The point guard position has always consisted of all-time great players. The very best point guards have won individual achievements, team achievements, and have made a mark in NBA history. We have seen how a scoring point guard, like Stephen Curry, can be the best player for a championship team and how a great playmaker like Magic Johnson can be widely regarded as one of the very best players to ever do it.
With regard to the point guard position, only a handful are selected as the greatest ever. To determine which player belongs in which class of all-time great point guards, we have divided them into tiers.
Here are all the NBA’s greatest point guards, divided into tiers.
Penny Hardaway, Tim Hardaway, Dennis Johnson, Lenny Wilkens, Chauncey Billups, Sidney Moncrief, Dave Bing
The Tier 5 point guards are all Hall of Fame worthy but do not possess the natural ability and skillsets of the higher tier point guards. Still, these guys are All-Star quality with superstar intangibles and deserve to be mentioned as some of the greatest point guards ever.
Penny was a former All-Star who should be at a higher tier, but injury derailed his career. One of the most gifted point guards ever, Penny could score and be the primary playmaker for a championship team in his prime.
Meanwhile, Tim Hardaway was a point guard with out of this world ball-handling skills, and one of the true pioneers of the cross over. Hardaway is possibly one of the most “underrated” great point guards and a certain Hall of Famer.
Many remember the great Celtics teams for having the likes of Kevin McHale and Larry Bird, but Dennis Johnson is without a doubt an all-time great point guard. Johnson was a great defensive player and one of the best floor generals we have seen in history.
Lenny Wilkens is widely regarded as one of the best playmakers and defensive point guards in history. He managed to hit the peak of his career when he finished second to Wilt Chamberlain in the MVP voting in the 1967-68 season.
Chauncey Billups was known as Mr. Big Shot due to his ability to make pressure shots and lead his team during times of adversity in a basketball game. Billups is a natural leader and managed to win Finals MVP as a member of the Detroit Pistons.
Out of all the defensive guards in history, Sidney Moncrief might be at the very top. He won a whopping two Defensive Player of the Year Awards as a guard and completely showed dedication and commitment to dominate that end of the floor. Moncrief is a Bucks legend and one of the most respected players ever.
To finish out Tier 5 is Dave Bing, a player who had undergone tremendous adversity to reach incredible heights in the NBA and outside of basketball. Bing was a Rookie of The Year in 1966-1997 and averaged 20 PPG for his career. Most importantly, he made a name for himself outside of basketball as a mayor of Detroit.
Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Kevin Johnson, Derrick Rose
The Tier 4 point guards are a step above Tier 5 group mainly due to their extraordinary scoring ability and personal achievements. These guys are superstar talents with the ability to score 30 points a game, and also be prominent roles in running the offense for their teams.
Russell Westbrook is the greatest stat sheet stuffer at the point guard position since Oscar Robertson. His ability to get triple-doubles is extraordinary, and he has managed to average a triple-double over the past three seasons. His numbers, along with his MVP Award, easily places him in tier 4.
Kyrie Irving managed to win an NBA title with the Cavaliers, and he deserves almost as much credit for it as LeBron James. Kyrie was the closer for the team, and he is one of the most dominant offensive guards we have ever seen. His ball-handling skills rank among the best ever, and he is a box office player who fills out arenas.
Similarly, Damian Lillard is another box office player who can shoot the lights out from anywhere on the court. Lillard has yet to win an NBA title or even play in the Finals, so that does hold him back a bit. But in terms of pure scoring ability and impact on the floor, Lillard deserves a Tier 4 spot.
Former MVP Derrick Rose was simply sensational before injuries derailed his career. He could carry a team complete on his back, and possibly would have won an NBA title if he stayed healthy. His career will go down as one of the biggest “What-If’s” ever, but he deserves a Tier 4 spot.
Finally, Kevin Johnson is most remembered for his time with the Phoenix Suns where he played nearly the entirety of his career. Johnson was a scorer and a playmaker who managed to reach the NBA Finals alongside Charles Barkley but came up just short to Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Walt Frazier, Bob Cousy, Jason Kidd, Nate Archibald, Gary Payton, Tony Parker
Tier 3 point guards superstar players who are among the very best to ever do it. These are point guards who can run the offense perfectly, impact the floor at an extremely high level, and have phenomenal individual achievements.
Point guard legend Chris Paul is probably one of the best leaders in NBA history. His hustle, killer instinct, and supreme basketball I.Q. make him a perfect point guard. The biggest knock on his career is only the fact that he never played in an NBA Finals, or else he would be a Tier 2 point guard without a doubt.
Steve Nash is a Hall of Famer and a former two-time MVP. When it comes to being a pure playmaker, there are few better than Steve Nash. If Nash wouldn’t score a single point in a game, he would be able to impact the game and lead his team to victory. His passing and court vision was that pure. But Nash was also one of the best shooters ever and could average a 50-40-90 shooting percentage over a season.
Walt Frazier is a Knicks legend and an incredible talent. He managed to put the New York Knicks on the map by winning their first-ever NBA title and being a true artist in the game of basketball. Frazier was a dominant force who played with style and flair, and New Yorkers will always remember how important Frazier was to their city.
Bob Cousy is the most accomplished player on this Tier, having won 6 NBA titles as a member of the Boston Celtics. Cousy was a 13-time All-Star during his 13 seasons with the Celtics, and of the best point guards ever. His flashy playmaking and accurate passing was truly second to none during his time, and he will always be remembered as one of the best winners ever.
Jason Kidd is another pure playmaker, who was just a magician at finding his teammates for good shots. Kidd was also a great defender, tough competitor, and excellent rebounder who was a triple-double threat. Kidd also won an NBA title playing for the Mavericks and led the Nets to the NBA Finals against the Lakers.
Nate Archibald is one of the few players in NBA history to have led the league in points and assists during a season (34.0 ppg, 11.4 apg in 1972-73). Archibald was a perfect point guard, who could score and be the primary playmaker on a dominant squad. Despite only standing 6’1″, Archibald played much larger than he was and always had a chip on his shoulder. He managed to win an NBA title in the 1980-1981 season as a member of the Boston Celtics.
Gary Payton is probably the best defensive point guard ever, and that alone places him in Tier 3. GP was a tough competitor, and one of the most iconic legends of the game. He played hard on both ends and kept expanding his game from the minute he came into the league. Among his peers, many would choose Gary Payton over almost every point guard in NBA history to be on their team.
Tony Parker is the second-most accomplished point guard in this tier, having won four NBA titles and one Finals MVP Award. Parker was a true French artist on the floor, using incredible speed and quickness to get wherever he wanted to go on the floor. While the Spurs had a tremendous cast of talent including Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, Parker was the ultimate floor general who could be counted on in the clutch to make the right plays including scoring the ball.
John Stockton, Oscar Robertson, Stephen Curry, Isiah Thomas
This next tier contains the very best point guards in NBA history. When mentioning the greats, their names often come first. They are easily Hall of Fame-caliber players and will be known on the Mt. Rushmore of all point guards for eternity.
Each of these players has spectacular talents that translate into production on the court at the highest level for their teams.
John Stockton might not have won an NBA title like the other players in this tier, but he was simply too dominant to not be in Tier 2. With Stockton at point guard, the Utah Jazz never missed the playoffs once. Stockton leads all players in most assists all-time and ranks first in steals. His passing, shooting and defense gave the Utah Jazz enough to be title contenders every year. Unfortunately for them, they ran into Michael Jordan in the Finals and he was known for stopping countless great players from reaching their title hopes.
Oscar Robertson, before Russell Westbrook, was the triple-double king. His numbers are extraordinary, averaging 25.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 9.5 APG for his career. Robertson impacted the game in every single way possible and many of his peers consider him to be a top 10 player of all time. One could hardly argue that, especially when he won an NBA title as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Curry is the most recent all-time great point guard to grace the game of basketball. Stephen Curry is simply unstoppable in today’s game thanks to his tremendous dribbling skill and gets his lightning-quick release off. He is also the best shooter we have ever seen and is mostly responsible for how the game is played today. Curry is a two-time MVP and three-time NBA Champion, and one of the best point guards ever.
Finally, Isiah Thomas is one of the most competitive winners in NBA history. A player that is loved and respected, Thomas was able to lead the Pistons to back-to-back championships during the 1989 and 1990 NBA seasons. Thomas is a Hall of Famer and one of the 50 greatest players to have ever played without question. When it comes to being on the Mt. Rushmore of point guards, Thomas might lead the pack if not for one man.
Best of the Best: Magic Johnson
In a league that has been historically filled with fantastic talent at the point guard position, Magic Johnson is the cream of the crop. He is the best point guard of all time and hardly anyone could argue that. Johnson won 5 NBA titles and 3 Finals MVP Awards and consistently led his Lakers to fantastic records every year. No matter who Magic played with, he could lead the charge and guide his teammates to incredible success.
Magic was the first point guard to truly change the game, using his mix of size and strength to completely dominate the ball. Magic could legitimately play all five positions and his passing and court awareness was second to none. Without a doubt, Magic will go down as the best point guard of all time and this will likely never change.