How did Sunday's Game 7 loss alter Chris Paul's legacy - and where does he rank among best PGs ever?
My text messages have been blowing up. This debate has been raging on throughout these wild NBA Playoffs. Is Chris Paul overrated? Underrated? How does he compare to Stockton and Kidd? How about Magic Johnson?
Well, I think we got some answers in that Game 7 debacle vs. Luka and the boys. With some of the new information that has come to light, let's take a look at my top 10 point guards in the history of the NBA:
10. Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics
Resume: Voted as one of the top 75 players in NBA history; 6 championship rings
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Everyone in my top 10 was voted as one of the top 75 of all time. I will not mention this as an accolade again.)
It's tough to quantify Cousy, really. He's not in the top 50 all time in points. He's not in the top 10 in total assists nor assists per game. He's not top 10 in steals nor steals per game. He doesn't really show up on the all-time stat sheets, essentially.
But we know - from general knowledge - that he's always been considered one of the greatest point guards of all time. One of the true pioneers of the position that makes all its teammates better (when handled correctly). And how can we ignore SIX championship rings?
Cousy was a leader and a winner. That's more than enough information for me to make room for him in my top 10 of all time.
9. Chris Paul
Resume: 3rd all time in Assists, 4th in Steals, 39th in Points
I've always been a Chris Paul defender. I love the all-around control of his game. He works the pick-and-roll as well as anyone in the history of the game. His lob passes to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were unparalleled. His midrange jumper off a high screen is automatic. He dictates the pace. He has the ball on a string, along with opposing defenders.
But come on, enough is enough already. The guy simply can't win The Big Game.
It's such a shame, because look at those incredible stats - top 4 in both assists and steals! And as you will see going forward, most point guards don't get into the top 50 in scoring, let alone the top 40. CP3, because of his high-percentage shooting, has the all-around offensive game that many of the others on this list simply lack.
But this is a championship-driven league. This was Paul's 17th season in his long NBA career... still no titles. The facts just are what they are.
8. Gary Payton
Resume: 5th all time in Steals, 10th in Assists, 35th in Points, 1 championship ring
"The Glove" is the forgotten one, if you ask me. Probably the best defender out of all of these guys, yet he was also extremely productive on the offensive end. You love the pure toughness that GP brings. He simply sets a tone for your team, like a Patrick Beverley with a much better all-around skillset. Gary Payton is one of the most underrated two-way players in the history of the game.
7. Jason Kidd
Resume: 2nd all time in Assists, 2nd in Steals, 1 championship ring
6. John Stockton, Utah Jazz
Resume: 1st all time in Assists, 1st in Steals
5. Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons
Resume: 9th all time in Assists, 2 championship rings
I'm lumping these three floor generals together because direct comparisons must be made. Kidd and Stockton are pretty self explanatory - they are the best statistical "pure" point guards and Stockton is one slot above in both assists and steals (overall top dog on both). He's the GOAT on the stat sheet. Plus, he was a higher percentage shooter and deadlier individual scorer than Kidd.
But Isiah is sort of the opposite. He's 9th in assists, as opposed to the other two being 1 and 2. He's 22nd in steals, as opposed to CP3, Kidd and Stockton all being in the top four. But the difference is this: Isiah Thomas was "The Guy" when the NBA bridged the gap between the Magic/Bird Era and the Jordan Era. The "Bad Boys" took over the NBA for a couple seasons, and Isiah was unquestionably their leader and absolute best player.
Stockton wasn't The Guy in Utah - of course that was "The Mailman" Karl Malone - and they never won a championship, anyway. Jason Kidd wasn't The Guy for Dallas in his championship season - of course that was the great Dirk Nowitzki. In fact, I would argue Kidd is more valuable to the Mavs as a coach now than he was as a player during his title year. He quickly retired after that.
Plus, I personally prefer a point guard who can assist, defend and score. Isiah was far and away a more versatile and effective scorer than both Kidd and Stockton. And I like Isiah's IDGAF attitude - who says you have to play friendly with your opponents?
4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Resume: 1st all time in Threes made, 3 championship rings, 2 MVPs, 15th in PPG
Obviously, there are different definitions of point guards. The aforementioned Payton and Beverley are defensive-minded point guards. Stockton and Kidd are pass-first point guards, and Steph is undoubtedly a shoot-first point guard... and ain't nothin' wrong with that!
Steph is one of the most difficult players to rank in the history of the NBA - he's never won a Finals MVP, but the rest of his resume is extremely impressive. Right here, I feel very comfortable with him as my No. 4 point guard in the history of the game. Not enough "making his teammates better" to ultimately crack my top three.
3. Oscar Robertson
Resume: 5th all time in FT made, 8th in assists, 10th in PPG, 13th in total points, 1 championship ring
"The Big O" always draws a comparison to Babe Ruth, in my mind. My stock line is, "Babe Ruth hit more home runs than entire TEAMS when he played!" And well, when Oscar Robertson played in the NBA, there was really no such thing as a triple-double. Virtually no one had all-around impact like that, and Robertson was far and away the best in that extremely valuable category.
Other than the guy at my No. 1 spot, The Big O is the best of the all-around point guards in the history of the game. And in the end, that's what it's really about, right? Impacting the game in as many positive ways as possible. Robertson was far ahead of his time in that regard, and he remains one of the greatest players to ever lace 'em up.
2. Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers
Resume: 5 championship rings, 3 MVPs, 6th all time in assists
I'm not gonna lie... like two weeks ago I was telling my buddy Steve Summer that I would take Chris Paul over Magic Johnson as an all-around player. And while I suppose that remains true on the stat sheet, Magic's resume of WINNING ultimately blew me away.
Magic Johnson is the true essence of the point guard position, when you really think about it. Three MVP awards without really being able to shoot from the perimeter? (Of course, that's always the obvious knock on Magic.) That's because Magic controlled the entire game by manipulating opposing defenses with his second-to-none passing. He was the best conservative passer, the best fastbreak passer, the best no-look passer and best showman at his position. The "Showtime" Lakers were always headlined by Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
Five championship rings. The face of the league. Magic Johnson was a transcendent NBA superstar.
1. LeBron James
Resume: 4 MVPs, 4 championship rings, 2nd in points, 7th in assists, 4th in FT made, 10th in steals
Come on, how can you be 7th in the history of the NBA in assists and NOT be considered a point guard?
On the court, LeBron James has always been The Unselfish Superstar. It started all the way back in high school, when ESPN would air LeBron's games and he would shock people with his world-class passing ability. He drew some comparisons to Magic Johnson back then, because people weren't exactly sure about the development of his perimeter shooting.
In the end, LeBron became the greatest statistical player in the history of the NBA. (Does that make him the No. 1 player of all time? Find out in my NBA Top 50 Players of All Time list, coming soon.) As a point guard and floor general, he can absolutely do it all. Pass, score, defend, you name it - all at the highest possible levels.
It may be considered controversial, but... LeBron James is the greatest point guard in the history of basketball.
John Frascella is a published sports author and Senior Writer for Aaron Torres Online. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things basketball, football and baseball.
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