Since the turn of the century, the NBA has become a point guard’s league. Thanks to numerous rule changes such as the removal of hand-checking, the players who possess the ball the most have a greater advantage than ever before. These players are usually point guards which is why we’ve seen this position put up numbers that have never been seen in the history of the league. We are undoubtedly in the Age of the Point Guard.
We’ve seen many of the game’s greatest point guards over the last 17 years and many of those players have gone on to win MVP awards. The point guard position has produced six MVPs since the 1999-2000 season which is more than any other position. Steve Nash, Derrick Rose, Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook have all collected the hardware while Chris Paul, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton are among the best not to win an MVP. For comparison’s sake, there was a 40-year stretch starting in 1964-65 in which Magic Johnson was the only MVP point guard.
But, just as there have been so many future Hall of Famers running the point since 2000, there have also been many players who make you say, “Wait, that guy is starting!?” The rules are set up to benefit point guards but there are still many that simply lack the ability to take advantage of the rules. We will revisit the worst of the worst from the Age of the Point Guard as we look at the worst starting point guards every year since 2000.
19 1999-00: Randy Brown
Remember Randy Brown from the second Bulls three-peat? He was the backup point guard for those championship teams and was Mr. 94 feet long before Patrick Beverley. Well, after the Bulls split up, Brown was forced into a starting role and was completely overmatched. It didn’t help that the Bulls were devoid of talent outside of 20-year-old rookies Elton Brand and Ron Artest. Starting 55 games, Brown couldn’t even crack 7 points per game and shot just 36.1 percent from the field which was fourth-worst in the league. To show you just how terrible those Bulls were, three of the NBA’s four-worst shooting percentages came from Bulls players.
Brown would play three more seasons in the league in his rightful role as a backup and is currently an assistant coach for the Bulls (assuming Fred Hoiberg and his staff haven’t been fired by the time you’re reading this).
18 2000-01: Chucky Atkins
Atkins was a throw-in in the trade that sent Grant Hill to Orlando and sent Ben Wallace to Detroit. Entering the 2000-01 season, Atkins was just in his second season but was already 26 after having played in the CBA and in Croatia. Perhaps, Atkins could have used more seasoning in the minor leagues as he laid an egg as an NBA starter. The Pistons had other options with former All-Star Dana Barros and rookie Mateen Cleaves, but Atkins got the call and dropped the ball. The Pistons finished with a bottom-five offense and much of that blame falls on the player who had the ball in his hands most of the time. Atkins would soon be replaced by Chauncey Billups and I’d say that move worked out for Detroit. Atkins would go on to play another nine seasons in the NBA and was the definition of a journeyman as he played for eight different teams.
17 2001-02: Jeff McInnis
McInnis is best known for getting punched by Charles Oakley before a game in 2000. Oakley and McInnis were reportedly involved with the same woman at the same time which prompted their one-sided fight. McInnis was still with the Clippers a year later, and at 27 years old, was the sage veteran on a team with six players aged 22 or younger. He was a shoot-first point guard who couldn’t shoot and didn’t realize that the Clippers played their best when he got others involved.
The Clippers went 16-4 when McInnis had at least 9 assists but just 22-39 when he had fewer than 9 assists. This would be McInnis’ last season in Los Angeles but he would soon regain a starting job in another place which means there is a very good chance we haven’t seen the last of him on this list.
16 2002-03: Junior Harrington
Harrington was one of four rookies in the 2002-03 season to play in all 82 games. While the other three were all top-10 picks and combined for 14 All-Star games, Harrington was undrafted out of Division II’s Wingate University. He didn’t start the whole season but his 51 starts ranked third on the team and most among all guards. He played enough to turn in the worst offensive performance since the three-point line was introduced thanks to a paltry 36% shooting from the floor. On a positive for Denver, their NBA-worst 17 wins enabled them to draft Carmelo Anthony the next year. Harrington was so bad that he was waived by the NBA’s worst team and had to go to the CBA the next season. He returned to the NBA two years later where he was rightfully planted on the bench as a third-string point guard.
15 2003-04: Tyronn Lue
It had to be this season where Lue realized that coaching was in his future because he had a God-awful season as a player. Unlike most players on this list, Lue’s deficiencies weren’t on the offensive end but rather on the defensive end. He must have had nightmares of Allen Iverson crossing him over all season as he was the worst defensive player on the league’s worst defensive team. Lue’s performance would play a big part in Doc Rivers getting fired 11 games into the season, Tracy McGrady requesting a trade after the season (in which Lue was a part of), and Dwight Howard landing in Orlando.
So there was a bright spot! Lue would play five more seasons as a reserve and actually returned to Orlando for his final season in 2008-09. He then went into the coaching ranks and the rest is history.
14 2004-05: Jeff McInnis
Hey Jeff! Long time no see!! How fitting is that soon after Charles Oakley slapped McInnis, the point guard landed on his feet with Oakley’s hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite being on a new team and paired with a 20-year-old phenom named LeBron James, McInnis turned in an even worst season than he had with the Clippers.
McInnis never improved his jump shot and was simply atrocious defensively. 350 lb Robert “Tractor” Traylor played 1,300 fewer minutes than McInnis did, yet had the same number of steals. After missing the playoffs for the last time in LeBron’s career, the Cavs replaced McInnis with Eric Snow the following season. McInnis would, somehow, get one more shot as a starter with the Charlotte in 2007-08 and he can thank his UNC connection with Michael Jordan for that final opportunity.
13 2005-06: Royal Ivey
The former UT Longhorn was a nominal starter at point guard as Joe Johnson ran the offense in Atlanta. But Ivey started 66 games and defended the other team’s point guard, so he was essentially the starting PG. The fact that Ivey averaged just 13 minutes per game as a “starter” tells you about his effectiveness on the court. He averaged…AVERAGED 3.6 points per game which is historic but not in a good way. That is the lowest scoring average by any guard who started 50+ games in a season in NBA history…and yes that includes the era in which there was no shot clock. After starting 66 games for the Hawks in the 2005-06 season, Ivey would start just 43 combined games over the next eight years of his career. He is now an assistant coach with the OKC Thunder and Russell Westbrook, clearly, hasn’t taken up his coach’s scoring habits.
12 2006-07: Damon Stoudamire
Stoudamire may be the most accomplished player on this list as he was the Rookie of the Year in 1995-96. But nearly a dozen years later, the 5’10” point guard had lost much of his athleticism and the NBA is no place for slow, short and old point guards. Stoudamire was the starting point guard for a Grizzlies team that had interesting pieces on it such as Pau Gasol, Mike Miller and rookies Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay. But the team could only muster 22 wins despite making the playoffs in each of the three previous seasons.
Stoudamire was always known as an attacking point guard with a shaky jumpshot; but by the age of 33 he was no longer attacking and still couldn’t shoot. He failed to reach 40 percent from the field for the third straight season while Lowry was glued to the bench for some reason. Instead of giving their rookie point guard a shot, the team shuffled between not one, not two, but three point guards who made this list: Stoudamire, Chucky Atkins and Junior Harrington.
11 2007-08: Sebastian Telfair
Proving that bad point guards come in all shapes, sizes and experience levels; Bassy is the only player on this list who jumped to the NBA straight from high school. Telfair was 22 and in his fourth season at this point, but he would have been better off being in his senior season in college. Telfair had disappointed in Portland and Boston, and was part of the Kevin Garnett trade that shipped him to Minnesota. Just like in his previous stops, Telfair was unable to showcase what made him one of the most-hyped prep players ever. He had just two double-doubles all season despite averaging 32 minutes per game and he was also abused on the defensive end. Telfair’s stay in Minnesota would be even worse than his cousin, Stephon Marbury’s, and Bassy’s Minny tenure was capped off with him pleading guilty to criminal possession of a weapon.
10 2008-09: Beno Udrih
Udrih was a two-time champion by the time he arrived in Sacramento thanks to being the third-string point guard on a pair of Spurs title teams. Yet, he struggled outside of the Popovich system as the Kings posted 17 wins which was the fewest in the league. Udrih has always been competent offensively, but couldn’t dispel the stereotype of European players being soft or sieves on the defensive end. The Kings had the league’s worst defense and the backcourt of Udrih and Kevin Martin was a big reason why. Showing you the state of the Kings at this time (and still today), the franchise signed Udrih to a $32 million contract which he predictably finished on another team. Udrih stuck around in the league until the 2016-17 season but started just 38 more games after leaving Sacramento.
9 2009-10: Jonny Flynn
Between Ricky Rubio and Ty Lawson, Flynn was the second of three point guards that the Timberwolves drafted in 2009. His career started off well enough as he scored 18 points in his first game as the T-Wolves overcame a 19-point deficit to start the season 1-0. They would then proceed to lost their next 15 games on route to a Western Conference-worst 15-67 record. Just like Telfair in Minnesota two years prior, Flynn was unable to translate his amateur skills to the pros. He recorded zero double-doubles as he never reached 10 assist despite starting 81 games, and the zone defense he played in at Syracuse didn’t help him much in a man-to-man league. After starting 81 games as a rookie, Flynn would start just 8 more in his entire NBA career. His NBA career was over at the age of 23 and he’s spent the past five years playing overseas.
8 2010-11: Carlos Arroyo
Arroyo will always be the answer to the trivia question: Who was the first starting point guard alongside the Big 3 in Miami? Arroyo started 42 games for the Heat before being waived so the team could sign Mike Bibby. Despite all of the talent around him, Arroyo could only muster an average of two assists per game but was even worse on the other end of the court. In nearly 1000 minutes with Miami, Arroyo had all of 14 steals and 1 blocked shot. Even if Miami didn’t add Bibby, it was addition by subtraction when they waived Arroyo. Arroyo would then sign with the Celtics for the remainder of the 2010-11 season but played in just 15 more games while not getting off the bench for the postseason. He then returned to foreign leagues which is where his career began and now co-owns a pro team in his native Puerto Rico.
7 2011-12: D.J. Augustin
In the 2011-12 season, the Charlotte Bobcats made history with the worst winning percentage in NBA history. They finished 7-59 with the league’s worst offense AND the league’s worst defense. Augustin split time with rookie Kemba Walker, but the veteran held a 46 to 25 edge in games started over the rookie. Augustin held his own, offensively, but was, statistically, the league’s worst defensive player by a wide margin. He might only be six feet tall, but that never stopped Chris Paul from becoming an elite defender.
Augustin was whatever the polar opposite of elite is and, unsurprisingly, he was out of Charlotte the next offseason. After spending the first four seasons of his career with Charlotte, Augustin, who was a top-10 pick, would play for seven different teams over the next five seasons. He is currently a backup with the Orlando Magic.
6 2012-13: Avery Bradley
Today AB is one of the best defensive shooting guards in the game, but in his third NBA season he was thrust into a role he was unfamiliar with. The Boston Celtics All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, suffered a torn ACL midseason and Bradley then became the team’s starting point guard. Bradley hadn’t run the point in high school, college, nor his first two seasons in the NBA but now he was the floor leader of a team with championship aspirations. Almost needless to say, the Celtics’ offense cratered down the stretch and the team barely made the playoffs as a No. 7 seed. Bradley was solid defensively, but he was overmatched as a point guard and averaged just 2.1 assists per game. Rondo retired a year later and Bradley has resumed his normal shooting guard position ever since.
5 2013-14: Trey Burke
Burke is the only National College Player of the Year on this list after a stellar career at Michigan. But Burke broke a finger on his shooting hand before his first NBA game with the Utah Jazz and that clearly affected his shooting percentages. He had a higher 3P percentage in his last year at Michigan than he had an overall FG percentage in his first year in the NBA. Additionally, playing in the Jazz system didn’t help Burke as he was limited to being a jump shooter instead of attacking the rim. He attempted more free throws in his last year at Michigan than he did as a rookie despite playing nearly 1000 more minutes in the NBA! Over the next three years, Burke would go from a starting point guard to a backup point guard to a backup shooting guard to a Washington Wizard. Now, at 25 years old, he’s out of the NBA.
4 2014-15: Zach LaVine
LaVine was in a similar position that Avery Bradley was two years prior with the Celtics. He was a natural two-guard who was pigeon-holed into the point guard position once the team’s starter, Ricky Rubio, suffered an injury. Thus, the Timberwolves forced a 19-year-old, with no prior experience at the position, to run the show on a team severely devoid of talent. The Wolves finished with a 3-31 record with LaVine running the point, and while he electrified the crowd with his dunks, he infuriated teammates with a lack of passing.
A bright spot is that the Wolves struggling led them to having the league’s worst record which then led to them having the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft. That brought Karl-Anthony Towns to Minnesota but also made LaVine a third wheel behind KAT and Andrew Wiggins. After two more seasons as a shooting guard with the Wolves, LaVine was shipped to Chicago in the summer of 2017.
3 2015-16: Emmanuel Mudiay
The Nuggets apparently didn’t learn much from the Wolves’ experiment with a 19-year-old as the starting point guard the year prior. Mudiay had played just 10 games the year before in China after electing to bypass college basketball and play professionally. The lack of experience was apparent, even for a rookie, as he struggled on both ends of the court. He knocked down just 36% of his FGAs and couldn’t even reach a 2:1 turnover to assist ratio. Many expected Mudiay to struggle on the offensive end but expected his length and athleticism to help him defensively.
That wasn’t the case as opponents frequently targeted him due to his lack of strength and awareness. To put a spin on a Snoop Dogg quote: “Mudiay was put in the Lion’s Den with nothing more than some pork chop draws on.”
2 2016-17: Matthew Dellavedova
Delly found out that the gravitational pull of LeBron James is infinitely greater than that of Giannis Antetokounmpo when he joined the Bucks last season. That’s not a knock on Giannis, it’s just that his lack of a jump shot means less floor-spacing for a player like Delly which leads to fewer open looks. Delly went from 11th in 3P% in his last season with the Cavs to 67th in his first season with the Bucks. It’s certainly not like he is on the floor for his playmaking ability or his defense so if Delly’s not hitting shots, he’s not an asset. It’s not surprise that Dellavedova had the lowest plus/minus rating of any starting point guard last season and was among the ten-worst in the entire NBA.
1 2017-18: Whoever Start For The Knicks
It’s still early…very early…but, yep!
The Knicks will split their point guard duties among four players: rookie Frank Ntilikina, undrafted second-year player Ron Baker, and castoffs Jarrett Jack and Ramon Sessions. You could probably take the best attributes from each of those players, combine them all into a single player, and that player would still be the worst starting point guard in the NBA. The only one of those with any hope is Ntilikina who has a similar background as Tony Parker as a Belgium-born, but French-raised point guard. But Parker went to the best organization in basketball while Ntilikina went to the worst.
The Knicks could have had Dennis Smith Jr. but passed on him for an unknown foreign player. The Knicks seem to be content with wasting Kristaps Porzingis’ most-formative years and are already competing for the first overall pick of the 2018 draft.
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