B/R NBA Legends 100: Ranking the Greatest Point Guards of All Time

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 23, 2015

B/R NBA Legends 100: Ranking the Greatest Point Guards of All Time

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    Editor's note: This is the first installment of Bleacher Report's series ranking the greatest NBA players of all-time at every position, culminating in a top 100 players of all time ranking next week. 

    Throughout NBA history, no position has been more loaded with talent than point guard.  

    It started with the hegemony of Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson, who ran the show before giving way to basketball geniuses like Walt Frazier and Lenny Wilkens. John Stockton and Magic Johnson took the baton in through the '80s and '90s, and now, we're in the midst of a golden era of point guards. 

    Even though the best floor generals of the 2000s are largely gone or playing out the twilights of their careers, the position is in great hands with guys like Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and the many up-and-comers.

    But how does everyone stack up throughout NBA history? 

    This series is about more than those few standouts who still suit up in the Association. We're interested in how the legends of the point guard position compare to one another.

    We're not just concerned with the best peaks. It's not about the longest careers. Instead, we're interested in the strength of an entire career evaluated largely through numbers. However, the prominence of metrics and advanced statistics doesn't mean context can be thrown out the window. 

    Everything matters. 

    Note: All stats come from Basketball-Reference.com and are current through March 21, unless otherwise indicated. That's also the source of positional decisions throughout this series of articles. Whichever position a player is listed at for the majority of the seasons in his career is where he'll be placed in the series. 

Important: Glossary of New Metrics That Factor into Evaluation

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    Though this article will rely heavily on established advanced metrics like win shares, player efficiency rating, true shooting percentage and more, I've also developed a new set of performance metrics that can be used to compare players across eras. 

    As you'll soon see, these metrics will be displayed for every featured player, and they'll be discussed quite often throughout the descriptions of the players in question. Therefore, it's best to familiarize yourself with them now. 

    Understanding the exact calculations is unnecessary for these purposes, but do take the time to understand the principles and purposes, as that will allow you to fully grasp the justifications for the order of this countdown. 

    With traditional metrics, we can gauge how well a player performed during the regular season throughout his career. But with these new ones, we have insight into his playoff performances as well as how valuable he was to his team and throughout the league in general. 

    Playoff Performance (PP)

    Derived by multiplying game score by the number of playoff appearances, this simply shows the strength of a player's statistical production during the postseason. It rewards both quality of play and longevity, as the top scores are only achieved by maintaining excellent performances over the course of multiple deep playoff runs. 

    Advancement Share (AS)

    This shows how deep a player advanced into the playoffs. Different rounds are weighted differently—250 possible points for a title, 100 for an unsuccessful appearance in the NBA Finals and 50 for a conference finals exit—but not every player earns all of the possible points. 

    To recognize that some players are bigger contributors than others, the advancement scores are weighted by how much time a player spends on the court. Someone who wins a title but only plays 20 minutes per game will receive a lower percentage of the possible points than a teammate who played 35 minutes per contest. 

    As a result, this shows both playoff success and relative importance during the run of the player in question. 

    Career Contributions (CC)

    Win shares are supposed to be an approximation of how many wins a player provided to his team during a given season, so dividing win shares by team wins should give an estimate of the percentage of value that player was responsible for. Multiplying that by how successful a team was that year (based on TeamRtng+, a combination of DRtng+ and ORtng+) accounts for both a player's value and the strength of the team he was contributing to. 

    Career Contributions sums a player's scores for every season of his career, showing how much value he provided during his NBA life. 

    Career Contributions per Season (CC/Season)

    This shows the number of Career Contributions that a player earned during an average season. It's no more complicated than that. 

    Literal MVPs (LMVPs)

    MVP literally stands for "Most Valuable Player," though the award is usually given to the best player on one of the best teams, depending on the narrative, the glamorous play of the candidate and other factors. A Literal MVP, or LMVP, is given instead to the player with the top Career Contributions value during the season in question. 

    An LMVP can go to a player on the best team in the league, but it can also be handed to a player who was essentially a one-man wrecking crew on one of the bottom-feeders. The strength of the team doesn't matter save for the Career Contributions calculation. 

    Literal MVP Shares (LMVP Shares)

    Rather than only rewarding the LMVP, we're giving credit to every player who was the top contributor for his team during a given season. Team-leading win-share producers were sorted by Career Contributions before being handed LMVP shares according to their finish on that leaderboard. 

    The LMVP himself gets a full LMVP share. Second place receives 0.5 LMVP shares. Third place gets 0.33 LMVP shares and so on and so forth. 

    Ultimate Season

    This appears in the information of each slide, and it's a method of representing a player's peak. Rather than arbitrarily selecting his best season, we're meshing together the best performances of his career for each per-game stat. 

    That means his points per game could come from his rookie year, while his rebounds per game could be drawn from a season five years down the road. The only qualifier is that he must have played in at least 30 games during the season in question, thereby avoiding small-sample-size effects. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Mookie Blaylock

    The Atlanta Hawks' franchise leader in both three-pointers made and steals, Mookie Blaylock was very much a two-way player during the 1990s, despite standing only 6'0". During that stint with the Hawks, as well as his time with the New Jersey Nets and Golden State Warriors, he had a deft shooting touch and quick hands, allowing him to make up for his lack of size on a regular basis.

    His 6.6 total rebounding percentage over the course of his career also stands out for a player his size. 

    But while Blaylock has some nice stats in certain areas, he was never much of a scorer and has rather lackluster per-game numbers for the majority of his playing days. He earned just under 14 Career Contributions per season, and it's a bit troubling that he could never advance to the penultimate round of the playoffs at any point in his NBA life. The one-time All-Star is definitely worth a mention, but not much more than that when surrounded by peers of this caliber.

    Terrell Brandon

    Talk about underrated. Earning 0.147 win shares per 48 minutes during his playing days, Terrell Brandon actually ranks No. 15 among the 50 point guards who were analyzed in detail for this particular installment of our historical rankings. Problem is, he didn't maintain that rate for too long, even if he was good enough to earn a 1997 Sports Illustrated cover that called him "the best point guard in the NBA."  

    Brandon played in only 724 games over the course of 11 seasons. He entered the league at 21 in 1991 after a two-year career with the Oregon Ducks, but he left the Association after his age-31 season, boasting great stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks (for a shorter time) and Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Injuries took their toll throughout his NBA tenure, cutting his playing days with the Wolves short when his knees just wouldn't heal properly. The Wolves traded him to the Atlanta Hawks in July 2003, but he never suited up for the franchise and was subsequently waived, which prompted his premature retirement. 

    Fat Lever

    If any player was going to move from the honorable mentions into the ranked portion of this countdown, it would be Fat Lever.

    A two-time All-Star with the Denver Nuggets, the 6'3" floor general was by no means overweight, checking in at a meager 170 pounds. But when he wasn't using his creativity, craftiness and incredible basketball intelligence to create offense for himself (largely in the form of mid-range jumpers) or set up his teammates, he would crash the boards. 

    Lever may not have joined Oscar Robertson as the second player to average a triple-double, but he came quite close. In 1988-89, he averaged 19.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game, though the Western Conference was so stacked with talent at the 1 that he wasn't even named an All-Star.

    Had it not been for a brutal knee injury suffered during his first season with the Dallas Mavericks, Lever likely would've continued racking up numbers, highlights and accolades rather than experiencing a decline in his early 30s. 

    Andre Miller

    Talk about a strange career. Andre Miller doesn't have many honors on his resume, as he's never been a part of an All-Star team or made an All-NBA squad. He does have a random 50-point game to his credit, but his legacy will be more about longevity and consistent production for well over a decade. 

    Fresh out of Utah, Miller entered the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers right before the turn of the century at the tender young age of 23. Now 39 years old, the point guard is still playing an important role with the Sacramento Kings, continuing to complete lob passes and post up as well as any guard in recent memory.

    The 2013-14 season was actually the first year in his career—the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign in which he played all 66 games notwithstanding—that he didn't suit up at least 80 times, and that was largely due to philosophical disagreements with first-year Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw. 

    Terry Porter

    Though Terry Porter doesn't stand out in too many areas, he enjoyed a remarkably long career—1,274 games played over the course of 17 seasons—and remains one of the more efficient scoring point guards the game has seen.

    Throughout his NBA tenure, Porter shot 46.3 percent from the field, 38.6 percent from beyond the arc and 83.6 percent from the charity stripe, giving him a lifetime true shooting percentage of .576. Among the 50 floor generals studied in detail, that's the No. 8 mark. 

    However, Porter had to pick his spots carefully. His career-best scoring average was only 18.2 points per game, and the backseat role he often occupied didn't allow him to gain all that much league-wide recognition. He was a two-time All-Star during his days with the Portland Trail Blazers, but his resume is completely devoid of any All-NBA honors. 

25. Calvin Murphy

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    Years Played: 1970-83

    Teams: San Diego/Houston Rockets

    Career Per-Game Stats: 17.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 25.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.0 PER, .536 TS%, 109 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 84.1 WS, 0.132 WS/48, 0 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 602.82 PP, 91.42 AS, 226 CC, 17.38 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.225 LMVP Shares


    Though his lone All-Star appearance in 1978-79 indicates that Calvin Murphy didn't receive much attention during a career that spanned both the pre- and post-merger portions of NBA history, he was quite valuable all the same. Murphy joined the Association with the San Diego Rockets in 1970, and while the franchise would move to Houston the next year, he never played for a different team. 

    All the while, he earned 17.38 Career Contributions per season, emerging as one of the most valuable players on the Rockets year in and year out. In fact, that mark ranks No. 9 among the 50 studied point guards, as players who suit up at the 1 don't always earn as many win shares as standouts at other positions.

    As a result of that sustained production for more than 1,000 games during his career, Murphy's total number of Career Contributions (226) ranks No. 14 among the same group of 50. He's one of only nine floor generals with a top-15 finish in both of those categories, though the rest of his resume isn't quite so stellar. 

    The 5'9" Niagara University product wasn't a traditional point guard by any stretch. In fact, he recorded more than five assists per game only twice during his 13-year career. He was much more of a scorer, despite his diminutive frame, but that's by no means being held against him here.

    The biggest issue is simply a lack of pure dominance, as well as lackluster results from most of the Houston teams he helped lead. In 13 seasons, Murphy advanced to the playoffs only six times, and his 91.42 Advancement Shares are by no means elite.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

24. Jo Jo White

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1969-81

    Teams: Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Kansas City Kings

    Career Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 23.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 14.2 PER, .481 TS%, 95 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 54.0 WS, 0.087 WS/48, 0.007 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1342.4 PP, 628.98 AS, 113.77 CC, 9.48 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.048 LMVP Shares

    Jo Jo White might not stand out as an individual, but that's largely because he never found as much comfort as he did when wearing that Boston Celtics uniform. Despite playing alongside legends like John Havlicek and Dave Cowens, this point guard averaged 18.8 points per game during his nine full seasons in Beantown, topping out with 23.1 points per game in 1971-72. 

    He didn't experience as much success elsewhere, but by the time he'd racked up seven All-Star appearances and two titles, he didn't exactly need to. 

    Perhaps the most notable aspect of White's game was his ability to take on more responsibility when his team truly needed it. He may have a below-average 14.2 PER during the regular season, but his career postseason PER was slightly higher at 15.1. In fact, during his 80 playoff games, the floor general averaged 21.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists per contest. 

    Plus, he won in the playoffs. He won a lot in fact. 

    White's 628.98 Advancement Shares put him in elite company, as only nine analyzed point guards have earned more over the course of their respective careers. And while his No. 19 finish in Playoff Performance indicates that he received quite a bit of help along the way, that's still a rather impressive figure. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

23. Dave Bing

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1966-78

    Teams: Detroit Pistons, Washington Bullets, Boston Celtics

    Career Per-Game Stats: 20.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 27.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 17.6 PER, .502 TS%, 99 ORtg, 100 DRtg, 68.8 WS, 0.101 WS/48, 0.386 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 352.16 PP, 0 AS, 172.45 CC, 14.37 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.083 LMVP Shares

    Sometimes thought of as a shooting guard, Basketball-Reference.com lists Dave Bing as a floor general in 11 of his 12 seasons, so that's where he qualifies for these rankings. And it makes sense, given how good this 6'3" backcourt player was at distributing the ball throughout his career. 

    From a per-game standpoint, Bing's best passing season came in 1972-73, when he averaged 7.8 assists per contest for the Detroit Pistons. You could also argue that he was even better two years later, when he produced "only" 7.7 dimes during his typical outing but recorded a career-best 28.9 assist percentage. 

    Over the course of his career, Bing's assist percentage finished at 24.3 percent. It's by no means a standout mark, actually ranking only No. 43 among the 50 point guards broken down in detail while researching, but it's a strong mark for a player who was primarily a scorer. 

    After averaging 20 points per game during his rookie season with the Pistons, this Hall of Famer wouldn't see his scoring average dip into the teens until the 1973-74 campaign, which came seven years later. He peaked as a sophomore, but his numbers remained strong throughout his career, with the exception of his quick decline once he left the Motor City behind and joined the Washington Bullets.  

    Though Bing never found any playoff success and struggled to earn win shares because he so often found himself on limited teams, it was still difficult to find many better guards throughout the late 1960s and '70s. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

22. Rajon Rondo

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Years Played: 2006-Current

    Teams: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 10.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 11.7 assists, 2.3 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 16.8 PER, .503 TS%, 104 ORtg, 103 DRtg, 46.1 WS, 0.12 WS/48, 0.014 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1362.52 PP, 281.41 AS, 100.63 CC, 12.58 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.048 LMVP Shares

    Rajon Rondo is still attempting to prove that he can lead a team deep into the playoffs without being surrounded by superstars, though he's still not getting that chance while paired up with other big-name players on the Dallas Mavericks. But even as he struggles with that endeavor, he remains one of the best floor generals in the era often hyped up as the golden age of point guards. 

    No. 9's defense is simply sublime, and he's one of the most creative and effective distributors the sport has ever witnessed. Sure, he struggles with his shot and only occasionally pulls off that dazzling behind-the-back fake that twists up defenders, but he holds his own on the offensive end because he can make even lackluster teammates look like quality scorers. 

    Excluding the first two seasons of Rondo's career, when he was transitioning from Kentucky to the rigors of the professional game, his worst assist percentage is 39.7. That's higher than the career average of all but five of the studied point guards, and his current assist percentage throughout his Beantown tenure puts him at No. 4 among the same group. 

    Rondo, still playing out his age-28 season (he just turned 29 on Feb. 22), has plenty of time to add to his resume, and steering the Mavericks deep into the playoffs would do wonders for his cause as an individual. But entering the 2014-15 campaign, he had already crossed the 500-game threshold, won a title alongside Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and asserted himself as one of the premier players at his position during an era dominated by 1-guards. 

    That's quite the set of accomplishments.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

21. Sam Cassell

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1993-2008

    Teams: Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics

    Career Per-Game Stats: 15.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 19.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 19.5 PER, .544 TS%, 110 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 87.5 WS, 0.141 WS/48, 0.003 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1181.84 PP, 343.48 AS, 205.72 CC, 13.71 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.059 LMVP Shares

    During the 993 games he played in the Association, Sam Cassell became a rather well-traveled point guard. He was traded seven times throughout his career, even playing for the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and New Jersey Nets all during the 1996-97 season. 

    Historically transcendent standouts usually aren't traded in their prime, but Cassell's placement in these rankings isn't about his peak season. After all, he never averaged 20 points per game, nor did he break into double figures in the assist column over the course of a campaign. 

    His legacy is more about longevity and playing at a high level throughout his career. A 19.5 PER is nothing to laugh at, especially when the player who produced it hovered right around that level for over a decade. In fact, Cassell's PER was on the right side of 20 for the entirety of a seven-season stretch, and it's not as though he was filling minor roles for his teams. 

    He only have earned a single All-Star selection, but isn't it telling that his lone honor came during his age-34 season? His titles came during his role-playing years, both early in his career with the Houston Rockets and late in his NBA life with the Boston Celtics, but in between, he was a consistent standout who played efficient and effective basketball. 

    Cassell isn't usually one of the first names you think of when pondering the great point guards in the history of this league, but he's earned such a status after putting together so many excellent—though not quite fantastic—campaigns.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

20. Mark Price

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    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1986-98

    Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic

    Career Per-Game Stats: 15.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 19.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 10.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 19.6 PER, .586 TS%, 116 ORtg, 109 DRtg, 71.1 WS, 0.158 WS/48, 0.107 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 672.57 PP, 36.98 AS, 162.22 CC, 13.52 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.273 LMVP Shares

    Mark Price could flat-out shoot the basketball. 

    While he was a top-notch distributor during his prime with the Cleveland Cavaliers and could provide his squad with a decent amount of thefts during the average game, there was no doubt his primary skill was stroking jumpers from all areas of the court. Price never averaged 20 points per game; instead, he just made the most of the opportunities he was given. 

    In addition to shooting 47.2 percent from the field throughout his career, Price remains one of the select players in NBA history who made both 40 percent of his triples and 90 percent of his freebies. In fact, only he and Steve Nash qualify for that exclusive club, at least among players with more than 100 games to their credit. Thanks to his 1988-89 season (one of his four All-Star campaigns), Price is also a member of the 50-40-90 club, gaining entry while averaging 18.9 points per game. 

    With a career true shooting percentage of .586, Price ranks as the No. 5 point guard among the 50 analyzed, trailing only Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Nash and Stephen Curry

    Unfortunately, the performance metrics work against him. Price may have led his team in win shares during the 1987-88, 1988-89, 1989-90 and 1993-94 seasons, but he peaked at just 11.3 during the second of those four go-rounds. His 13.52 Career Contributions per season are decidedly lackluster, and while he steered Cleveland into the playoffs many times, he could never find much success after the 82nd game of the season. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

19. Tim Hardaway

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    NBA Photos/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1989-2003

    Teams: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 23.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 10.6 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.6 PER, .530 TS%, 110 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 85.0 WS, 0.133 WS/48, 0.336 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 703.36 PP, 42.92 AS, 200.29 CC, 15.41 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.264 LMVP Shares

    It's all about that devastating crossover, one so deadly it earned its own nickname. Countless defenders fell prey to the "UTEP two-step," and Tim Hardaway was good enough once he worked his way into space that he could torture the opposition with both his scoring and distributing abilities. 

    That may not seem special now, but back in the late 1980s and early '90s, Hardaway was an innovator, as this passage from NBA.com's Shaun Powell helped explain in 2011: 

    No question, Hardaway is one of a handful of pioneers who changed the game forever, and it tickles him, even now, to be remembered in those terms.

    "That's great," he said. "The people who run the NBA draft combine even have a crossover drill for the prospects. It makes me laugh. I was just a college player looking to try something new, and came up with this. And now they're having all these college players prove they can do it."

    That dribble has frozen more human beings than a Slurpee. He used the dribble to last 15 ankle-breaking years in the NBA, with great success in Golden State and Miami, and left a legacy that you can see on any court, on any level. Go left. Then right. Or vice versa. There are several variations now; the "killer" crossover between the legs (Hardaway's specialty), a "normal" crossover, a "half" crossover (fake) and so on. It sounds so simple, but it took many hours in the laboratory for Hardaway to develop.

    Hardaway's crossover was his signature move, but it was only one specialty in a deep bag of tricks. After all, you can't earn over 200 Career Contributions without doing anything more than breaking ankles, nor can you put together 0.336 MVP Shares. 

    That alone says a lot, as Hardaway was such a respected player on some high-quality teams—most famously the "Run TMC" Golden State Warriors—that he earned MVP votes in four different years. During three of those seasons (1991-92, 1996-97 and 1997-78), he was a top-10 finisher, highlighted by earning the fourth-most votes in 1997. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

18. Lenny Wilkens

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Years Played: 1960-75

    Teams: St. Louis Hawks, Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 22.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 9.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 16.8 PER, .511 TS%, 100 DRtg, 95.5 WS, 0.120 WS/48, 0.323 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 851.2 PP, 231.62 AS, 240.92 CC, 16.06 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.559 LMVP Shares

    Lenny Wilkens may not have any All-NBA selections to match up against Tim Hardaway's five, nor was he quite so dominant as an individual. However, he comes in just ahead of the crossover machine because he played for a significantly longer time (210 additional games in fact) and was more valuable. 

    Throughout his impressive NBA career, most notably his All-Star days with the St. Louis Hawks and Seattle SuperSonics, Wilkens earned 16.06 Career Contributions per season. And that's a number dragged down by only playing 20 games during his sophomore year. 

    The point guard's most valuable season actually came in 1972-73, when he earned 9.5 win shares for the 32-win Cleveland Cavaliers. The result was a total of 28.18 Career Contributions, which placed him at No. 7 in the league-wide hierarchy. That played a big part in his 0.559 LMVP shares, which remain the No. 11 mark among the studied point guards.

    Wilkens did a lot of work in the playoffs to get ahead of Hardaway. The 6'1" southpaw advanced into the postseason seven times, all of which came during his time with the Hawks. Though he'd never win a ring, he at least came close on multiple occasions, primarily when he made it to the 1961 NBA Finals.

    The Hawks were a constant fixture in the playoffs prior to the ABA-NBA merger. In fact, from 1956 through 1973, they only failed to make it past the regular season once. 

    It's no coincidence that year (1962) was the same one that Wilkens was limited to just 20 games. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

17. Maurice Cheeks

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1978-93

    Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, New Jersey Nets

    Career Per-Game Stats: 11.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 15.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 16.5 PER, .572 TS%, 116 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 103.5 WS, 0.143 WS/48, 0 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1871.31 PP, 424.95 AS, 214.26 CC, 14.28 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0 LMVP Shares

    As an accumulator of stats, Maurice Cheeks does not deserve to be called one of the 20 greatest point guards of all time. After all, his career PER is only slightly above the league average of 15, he never led any of his teams in win shares (hence the zero LMVP shares) and his scoring figures were never all that impressive. 

    But Cheeks' game was never about traditional measures. Instead, he thrived on the defensive end of the floor. 

    Throughout his career, he made the All-Defensive squad on five separate occasions, all of which came during the mid-'80s while he was playing with the Philadelphia 76ers. As CSNPhilly.com's John Finger wrote in April 2014 while looking at Cheeks' Hall of Fame credentials, "When he retired, Cheeks was the NBA's all-time leader in steals and was second behind Oscar Robertson in all-time assists. He still ranks fifth in steals and 10th in assists these days, and was a four-time All-Star and four-time first team All-Defense."

    With some of the best and quickest hands in NBA history, Cheeks became a key contributor to plenty of strong squads. Most notable among them was the 1982-83 Philadelphia team that helped him win the first and only title of his career. True to form, the point guard was up to the challenge during that postseason, averaging 16.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game in his 13 appearances. 

    No featured point guard in these rankings has averaged fewer points per game, but Cheeks' game was never about the final number in the scoring column. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

16. Dennis Johnson

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    Brian Drake/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1976-90

    Teams: Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics

    Career Per-Game Stats: 14.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 19.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 14.6 PER, .511 TS%, 107 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 82.6 WS, 0.110 WS/48, 0.084 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2349 PP, 932.61 AS, 167.81 CC, 11.99 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.043 LMVP Shares

    Speaking of good defenders, Dennis Johnson was even better than Maurice Cheeks on that end of the floor. 

    Though his offensive game lagged behind Cheeks'—thanks to his shooting efficiency (that .511 true shooting percentage does not stand out in a good way)—and he had lackluster passing numbers despite being more heavily involved in the offense, he was, without question, one of the very best defenders to ever line up at the 1. His nine All-Defensive selections were a testament to that, as they leave him tied with two other players for the all-time record among point guards. 

    Frankly though, the difference between the two floor generals' defensive skills isn't as big as the gap between their offensive games. So that's not all that pushes Johnson slightly ahead and puts him on the verge of breaking into the top 15. 

    It's actually his playoff resume that does the trick, as Johnson played a crucial part on so many great postseason squads. He won a ring while playing over 40 minutes per game in 1979 with the Seattle SuperSonics, and he added two more while teaming up with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish on the Boston Celtics. 

    At the end of his career, he'd racked up a 2,349 Playoff Performance score and 932.61 Advancement Shares. Among the 50 analyzed point guards, that leaves him ranked No. 5 and No. 7 respectively. Compare that to Cheeks, who came in at No. 11 and No. 14 in the two categories, and you can see why it's Johnson moving ahead by a slim margin.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

15. Tiny Archibald

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    NBA Photos/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1970-84

    Teams: Cincinnati Royals, Kansas City Kings, New York Nets, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 34.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 11.4 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.0 PER, .543 TS%, 109 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 83.4 WS, 0.128 WS/48, 0.465 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 452.61 PP, 269.07 AS, 211.87 CC, 16.3 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.31 LMVP Shares

    Only one player in NBA history has led the league in both scoring and distributing during a single season: Nate "Tiny" Archibald. 

    During his 1972-73 campaign with the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, he averaged an NBA-best 34.0 points and 11.4 assists per game, even shooting 48.8 percent from the field. It was quite obviously the top season of his career, and his 25.2 PER that year was just one of the four times in which he finished over 20. 

    Archibald's true prime lasted only six years, but he was pretty darn good during that stretch. From 1971 through 1977, he averaged 26.7 points and 8.6 assists per game, which put him on pace to finish far better than No. 15 in these historical rankings. Sadly, he tore his Achilles during his first season with the New York Nets, limiting him to just 34 games played in 1976-77. 

    The multitalented point guard would miss the entire 1977-78 campaign, and he was never the same after he took his talents to Beantown and joined the Boston Celtics. Still a distributing threat, he lacked the explosive scoring that had previously made him so special, which puts a damper on the overall nature of his career. 

    Still, at his best, Archibald was without question one of the 10 best floor generals the Association has witnessed. During that famous season in which he led the league in two prominent categories, he earned 14.2 win shares on a 36-win Kings team, giving him 37.53 Career Contributions in just one season. One year prior, he'd actually earned 40.04 Career Contributions, largely because his 12.9 win shares looked even better on a squad that went just 30-52. 

    Even with the steep decline after his devastating injury cutting his production short, Archibald still managed to finish with 1.31 LMVP Shares due primarily to his early years. Only 40 players in NBA history have earned more, and just four of them played the same position as this 6'1" offensive monster.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

14. Chauncey Billups

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1997-2014

    Teams: Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 15.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 19.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.8 PER, .580 TS%, 118 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 120.8 WS, 0.176 WS/48, 0.375 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2044 PP, 477.4 AS, 259.15 CC, 15.24 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.461 LMVP Shares

    Chauncey Billups has to be one of the most misunderstood players in NBA history. 

    He's not traditionally thought of as a top-15 point guard of all time, and that's wrong. He's also given the "Mr. Big Shot" nickname because he drained a handful of key shots, even though his performance in the clutch would indicate that a more appropriate moniker is "Mr. Big Miss." 

    "We remember great plays often at the expense of not so great plays," Piston Powered's Patrick Hayes wrote while debunking the clutch myth for this particular point guard. "Billups was a well-below-league-average shooter in game-winning situations, yet his 'Mr. Big Shot' nickname stuck because he hit four or five really memorable shots as a Piston."

    But an inaccurate nickname only matters so much. It's just one of the many ways Billups' career isn't analyzed properly. 

    His most famous contributions came during the 2003-04 season, when he steered the Detroit Pistons to a title and won Finals MVP. It's a team commonly cited as one that didn't roster a true star, but that's disrespectful to Billups, who earned 11.3 win shares that season and would get into double digits during each of his following five campaigns.

    Maybe he wasn't a "star" by the conclusion of the 2004 title run, but he certainly became one and played like such throughout the season in question.

    After a long career, the point guard—one who became Denver's "King of Park Hill" and still receives pure adoration from fans when he shows up in the Pepsi Center—retired having played in over 1,000 games, and he still boasted a lifetime PER of 18.8. Perhaps even more impressively, he earned 120.8 win shares and collected 0.176 per 48 minutes, which ranks him No. 8 and No. 7, respectively, among the 50 studied floor generals. 

    Billups' big-shooting ways may have been more myth than fact, but the rest of his career was better than advertised, which more than makes up the difference.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

13. Kevin Johnson

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1987-2000

    Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns

    Career Per-Game Stats: 17.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 22.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 12.2 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 20.7 PER, .585 TS%, 118 ORtg, 109 DRtg, 92.8 WS, 0.178 WS/48, 0.063 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1747.2 PP, 164 AS, 201.3 CC, 16.77 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.425 LMVP Shares

    Kevin Johnson was basically offense personified during his prime days with the Phoenix Suns. After the Cleveland Cavaliers traded him to the desert halfway through his rookie season, he didn't take long asserting himself as a premier scoring and passing threat. 

    As a sophomore, Johnson averaged 20.4 points and 12.2 assists per game. He remains one of only two players in NBA history to join the 20-10 club in one of his first two seasons, with Oscar Robertson serving as the other member. In fact, just six players have ever done so in one of their first five seasons—Johnson, Robertson, Tiny Archibald, Tim Hardaway, Chris Paul and Isiah Thomas—and Johnson, Robertson and Thomas are the only ones with three such qualified years. 

    For a nine-year stretch from 1988 through 1997, the dynamic point guard actually averaged 19.8 points and 10.0 dimes per contest, leaving no doubt just how good he was on that end of the floor. 

    Even factoring in his quick decline during his 30s, Johnson retired with a 20.7 PER (No. 7 among the 50 studied point guards). His true shooting percentage was undeniably elite, and he balanced that with a lifetime assist percentage of 38.8 percent, one topped by only seven members of the same group. Factor in earning more win shares per 48 minutes than all but five floor generals, and you can see why he ranks this high despite playing only 735 games. 

    Multiple hidden hernias—which led to other injury problems—prevented him from thriving alongside Charles Barkley once the big man joined him on the Phoenix roster, and they ultimately pushed the 1-guard to retire prematurely. He attempted a comeback at 33 years old, but it lasted only six games, as he clearly wasn't the same player. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

12. Tony Parker

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    Barry Gossage/Getty Images

    Years Played: 2001-Current

    Teams: San Antonio Spurs

    Career Per-Game Stats: 17.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 22.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.9 PER, .550 TS%, 109 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 99.2 WS, 0.148 WS/48, 0.379 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2481.36 PP, 837.42 AS, 191.15 CC, 14.7 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.079 LMVP Shares

    Tony Parker has always played in Gregg Popovich's vaunted system with the San Antonio Spurs, and that's both a good and bad thing. The good is that it's helped him and his team thrive during both the regular season and the playoffs, while the bad is that it's prevented him from standing out more as an individual. Had Parker played for another team, he could've been more selfish and earned better statistics, but he probably wouldn't have won four rings. 

    The French floor general's playoff numbers are undeniably elite. His 2,481.36 Playoff Performance score ranks No. 4 among all 1-guards, and his 837.42 Advancement Shares put him at No. 8 among the same group. 

    It's tough to argue with that resume, especially since Parker has still put up great regular-season numbers all the while. Though he still hasn't developed a truly potent perimeter shot, he's picked his spots wisely throughout his career and managed to shoot quite efficiently. He's also a deft passer with a knack for getting into the lane, and that's helped him earn 0.147 win shares per 48 minutes during his ongoing NBA life. 

    Amazingly enough, he even led the Spurs in win shares twice (7.1 in 2011-12 and 9.3 in 2012-13). It's amazing not because he lacks the talent to accomplish such a feat, but because he's played with Tim Duncan throughout the entirety of his increasingly storied career. 

    Could Parker have experienced more individual glory elsewhere? Perhaps. 

    Nonetheless, here's guessing he has no regrets.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

11. Chris Paul

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Years Played: 2005-Current

    Teams: New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.9 assists, 2.3 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 22.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 11.6 assists, 2.8 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 25.5 PER, .576 TS%, 123 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 127.8 WS, 0.246 WS/48, 1.459 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1047.81 PP, 0 AS, 257.46 CC, 28.61 CC/Season, 2 LMVPs, 3.05 LMVP Shares

    With just 617 games under his belt heading into the 2014-15 season, there's only so high Chris Paul can climb at this stage of his career. However, he's on pace to finish well within the top five by the time he retires, assuming his NBA tenure follows a typical trajectory. 

    Some playoff success would help as well, since Paul is one of just four players either featured or ranked as an honorable mention in this countdown who has never advanced as far as the conference finals. That's not exactly his fault, though, as his Playoff Performance score of 1,047.81 ranks in the top half of the studied floor generals, and his 25.0 postseason PER is undeniably elite. In fact, Paul has actually led the playoffs in PER three times. 

    But even without a ring to his credit (or a deep playoff run for that matter), the Los Angeles Clippers 1-guard has been ridiculously good.

    Only Oscar Robertson has earned more Career Contributions per season, and despite still being in his 20s, Paul is already in the top 10 for total Career Contributions at his position. He's one of only three point guards to win LMVP, and he's the only one to do so twice. He already ranks No. 14 all time in LMVP shares, and, once more, only Robertson is ahead of him in that category. 

    There's more. 

    Paul ranks third among the 50 point guards in both steals and assists per game. His PER leads the field, and John Stockton is the only 1-guard with a higher assist percentage. No one has a better offensive rating or earned more win shares per 48 minutes. Only eight players (all of whom have spent far more time in the Association) have collected more total win shares. Paul even ranks No. 5 in MVP shares despite still playing out his prime. 

    His resume is already sensational, and it's only going to keep getting better.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

10. Steve Nash

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1996-2014

    Teams: Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 14.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 11.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 20.0 PER, .605 TS%, 118 ORtg, 111 DRtg, 129.7 WS, 0.164 WS/48, 2.429 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1795.2 PP, 157.04 AS, 275.52 CC, 15.31 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.117 LMVP Shares

    It might seem blasphemous to have Steve Nash "only" check in at No. 10 in the historical rankings of point guards, but there are no bonus points awarded for being a good guy, entertaining crowds and generally becoming one of the most fun players to watch in NBA history. Style is a nice addition to a resume, but substance matters most. 

    Obviously, there's a lot of substance on Nash's resume, especially with those two MVP awards he earned during his tenure with the Phoenix Suns—except we tend to give him a bit too much credit for engineering those offenses, as he was surrounded by the perfect complementary pieces.

    Shawn Marion, for example, is remarkably undervalued. 

    Nash, even with those pair of MVPs, earned just 15.31 Career Contributions per season, which checks in behind 18 other floor generals who were among the 50 studied for these rankings. The length of his career—even counting his unfortunate decline with the Los Angeles Lakers—allowed him to earn 275.22 total Career Contributions, and that's the No. 6 mark among the same group. 

    Couple that with only 0.117 LMVP Shares and a lackluster playoff resume that features precious few deep runs through the Western Conference, and it becomes a bit more clear why, despite the subjective desires of those who watched him excel during his prime years, it's hard to rank him much higher when sticking to the objective pieces of the puzzle. 

    Nash is a distributing and shooting legend, and he's one of the most creative offensive geniuses who has ever stepped foot on an NBA floor. There's no doubt he's an all-time great, but it's easy to get carried away and try to make him something more than he actually was, especially without defense giving him any advantages on the field. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

9. Jason Kidd

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    Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1994-2013

    Teams: Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 12.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 18.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 10.8 assists, 2.3 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 17.9 PER, .507 TS%, 107 ORtg, 102 DRtg, 138.6 WS, 0.133 WS/48, 0.933 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2156.7 PP, 348.24 AS, 320.66 CC, 18.88 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.625 LMVP Shares

    For a non-scorer like Jason Kidd with a remarkably lengthy career to average 18.88 Career Contributions per season, the No. 12 mark among all analyzed 1-guards, something special must have been happening. 

    And for Kidd, it was. 

    Even overlooking his passing, as impressive as it may have been, he still stands out in three areas—rebounding, defense and improvement. 

    As for the first, he averaged a remarkable 6.3 boards per game throughout his career despite standing only 6'4". Highlighted by a career-best per-game mark of 8.2, earned when he was already well into his 30s, he compiled a career total rebounding percentage of 10.0.

    That's an absolutely incredible rate for a point guard, and it leaves him trailing only Magic Johnson and Fat Lever among the same group of studied point guards that has been referenced so many times. 

    Kidd's defense was nothing to sniff at either.

    He was selected to the All-Defensive squad nine times throughout his 19-year career, consistently swiping the ball away from the opposition and making his team much better on the less glamorous end. Not once in his career, whether at the beginning when he was transitioning from California or at the end when he was nearing 40 years old, did his defensive box plus-minus slip below zero, which indicates he was without fail a plus on that side of the ball. 

    And as for improvement, it's part of what made him so special, allowing him to enjoy a much longer career than he would have otherwise. The easiest way to see it was with his perimeter shooting. He was awful when he first entered the Association and would go on to become one of the most efficient snipers in the league, even if his overall scoring numbers and percentages remained mediocre at best.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

8. Gary Payton

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    Barry Gossage/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1990-2007

    Teams: Seattle SuperSonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat

    Career Per-Game Stats: 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 24.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 2.9 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.9 PER, .528 TS%, 111 ORtg, 106 DRtg, 145.5 WS, 0.148 WS/48, 0.823 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1721.72 PP, 303.07 AS, 321.66 CC, 18.92 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.902 LMVP Shares

    Gary Payton joins Jason Kidd as one of only two point guards in NBA history to gain entry to the All-Defensive squads at least nine times in a career. Except unlike the man who comes in just behind him, Payton also won Defensive Player of the Year.

    He was also more valuable to his teams. 

    Payton, though without question one of the great stoppers in the history of this sport, was by no means a one-way player. He might not have rebounded as well as Kidd or dished out so many dimes, but he was a dangerous scorer and a versatile contributor, one who earned 18.92 Career Contributions per season. Among the 50 studied floor generals, only Chris Paul and the top five players in these rankings fared better in that category. 

    And how about that scoring? 

    The man known fondly as "The Glove" averaged 24.2 points per game during the 1999-00 season, and it was one of seven in which he broke past the 20-point barrier. He didn't do so in the most efficient fashion, but scoring was never supposed to be his forte.

    He was great at it, but defense was always the calling card. And it's always the first thing people will associate with him when discussing his ultimate legacy. Well, either that or his trash-talking, as ESPN.com's J.A. Adande once highlighted

    Do a Google image search for Gary Payton, and one of the earliest and most frequent pictures you'll see is of him jawing at Michael Jordan in the middle of the 1996 NBA Finals. It looks like Payton is about to drop an F-bomb ... and according to his recollections, that's probably a safe bet.

    "It was a lot everything," Payton said. "A lot of 's---', 'f---', 'f--- you'. And then Ron Harper got into it, Scottie Pippen got into it, Phil [Jackson] got into it. We were going back and forth with the 'f--- you.'"

    Sometimes the Google algorithms create an unfair or unfortunate link, capturing a moment that doesn't truly represent a person's life. This isn't one of those times. If the Basketball Hall of Fame had busts of its enshrinees like its pro football counterpart, Payton's would have to be cast with his head cocked and mouth open, perpetually talking trash.

    More often than not, he could back up the words.    


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

7. Isiah Thomas

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1981-94

    Teams: Detroit Pistons

    Career Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 22.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 13.9 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.1 PER, .516 TS%, 106 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 80.7 WS, 0.109 WS/48, 0.318 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1921.41 PP, 549.79 AS, 176.47 CC, 13.57 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.2 LMVP Shares

    Somewhat unexpectedly, not all advanced stats and performance metrics care for Isiah Thomas. 

    His career PER of 18.1 isn't exactly elite among his peers, and his win-share numbers are decidedly unimpressive. In fact, 24 studied point guards have earned more over the course of their careers, and 35 have earned them at a quicker rate.

    On top of that, Thomas earned just 13.57 Career Contributions per season, which beats out only Dennis Johnson, Mark Price, Rajon Rondo and Jo Jo White among ranked players. 

    But don't worry. There are plenty of positives. 

    Though he never made any All-Defensive squads, Thomas helped set the tone for the "Bad Boys" during the 1980s, even steering those Detroit Pistons to a pair of championships. He was a tough, gritty leader who thrived when he was doing the little things, such as playing on a severely sprained ankle and flat-out refusing to call it quits. 

    Plus, context helps explain away some of the flaws in the resume. For example, of course he didn't earn too many Career Contributions when he was playing next to so many great players like Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson and Bill Laimbeer. 

    All the lackluster metrics do push Thomas down in the rankings probably to a point that many will be surprised to find him appearing so soon, but it's not as though he wasn't a true all-time great at the 1.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

6. Bob Cousy

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Years Played: 1950-70

    Teams: Boston Celtics, Cincinnati Royals

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists

    Ultimate Season: 21.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 9.5 assists

    Career Advanced Stats: 19.8 PER, .446 TS%, 91.1 WS, 0.139 WS/48, 0.882 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1620.83 PP, 1328.37 AS, 213.22 CC, 15.23 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0 LMVP Shares

    If there was any point guard who was ahead of his time, it was Bob Cousy. 

    A true master of his position, Cousy wasn't content to play basketball the way it had always been played when he arrived in the league. He brought some flair to the hardwood—some Houdini, if you will—with his behind-the-back passes, no-look endeavors and previously unseen levels of creativity. And not only did it dazzle crowds, but it helped the Boston Celtics win a lot of games, too.

    Sadly, assist percentage wasn't tracked until the final season of the floor general's career, and he only played seven games with the Cincinnati Royals during that time. But throughout that small sample, his assist percentage was a sparkling 32.0 while he averaged a career-high 10.6 dimes per 36 minutes.

    Chances are his actual career assist percentage would be lower, given his average of 7.9 assists per 36 minutes with the uptempo Celtics, but it would surely still be impressive. 

    Cousy wasn't the most efficient scorer, but he still contributed enough on both ends to earn 15.23 Career Contributions per season while suiting up for 14 years. And since he played with so many Boston legends, that's even more of a standout number than it would typically be. 

    Plus, the playoff metrics help out this 1-guard quite a bit. Though his Playoff Performance score leaves something to be desired, his 1,328.37 Advancement Shares trail only Magic Johnson at the position. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

5. Walt Frazier

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    Associated Press

    Years Played: 1967-80

    Teams: New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 23.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 19.1 PER, .542 TS%, 104 ORtg, 98 DRtg, 113.5 WS, 0.176 WS/48, 0.151 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1980.9 PP, 689.63 AS, 248.78 CC, 19.14 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.456 LMVP Shares

    "It's Clyde's ball," Willis Reed, Walt "Clyde" Frazier's teammate with the New York Knicks, once told Sport magazine (via NBA.com). "He just lets us play with it once in awhile."

    I don't know if Reed meant it this way, but this statement applied to both ends of the court. 

    Frazier was a dynamic offensive player, one capable of scoring at will or distributing the rock out to his teammates with his deft passing skills. He was just as creative with the ball in his hands as he was fancy off the court, but he always seemed to find his targets once the ball left his hands. 

    But Frazier was even better at defense. 

    Arguably the greatest defensive point guard of all time, Frazier was a master of thievery, lulling the man he was guarding into a false sense of security before ripping the ball away and bursting down the court once he'd gained possession. He was named to seven All-Defensive teams during his career, and a Defensive Player of the Year selection wouldn't have been out of the question had the award existed back when he played. 

    Frazier was also remarkably valuable to his teams, many of which were quite successful during both the regular season and the playoffs. His 19.14 Career Contributions per season helped him earn 1.456 LMVP shares, more than any point guard in NBA history save Chris Paul and two of the players who have yet to show up in this countdown. 

    It's hard to determine which he was better at—standing out with his style, both on and off the court, or providing quality production to his teams on a nightly basis. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

4. John Stockton

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1984-2003

    Teams: Utah Jazz

    Career Per-Game Stats: 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 10.5 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 17.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 14.5 assists, 3.2 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 21.8 PER, .608 TS%, 121 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 207.7 WS, 0.209 WS/48, 0.161 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2704.52 PP, 251.46 AS, 439.81 CC, 23.15 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.771 LMVP Shares

    John Stockton was put in the perfect position to succeed. 

    Not only was Jerry Sloan his head coach for much of his career, maximizing his talents on both ends of the court, but he played at a time when it was easier to earn assists (thanks, generous scorers!) and suited up next to Karl Malone. The power forward was the ideal pick-and-roll partner to use against a league that largely didn't know how to stop what was—at that time—a novel system. 

    Of course, plenty of players have had perfect situations thrown at them. Few have ever capitalized like Stockton did. 

    Not only does he have the all-time assists record, which might as well be unbreakable, but he remains one of the best thieves the NBA has ever witnessed. And he was one of the best defensive point guards for that matter. Though Stockton was never a volume scorer, topping out at 17.2 points per game during the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons, and never thrived on the glass, he did just about everything else well. 

    How about those 23.15 Career Contributions per season?

    That's the No. 4 mark at this position, and Stockton maintained his level of play for so long that he has the largest total Career Contributions figure of any point guard in NBA history. In fact, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Adrian Dantley, Michael Jordan and Malone are the only players at any position above 439.81. 

    The lone aspect of his resume holding him back was the frustrating inability to get over the hump. While Stockton's 2,704.52 Playoff Performance score trails only the top two players at his position, his Advancement Share, a mediocre 251.46, falls outside the top 20. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

3. Oscar Robertson

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1960-74

    Teams: Cincinnati Royals, Milwaukee Bucks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 25.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 31.4 points, 12.5 rebounds, 11.5 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 23.2 PER, .564 TS%, 98 DRtg, 189.2 WS, 0.207 WS/48, 2.479 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1928.98 PP, 407.64 AS, 437.5 CC, 31.25 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 4.2 LMVP Shares

    Oscar Robertson's 1961-62 campaign with the Cincinnati Royals is one of the most famous in NBA history, seeing as he averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game to become the first and only player who has ever put up a season-long triple-double. 

    But what often goes overlooked is that Robertson didn't just average a triple-double for one season. He might never have matched the feat during an isolated go-round, but here are his per-game numbers for the first six seasons of his career combined: 

    30.4 points. 10.0 rebounds. 10.7 assists. 

    That's a triple-double right there. 

    Robertson's all-around excellence allowed him to earn quite a few win shares, as you might expect. In addition to a studly 23.2 PER, he accumulated 189.2 win shares over the course of his career, more than any point guard other than John Stockton. They piled up at a rate of 0.207 per 48 minutes, faster than all but four floor generals throughout NBA history. 

    But it's in the performance metrics where Robertson stands out, even if his Advancement Shares aren't too special and are boosted by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's presence when they joined forces on the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Robertson's 31.25 Career Contributions per season are not only the top mark at the position, but they blow everyone else out. Chris Paul's 28.6 are the No. 2 average, and only the next player to appear in this countdown joins them in the above-25 club. Just six players at any position top Robertson here, in fact. 

    He's also one of only three point guards to win LMVP, his 2.479 MVP Shares trail only the top-ranked player at the position and his 4.2 LMVP Shares place him behind just seven players in NBA history, none of whom are point guards. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

2. Jerry West

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1960-74

    Teams: Los Angeles Lakers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 27.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 31.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 22.9 PER, .550 TS%, 95 DRtg, 162.6 WS, 0.213 WS/48, 2.090 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 3489.93 PP, 955.83 AS, 356.81 CC, 25.49 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 2.687 LMVP Shares

    Yes, Jerry West qualifies as a point guard.

    As stated multiple times throughout this article and the historical series as a whole, positional designations were not made subjectively, but rather determined by whichever position Basketball-Reference.com lists the player at more frequently throughout the course of his career.

    While this might be surprising, given that West is typically found in rankings of the league's premier 2-guards, he was listed as a point guard during 12 of his career's 14 seasons. 

    So, point guard it is. 

    In 1972, Sports Illustrated ran a piece with the following quote, as Bill Simmons relayed in The Book of Basketball: "There has been a groundswell for West the last few seasons, so that now he is often accepted as the equal, or the superior, of Oscar Robertson as the finest guard of all time." 

    Obviously, players have come around and dethroned those two, but it was a valid sentiment at the time. Plus, West only built his resume with two more deserving All-Star seasons, one of which saw him named First Team All-NBA. Meanwhile, Robertson quickly declined during the years just following that Sports Illustrated claim. 

    Throughout their careers as a whole, the two point guards had fairly similar resumes. Robertson was a slightly better offensive player in a vacuum, and he was certainly more valuable to his teams, given West's superstar teammates. But the man who would go on to be the model for the NBA's logo was an unbelievably gifted defender, which is part of what pushes him over the top. 

    So too does his playoff success, as despite only winning a single ring, West consistently put his team in a position to take home the trophy. Even without too many titles working in his favor, he finishes No. 2 and No. 6 in Playoff Performance and Advancement Shares respectively among point guards.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

1. Magic Johnson

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1979-96

    Teams: Los Angeles Lakers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 11.2 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 23.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 13.1 assists, 3.4 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 24.1 PER, .610 TS%, 121 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 155.8 WS, 0.225 WS/48, 5.129 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 4208.5 PP, 1384.98 AS, 270.76 CC, 20.83 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.2 LMVP Shares

    The only flaw on Magic Johnson's resume is the lack of an LMVP, which is rather hard to earn when you're consistently playing on teams that are right near the top of the NBA standings year in and year out. 

    Other than that, he has it all covered. 

    Just take a peek at all the categories in which he leads the field of point guards: Playoff Performance, Advancement Shares, assists per game, true shooting percentage (even without a potent perimeter jumper), total rebounding percentage, MVPs and MVP shares.

    Beyond that, he finishes in the top five for Career Contributions per season, titles, rebounds per game, blocks per game, PER, offensive rating, win shares, win shares per 48 minutes, All-Star selections and All-NBA honors. 

    But perhaps most impressively, he put together this type of legacy despite having his career cut short. 

    Johnson missed four seasons in his early 30s as he dealt with HIV. And though he was still a valuable player when he returned to the Los Angeles Lakers for the 1995-96 campaign, he clearly wasn't the legendary floor general he'd previously been. 

    Whether we're talking about scoring, distributing, rebounding, providing value to his teams, playing efficient basketball, making crowds believe in, well, Magic, winning playoff games or doing whatever it took to win, this particular 1-guard was the best in the business.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year)