The evolution of basketball in recent years has seen the point guard position go beyond how the likes of Bob Cousy defined it all those decades ago. No longer is it as shocking as it was in 1979 when Magic Johnson debuted to see a guy with power forward height like Ben Simmons excel at the one. In fact, it isn't uncommon to see the 6'8" LeBron James or the 6'10" Giannis Antetokounmpo occasionally line up at point guard.
The definition of a quality point guard may have changed through the years, but the definition of a bad or unproductive one, pretty much, hasn't. He could be a shooting guard in a point guard's body who can't even shoot 40 percent from the field or a pass-first, defensive-oriented type whose offensive game is so limited that it nullifies the good passing and defense he brings to the table. Or his consistency could be all over the place – up to this day, no position demands consistency more than point guard does.
Who are the starting point guards in recent NBA history who have underperformed more so than everyone else, based on the criteria we mentioned above? Let's take a look at them, and look back at the three most underwhelming starting PGs from 2009-10 to 2017-18.
27 Chris Duhon (2010)
The New York Knicks have proven effective when it comes to making the most out of average point guard prospects, and that was true in the '90s with Charlie Ward, and later in the '00s with Chris Duhon. After coming over from Chicago in 2008, the former Duke point guard had his best pro season with the Knicks, but one year later, he was back to his subpar ways.
Starting 59 out of 67 games for a Knicks team that went 29-53, Duhon averaged 7.4 points (low, even by his pass-first standards) and 5.6 assists, but the biggest kicker was his 37.3 percent shooting from the field. It wasn't surprising when he was relegated to a bench role after leaving New York in 2010.
26 Derek Fisher (2010)
Fisher was always one of those point guards whose contributions didn't exclusively draw from the stat sheet, but as he entered the twilight of his career, he was certainly not the man the Lakers needed at the point. That was certainly the case in 2010, when he averaged 7.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists, and shot just 38 percent from the field.
Despite Fisher's abysmal stat line, the Lakers won themselves an NBA championship in 2010, relying mainly on Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and a still-healthy (for the most part) Andrew Bynum. And in case you're wondering, he mainly escaped being the worst of the year because of his clutch play in the Finals.
25 Earl Watson (2010)
Watson was always that point guard who wouldn't contribute much in the stat sheet but would offer the intangibles that later made him a natural to transition into coaching. In short, he was not the type of point guard you wanted in your starting lineup if you were hoping to be competitive in the NBA.
For most of his 12-year NBA career, Watson was reliable as a second-string point guard, but when he played for the Indiana Pacers in 2009-10, he was averaging just 7.8 points and 5.1 assists as their starter at the one. His defense was strong as usual, but it was clear he was just a fill-in, what with T.J. Ford's injury problems rearing their head for most of the year.
24 Derek Fisher (2011)
He'd have made it to this list three years in a row, had we not decided to exclude him from consideration for the 2011-12 season, on account of his pure backup role post-Lakers for the Oklahoma City Thunder. But Derek Fisher is our first repeat offender in this list, simply because he was even worse as he turned 36 and continued starting in 2010-11.
Again starting all 82 games for the Lakers, Fisher averaged 6.8 points and 2.7 assists and again shot slightly below 40 percent, which any stat-head should know as basketball's answer to the Mendoza line in baseball. He was still capable of occasional heroics but was definitely not worth the trouble at this point in his career.
23 Mike Bibby (2011)
As the second overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft, one can almost say Bibby’s career was a disappointment, considering how he never played in an All-Star Game. But if you look beyond that, he was a key player during that stretch in the ‘oughts when the Sacramento Kings were a legit playoff contender and embroiled in a bitter feud with the Lakers.
Unfortunately, Bibby was far removed from those days when he split the 2010-11 season with three teams, averaging a then-career-low 8.6 points and 3.3 assists despite starting a combined 68 of 80 games. He may have been overlooked as one of the league’s best with the Kings, but at this point, he was simply over the hill.
22 Carlos Arroyo (2011)
Yep, we’re going with two Miami Heat point guards for 2010-11 — they may have had the LeBron James/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh Big Three in place at that time, but the Heat’s point guard rotation that year was absolutely wretched. As bad as a young Mario Chalmers was, regular starter Carlos Arroyo was even worse, averaging 5.6 points and 2.0 assists as he started 42 of the 49 games he played in.
To no one's surprise, Arroyo moved back to his usual reserve role when he finished the season with the Boston Celtics, while the aforementioned Mike Bibby joined the Heat (again, his third team of 2010-11) to chase some rings with the newly established Big Three.
21 Ricky Rubio (2012)
In 2011-12, Rubio was making his long-awaited NBA debut, two years after the Minnesota Timberwolves made him a lottery pick. He was expected to have the usual rookie struggles. However, that still doesn't exempt him from a place in this list, as he quarterbacked a team that finished 26-40 and had all sorts of problems with his shot selection.
For the year, Rubio started 31 of 41 games and averaged a solid 10.6 points, 8.2 assists, and 2.2 steals. But it's hard to overlook that awful, awful 35.7 percent field goal shooting. It wouldn't be another five seasons before he got that clip above the 40 percent mark.
20 Mario Chalmers (2012)
No list of least productive starting NBA point guards for this decade is complete without the Superintendent. And it isn't just the pedestrian stats we're looking at here. Surely, you wouldn't have much confidence in a starting point guard averaging just 9.8 points and 3.5 assists per game, but we're mainly listing Chalmers because of the many head-scratching plays he was involved in, Game 4 heroics in the 2012 Finals notwithstanding. The guy wasn't yelled at so often for no good reason.
He may have won a championship ring with the Heat in 2011-12, but Chalmers was a point guard in official position only – such is life when you're playing in the same starting lineup as LeBron James.
19 Jason Kidd (2012)
Kidd was fresh off his first and only NBA Championship, and while he failed to average double digits that year and showed why many NBA fans called him "Ason," he was still as sharp as ever as a veteran (and we do mean veteran) point guard. That changed in 2011-12, as he, once again, shot around 36 percent from the field, and matched his diminishing scoring numbers with significant fewer assists.
All in all, Kidd averaged career-lows of 6.2 points and 5.5 assists in 2011-12, and not even his defense could save him from being the weakest link in the Mavericks' starting lineup, as the defending champions stumbled to a 36-30 record and a first-round playoff exit in the lockout-shortened season.
18 Steve Nash (2013)
Yes, it's another Lakers point guard making this list, and he happens to be one of the greatest of all-time at the position. As of 2012-13, however, Steve Nash was not only saddled with injuries and in the final years of his Hall of Fame career. He was also failing to gel with the other key components of the Lakers' "super-team" as the Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard-led unit underachieved their way to a first-round playoff exit.
The numbers weren't that bad and the aforementioned problems weren't Nash's fault. But if you look at the bigger picture, he arguably made a good case for being one of 2012-13's worst point guards.
17 Kirk Hinrich (2013)
For the first few seasons of what turned out to be a 13-year NBA career, Hinrich looked like a great point guard in the making for the Bulls. But with Derrick Rose joining the team in the 2008-09 season, Captain Kirk relinquished his role as a top ballhandler and starting point guard and was soon gone from the team as he regained his starting job in brief stints with the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks.
For the 2012-13 season, Hinrich was back in Chi-Town and filling in for Rose, who missed the entire season due to an ACL injury. The Bulls may have finished 45-37 that year, but it was hard to deny how steep the dropoff was from D-Rose to Hinrich, who averaged 7.7 points and 5.2 assists and registered a pathetic 37.7 percent shooting clip.
16 Avery Bradley (2013)
Now you may be wondering why we're listing Bradley in here, given the fact he's played quite well in recent years, and more importantly, lined up mainly as a shooting guard. He was, however, a point guard in his first few seasons, and one who started for the Celtics in 2012-13, getting promoted to that starting job midway through the season when Rajon Rondo went down with an injury.
Despite looking the part of a point guard, the young Bradley didn't play the part of one, averaging 9.2 points and an unusually low 2.1 assists per game, with 40.2 percent shooting from the field that definitely didn't help his cause. Sure, he was sharp on the defensive end, but even in today's modern game, point guards are expected to do a lot more facilitating than he did.
15 Mario Chalmers (2014)
It's a pity that the Heat couldn't find someone better at the point than Chalmers – sure, John Paxson was in a similar situation when he played alongside Michael Jordan, but at least that guy played smart for the most part, and his clutch heroics didn't feel like a fluke. As for this guy?
As we mentioned in his 2012 entry, Chalmers often did more harm than good when on the court, which further accentuates how mediocre his numbers usually were – for 2013-14, that's 9.8 points and 4.9 assists a game. And he had the audacity to suggest that the LeBron/Wade/Bosh Heat were a Big Four with him around!
14 Kendall Marshall (2014)
As a Lakers fan, it's tough for me to include not just one, but four Lakers entries. This guy, Kendall Marshall, was starting for the team in 2013-14, and, like many of the other players in here, he mostly started because they had no other choice.
It's easy to be blinded by those 8.8 assists per game (on top of a rather meh 8.0 ppg), but a closer look at the numbers reveals that Marshall had difficulty hanging on to the ball (2.8 turnovers in 29 minutes per game), and even more difficulty shooting it, even from the charity stripe, where he sank just 53 percent of his free throws in 2013-14. Yes, he was almost a homeless man's Lonzo Ball years before anyone had heard of him.
13 Shaun Livingston (2014)
It's a miracle of sorts that Shaun Livingston is still gainfully employed in the NBA. Just when he seemed close to realizing his vast potential, he suffered a potentially career-ending knee injury that took him out for all of 2007-08 and forced him to miss most of the next two seasons. By the start of the 2010s, he was seeing regular action as a backup, and by 2013-14, he was starting for a Brooklyn Nets team that had just gotten burned by three old, overpaid guys – Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry.
Unfortunately, that was because the Nets couldn't find anyone better, as evidenced by Livingston's pedestrian numbers that season – 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists.
12 Elfrid Payton (2015)
We'll have to admit that there are a lot of point guards who made this list by virtue of their rookie year struggles, and Elfrid Payton is not an exception. Though no one was expecting him to be an offensive juggernaut, his shooting was downright ugly to watch in his rookie year – the 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6.5 assists were good, and so was his defense, but not the 42.5 percent shooting, and especially not the 55.1 percent free throw clip.
Since then, Payton has become a poor man's stat-stuffer of sorts, but he just hasn't been able to find the consistency to help him live up to his high draft billing. No wonder he's preparing to play for his third team in the last two seasons.
11 Dante Exum (2015)
We're a bit stumped as to why the Jazz re-signed Exum despite how he's been almost nothing but disappointing for them in the four years since they wasted a high lottery pick on him. He was indeed an intriguing prospect, with height, length, and defensive potential, and while the Jazz saw it fit to start him in half their games in 2014-15, it was 42 games too many for the Aussie point guard.
Read 'em and weep – 4.8 points and 2.4 assists in 22.2 minutes per game, and a shooting clip of 34.9 percent. The kid wasn't ready then, and we doubt that he's ready now, except in the event of Ricky Rubio getting sidelined with an injury.
10 Trey Burke (2015)
This list is full of Lakers point guards, as we previously established, but the Jazz have the dubious distinction of having three point guards in this list, including two from the same season. That's right – we're counting Trey Burke, who qualifies by virtue of his 43 starts in 2014-15, and made this list for failing to live up to his promise from his rookie year.
His 12.8 points per game was good enough for his playing time, but he backed that up with 4.3 assists per game and 36.8 percent from the field. His defense wasn't any good either, and until his seeming return to relevance as a Knicks backup last season, Burke was headed on a one-way trip to draft bust territory.
9 Raul Neto (2016)
One year prior, the Utah Jazz had one of the league's worst starting point guards, as Dante Exum was given too much, too soon as a rookie starter. One year later, he was sidelined with an injury, and the Jazz had to make do with Neto, a second-round pick in 2013 who had just come over from the Spanish leagues.
With averages of just 5.9 points and 2.1 assists per game, Neto was not the draft steal that his Brazilian countryman, Leandro Barbosa, was about a decade prior. He was so underwhelming that the Jazz started journeyman Shelvin Mack when he came over from the Hawks, though he still remains with the team, having backed up George Hill, then Ricky Rubio in the last two seasons.
8 Emmanuel Mudiay (2016)
After the NBA changed its draft eligibility rules, Brandon Jennings proved that it's possible to spend that one year after high school playing overseas and come back to America with a high draft selection and success in the NBA. Another point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, seemed to be on a similar path to success as a rookie in 2015-16.
Thing is, he wasn't exactly the most refined playmaker out there. Mistakes will be made whenever you're a rookie point guard immediately thrust into a starting role, and Mudiay made a lot of them. His 12.8 ppg/5.5 apg averages were solid, but he also laid tons of bricks with his 36.4 percent shooting and coughed up the ball a whopping 3.2 times (in 30 minutes) a game.
7 Jose Calderon (2016)
For a decade, Jose Calderon had been the epitome of solid but unspectacular as a starting point guard, a pass-first guy who could always be counted on to take good shots and be almost automatic from the free throw line. In other words, he was never a star, but if Calderon was your starting point guard, you could have done a lot worse.
Unfortunately, that changed when he was traded to the New York Knicks, as his once-reliable shot started to falter and his already-poor defense got even worse. And few teams, if any at all, did worse than the Knicks, as Calderon averaged just 7.6 points and 4.1 assists, while starting all 72 games he played in for a team that went 17-65.
6 Emmanuel Mudiay (2017)
Mudiay is our third repeat offender in this list and by far the youngest, and probably someone who has a chance of redeeming himself. All things considered, his rookie year was promising, if hard to watch, but his second pro season happened and this one-time high school phenom from Texas (by way of Congo) became a victim of the dreaded sophomore jinx.
Despite the usual flashes of brilliance, Mudiay regressed badly in 2016-17, averaging 11 points and 3.9 assists, shooting just 37.7 percent, and losing his starting job to a past-his-prime Jameer Nelson. As such, few tears were shed when the Nuggets traded him to New York midway through the 2017-18 season.
5 Rajon Rondo (2017)
The Rajon Rondo who was an All-Star Game and All-Defense mainstay for the Boston Celtics was long gone when he played his one forgettable season for the Bulls in the 2016-17 season. While he was still a sharp passer and defender and one of the best rebounders for his position, he was also a regular in Fred Hoiberg's doghouse, as he chafed at playing for a coach who didn't have much of a need for a traditional, pass-first point guard.
Indeed, one can do worse than 7.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 6.7 assists a game, and poor free throw shooting has almost always been a given for Rondo. But the man wasn't happy in Chicago, and it certainly showed in his lackadaisical play.
4 Matthew Dellavedova (2017)
To the surprise of many, Matthew Dellavedova emerged as a key reserve for the Cavaliers as he got under the skin of opponents as one of the NBA's dirtiest backcourt men in recent history. Right after the Cavs' 2016 championship, he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, where he proceeded to prove how underwhelming he was when given the reins as a starter.
When you take away the, how shall we say it, chippy play and heel tactics, you get a pretty subpar starting point guard, which Delly was in 2016-17 when he averaged 7.6 points and 5.4 assists and shot just 39 percent from the field. He was replaced as a starter and effectively rendered irrelevant when Malcolm Brogdon broke out after the 2017 All-Star break.
3 Andrew Harrison (2018)
The 2017-18 season was a lost one for the Memphis Grizzlies, who lost Mike Conley for all but 12 games and stumbled to a 22-60 record. Suddenly, Marc Gasol was surrounded by mediocre players (save for a suddenly productive Tyreke Evans), and one of those mediocre sorts was Andrew Harrison.
It wasn't that Harrison was that bad – for a former second-rounder, he provided good value, averaging 9.5 points and 3.2 assists. Then again, he was evidently one of the least impressive starting point guards last season, an obvious stopgap who was holding the fort until Conley returns. If its any consolation for the former Kentucky star and McDonald's All-American, he did improve his shooting from 32.5 percent as a rookie to 42.2 percent.
2 Tyler Ulis (2018)
From one Kentucky point guard to another. Tyler Ulis was a rarity in the John Calipari regime – someone who got drafted despite NOT being a one-and-done player. While he had less upside than the average rookie point guard, he got significant playing time for Phoenix in 2016-17, then started regularly in the very next season, until Elfrid Payton arrived from Orlando and took over as the starter.
Perhaps the Suns should have tried to re-sign Payton this summer because it's hard to be excited about a guy who shot less than 39 percent from the field and averaged 7.8 points and 4.4 assists per game. Still, someone had to start alongside Devin Booker as the Suns lost game after game en route to the 2018 first overall pick and Deandre Ayton.
1 Jarrett Jack (2018)
The idea here was for Jack to keep the starting point guard job warm for Frank Ntilikina until he was ready. Unfortunately for the Knicks, Ntilikina wasn't quite ready in his rookie year, and that meant they had to make do with Jack, who was 34-years-old and playing his first full season since 2014-15.
While Jack in his prime was a serviceable point guard who had some decent years despite his literal journeyman status, Jack in 2017-18 was subpar in almost every area, averaging just 7.5 points and 5.6 assists. However, it wasn't like Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, or even the resurgent Trey Burke were much better for the Knicks, who have yet to address their point guard weakness this offseason.
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