Now that the 2022-23 NBA regular season is a wrap, it’s time for us at Complex to sit back, reflect, recap the year that was, and do what we always do: write up a ranking list that’ll have you cussing at your computer screen. We’ve already been doing this for the best teams, week in and week out, so it’s only fitting to list the top position players for the league’s 77th season. Today, we focus on the guards of The Association. Many names and stats had to be sifted through, like De’Aaron Fox and his league-leading 194 clutch points, which earned him the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year Award. Or Jalen Brunson’s 24-point season average being the most for a point guard in New York Knicks history. Or how James Harden’s 21 dimes against the Los Angeles Clippers propelled him to the assists per game title and tied a Philadelphia 76ers’ record.
You know, stuff like that.
None of them made this list, by the way. That’s how hard narrowing this to five was. Honorable mentions go to Devin Booker, who averaged 27.8 points on 49.4 percent shooting (both career highs), but injuries resulted in the least played games in his eight-year career (53). Trae Young was second in assists but had the worst percentage from the field (42.9) since his rookie campaign and led the league in turnovers. And if Ja Morant weren’t channeling his inner NBA YoungBoy in a nudie bar and being such a distraction off the court, he probably would’ve cracked this list.
But these star players did.
Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
That is where Dame Time, already legendary, became otherworldly against the Houston Rockets. After recording a career-high, franchise-high and season-tying-high 71 points, Damian Lillard proved that at age 32, he’s still one of the best point guards ever to play professional basketball. On top of that performance being Dame’s 15th 50-plus game, the sixth most in league history, that 71 made him the oldest player to reach such a feat, tying him for the eighth-most points scored in a game and the eighth player in history to drop that many buckets, which included 13 threes, one shy of the league record. Despite another trash year for the Portland Trail Blazers, where they missed the playoffs for the second straight season, the 11-year vet put up career marks in points, 32.2—third in the NBA—field goal percentage, 46.3—ranked in the top-20—and three-points made, 4.2 a game—second in the league. Amongst his guard brethren, he sits second behind Luka Doncic in points per game, second behind Steph Curry in True Shooting Percentage (.645) and 11th in 3-pointers and third in free throws.
A walking bucket, he was this season.
That’s why the #FreeDame campaign will gain traction once the offseason kicks off, as the Blazers are looking to rebuild. Dame Dolla slinging rhymes and dimes in Kings County has a nice ring.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
In the Dallas Mavericks fan multiverse, owner Mark Cuban would’ve given Jalen Brunson the $55 million extension he was eligible to receive last season. There would be no Kyrie Irving trade; thus, no late-season flameout this season, and Luka Doncic would’ve nabbed his first MVP–because there hasn’t been a most valuable player on a losing team since “The Logo” Jerry West in 1969. The Slovenian point guard put up numbers that if he were on a winning roster, there would’ve been endless and ridiculously annoying MVP debates between Doncic, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. The 24-year-old started the season hot, with his first six games scoring 30 or more points, the sixth player ever to do so and the first since Michael Jordan in 1986. Luka finished the 2022-23 campaign second in points per game, a career-high 32.4, the same stat that tops scoring amongst all guards. The four-time All-Star also dropped the most individual points amongst guards (2,138) while shooting nearly 50 percent (49.6)—also career highs. Not to mention the ten triple-doubles he orchestrated—the third most this season—and a league-leading four 50-point games. Then there was the December 27th double overtime win against the New York Knicks, where ol’ boy dropped 60 points, grabbed 21 boards and dished ten dimes, becoming the first player in NBA history to put together a 60-point triple-double.
Look it up.