floor generals around.
Rondo was drafted by the Phoenix Suns as the 21st overall pick, but was traded to the Celtics thereafter, and would spend the next eight years of his career wearing their familiar green and white, or white and green.
He was a key player for the side during their ‘Big 3’ era, and his influence helped the franchise win their 17th NBA championship in 2008.
He may be in decline at the moment, but in his prime, Rondo was probably the most effective point guard in the league. He was a great defender who could pass with precision, while easily getting to the rim. As mentioned up top, he’s not the Rondo who amazed us in the past. But he still deserves a shout.
14. Worst – Tyronn Lue
Now head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tyronn Lue guided his side to the franchise’s first NBA title last year. As a player, Lue won two rings with the Los Angeles Lakers, but his most memorable moment probably came when Allen Iverson stepped over him after hitting a huge three in the 2001 finals.
Lue averaged a career total of 8.5 points and 3.1 assists over 14 seasons in the league, playing for the Lakers, as well as the Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks.
His best scoring numbers were posted while in Atlanta, with averages of 13.5, 11.0 and 11.4 in his first three seasons with the side. For someone considered to be not that good, Lue now boasts three NBA rings, three more than many legends of the game.
13. Best – Russell Westbrook
Now without partner in crime Kevin Durant – who departed for Golden State last year – Russell Westbrook is showing just what he is made of.
Well, he never shied away from that before, but with more responsibility on his shoulders, the guard has upped his game even more. And at the time of writing, he’s averaging 31.3 points a game, 10.1 assists, and an amazing 10.5 rebounds.
Westbrook is one of the most explosive players in the league, and if nothing else, one of the most aggressive attackers of the basket. The player’s athleticism is outstanding, and his ability to score from just about anywhere is something to behold.
This season, the 28-year-old has recorded 27 triple-doubles so far this season, moving into third place – behind Oscar Robertson (41) and Wilt Chamberlain (31) – on the all-time list of players who’ve made the most in a single season.
12. Worst – Rafer Alston
Former Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat guard Rafer Alston is quite the legend in the streets, having made his name with the AND1 streetball mixtapes. Yet things weren’t as bright for him in the NBA.
Alston, nicknamed ‘Skip to My Lou’ because of one of his many amazing dribble moves, could beat just about anyone marking him in the streetball arena. However, such showmanship is not as encouraged in the NBA, where titles and the like are on the line.
He did leave his mark in Miami after joining them from the Raptors in the 2003/04 season, playing as a starter alongside a then-rookie Dwyane Wade, but rather faded away as his career wound down.
Alston averaged 10.1 points and 4.8 assists over his 13-year NBA career. After returning to the Heat in 2010, he would leave the league to join the Zhejiang Lions, later moving to the NBDL to play for the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
11. Best – Chauncey Billups
Five-time NBA All-Star Chauncey Billups is definitely one of the best point guards the league has ever seen, and his induction into the Hall of Fame should be a foregone conclusion.
The ex-player is best known for his six-year stint with the Detroit Pistons, during which he won an NBA championship. The Pistons have since honored their former guard by retiring the No.1 jersey which he wore during his time there.
Billups came into the NBA as one of the best college ballers, joining the Boston Celtics in 1997. He was selected the third overall pick in the draft that year, but did not get things to click in Boston, and was traded to the Toronto Raptors after just 51 games.
His exploits would take him to Denver, Orlando and Minnesota, before he finally found a home in Detroit.
An astute shooter and skilled passer of the ball, Billups made everyone around him better, like a true point guard should. He was part of the team that stopped the Lakers from winning a fourth straight title, leading the Pistons to glory in the 2004 finals, as well as winning the Finals MVP award.
10. Worst – Raymond Felton
Raymond Felton is currently employed by the Los Angeles Clippers, and is averaging 7.8 points and 2.7 assists in 22.8 minutes a game this season. The 32-year old has been in the NBA since 2005, having been drafted as the fifth overall pick by the Charlotte Bobcats.
Given his number in the draft, much was expected from Felton, but that is nothing compared to his status as high school player. Before the start of his college career, the guard was rated as the No.1 point guard and No.3 player overall in the country.
Since then, Felton has managed to achieve nothing, save getting arrested on felony firearm charges in 2014. His attitude hasn’t done him many favors either, and it’s a surprise he’s still in the league when his penchant for feuding with coaches and showing up for work overweight are taken into consideration.
9. Best – Tony Parker
The Frenchman is good at so many things; even rapping. That’s right, San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker released a rap album called TP back in 2007, but you’d have to know French to really enjoy it.
Besides the vocal aesthetics, Parker is quite amazing at playing the point, and has four championship rings to prove it. He has been a driving force in the NBA ever since he joined the Spurs in 2001.
He has never played for another NBA team, and Spurs have been better off for it, especially after feeling like they took a gamble when they drafted him as 28th overall pick.
Greg Popovich was left rather unimpressed after inviting Parker to training camp, but something told him to give the player another shot. Four championships, six All-Star appearances and one Finals MVP later, the guard has found himself among the best point guards to ever play the game.
8. Worst – Jay Williams
Not every worst player on this list got there through his own fault, and Jay Williams is one of those who had little control over the circumstances that ruined his career.
Williams, whose first name is actually Jason, asked that he be referred to as Jay so he wouldn’t be confused with Jayson Williams and another Jason Williams who were in the NBA at the time. He was drafted as the second overall pick – behind Yao Ming – in the 2002 draft by the Chicago Bulls, and was thought to be the player who would put Chicago back on the map.
His ambitions, however, were destroyed by a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2003. While I did mention that his failures as a player were through no fault of his, riding a motorcycle isn’t the brightest of decisions, given the fact that such activities were in breach of his Bulls contract and he wasn’t even licensed to ride in Illinois.
7. Best – Jason Kidd
Another point guard who was denied a ring by the dominant Los Angeles Lakers, Jason Kidd was an absolute star. Although he did pull through later on in his career, winning his first and only ring with the Dallas Mavericks, who had first drafted him in 1994.
Kidd spent the first two years of his metier with the Mavs, then moved to Phoenix to join the Suns in 1996. He then left for New Jersey, and as much as his talent was unquestionable before, it really came to the fore when he became the leader of the Nets.
Teaming up with Kenyon Martin, Keith van Horn, Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins, Kidd transformed a Nets side who had been a bunch of pushovers into the most entertaining side in the NBA, as well as one of the most competitive, and would take them to the finals in his first season.
The Lakers made quick work of them however, sweeping the Eastern conference side to claim their third consecutive title. But as mentioned earlier, the guard – now head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks – returned to Dallas to win a ring, defeating a Miami Heat side boasting Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
6. Worst – Patrick Beverley
No one really likes being guarded by Rockets guard Patrick Beverley. Not because he’s annoyingly good at defending like Bruce Bowen was for the San Antonio Spurs some years back, but because he’s just so annoyingly Beverley.
This isn’t to say that he isn’t a good defender, because he can defend really well. Yet, he does goes over the top at times.
Beverley played his college ball at Arkansas, and became eligible for the NBA draft in 2008, despite leaving the team after he was caught cheating on his schoolwork. However, he curtly refused to declare for the draft and headed to Ukraine to play for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.
The 28-year-old was drafted by the Lakers the following year, only for his rights to be sold to the Heat, who later waived him. He has certainly taken his chance in Houston, though, but from an offensive standpoint, he isn’t all that great.
5. Best – Chris Paul
Los Angeles Clippers point Guard Chris Paul surely can’t be far from thought when the topic of NBA’s best-ever guards is brought up.
The 31-year-old, now a nine-time All-Star, can do it all with a basketball, and defenses just cannot afford to be relaxed when he’s on the court. Paul can beat markers one-on-one, move the ball around expertly, and create scoring opportunities for everyone around him. He also has a very impressive mid-range jumper.
Paul boasts career averages of 18.8 points per game and 9.9 assists per game in regular season play. In the playoffs, he’s averaged 21 points per game and 9.4 assists a game. Sadly, the North Carolina native hasn’t won an NBA title, but he has led the league in assists and steals in four different seasons.
4. Worst – Michael Carter-Williams
Michael Carter-Williams turned out to be a great draft pick for the 76ers, having joined the team as the 11th selection in 2013. Averaging 16.7 points per game and 6.3 assists per game, he would finish his first season as the Rookie of the Year, the first player drafted higher than 10th to receive the accolade since Mark Jackson in 1987.
The guard did not finish a second season in Philadelphia, as the team traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks in February of 2015, and he is now with the Chicago Bulls.
Since leaving Philly, Carter-Williams’ scoring numbers have been dropping steadily, and he’s currently averaging 8.3 points and 2.7 assists per game in Chicago. He may yet blossom into an influential guard later in his career, but for now, he has to be one of the worst throughout the aforementioned period.
3. Best – Steve Nash
Steve Nash will go down as one of the best point guards to ever grace the NBA, but sadly, there’s no ring to show for it.
The Canadian, now retired, was selected as an All-Star eight times in his career, winning the MVP award on two occasions as well. His contributions as a Dallas Mavericks player and Phoenix Suns star are the most notable, but the guard enjoyed – if you can call it that – a three-year stint with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Possessing expert vision and remarkable shooting ability, Nash was a threat anywhere on the court and was able to hurt opposing teams in so many different ways.
He decided to call it quits in 2015, citing injury problems as his main reason. And despite receiving several offers from other clubs, he stuck to his choice due to his gratitude for the Lakers giving him an opportunity to thrive in L.A.
2. Worst – Smush Parker
Smush Parker started his career at shooting guard, but was tasked with running the point when he joined Phil Jackson’s Lakers in 2005. Jackson chose Parker as his starting point guard after the player impressed him with his scoring ability early season. However, Kobe Bryant was left greatly underwhelmed by his teammate, and referred to him as ‘the worst’ during an interview.
“Smush Parker was the worst,” Bryant declared. “He shouldn’t have been in the NBA, but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. We let him walk on.”
If Kobe says he’s the worst, then we should take it as that. But there’s more to suggest that he really was. Parker was constantly at loggerheads with coaches, teammates, and even admitted that he deliberately didn’t pass to Bryant during his second season, which turned out to be his last in L.A.
1. Best – Stephen Curry
It really does feel like a waste of time explaining why Steph Curry is one of the best point guards since the year 2000, and if I were reading this from someone else, I’d probably just skip past this one as it’s glaringly obvious.
But just in case you’re taking your time to read, let’s just start with the Warriors man being the best shooter in the history of the NBA. Curry can light it up from anywhere on the court like it’s nothing, and if extra points were dished out for shooting from the bleachers, he’d probably score a number of those too.
Just shooting, however, doesn’t make a guard. One has to be able to pass the ball as well, and he does that expertly, mixing it up with some of the most insane handles we have ever seen.
The two-time MVP participated in his fifth All-Star game on the weekend, and as long as he keeps this up, he’s due for many more, although DJ Khaled upstaged him on Saturday night.
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