Talk about a hot and relevant topic. As we head into the NBA playoffs with Damian Lillard setting the world on fire, there is no better time to rank the best point guards in the NBA. Of course, people might get mad at us for a specific exclusion. So let’s get an important disclaimer out of the way.
LeBron James is not on this list. Despite the fact that one of us here advocated heavily for The King’s inclusion, ultimately James was not under consideration for the top spot in our 10 Best NBA Point Guards list. Why? Even though James, of course, serves as the point guard for the Lakers, a segment of the NBA fandom will argue he’s really a forward, or a point-forward, or whatever other hybrid terminology you want to label him with.
So in order not argue for hours and never come to an agreement about what LeBron actually is in 17th NBA season or what he isn’t, we kept him off. Sorry Lakers fans and LeBron stans. And listen, this isn't just about LeBron, but guys like James Harden, too. We view him as a shooting guard and that's how he's used in the current Rockets offense with Russell Westbrook playing point guard.
So this list features the 10 best point guards in today’s NBA who have spent their entire careers serving as their team’s definitive ball-handler, facilitator, distributor, and leader with no wiggle room for being labeled as anything but. The young and old are well represented and while you can quibble with where we slotted some guys, you can’t quibble with the 10 we chose.
10. Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry's career is pretty remarkable. It's wild to think that he started his NBA journey all the way back in 2006 with the Grizzlies. Talk about a wild ride that's led Lowry to becoming the face of the Toronto Raptors and an NBA champion. And to think he was almost traded to the Knicks in 2013. Instead of taking his talents to MSG, Lowry has become nothing short of a Canadian hero. The memories of all those playoff loses to LeBron James disappeared when he helped the Raptors win the title. And though he's one of the older guys on this list, his numbers are still at an All-Star level, not to mention the fact that the Raptors look just as dangerous this year as they did last season. Lowry is a future Hall of Famer and a top 10 point guard in the NBA.
9. Trae Young
Who else, other than Curry or Lillard, can light it up on this list like Young? The diminutive Hawks point guard, who will forever be compared to Doncic thanks to their 2018 draft day trade, has quickly vaulted himself in his two seasons to top 10 status because he’s a walking bucket that averaged 29.6 PPG this season. But he’s not just a scorer—he’s also an elite distributor. Young averaged an ultra-impressive 9.3 APG in his second season with lowly Atlanta, ending his sophomore season with a 45.6 assist percentage—nearly identical to Luka Doncic’s. It seems like Luka’s passes get more shine than Trae’s—you can draw your own conclusions on that one—and Young isn’t quite the advanced metrics wonder that Doncic is across the board when you start talking about BPM and PER. But Young can boast a better true shooting percentage than Doncic and raising the Hawks to relevancy will be a much heavier lift than what Doncic is doing over in Dallas. Even if Young doesn’t boast the stronger set of shoulders in the game, he’s too dynamic not to drag Atlanta back into the postseason one of these years. And soon enough he’ll start ascending much higher on this list.
8. Ben Simmons
Simmons is easily one of the most polarizing players in the NBA. It seems like people either love or hate his game. No in-between. And honestly, it seems that people don't truly understand how good of an all-around player Simmons is. Yes, the lack of outside shooting will continue to hinder him, and truly, that's probably why so many people have soured on him as a player. But we shouldn't let it cloud his skillset. He's a menace on the defensive side of the ball, racking up a career high 2.1 steals per game this season, while averaging 16.4 PPG and 8.0 APG. Simmons is an excellent passer and has vision that few others possess. While the lack of shooting is a concern, there's something to be said for how easily Simmons is able to change games without a real outside shot. There's talk that Philly is going to have to choose between Simmons and Joel Embiid in the near future. That's not an easy choice, but it seems way too early to give up on Simmons before he even turns 25.
7. Kemba Walker
After too many years playing in obscurity down in Charlotte, it’s finally time to see what Walker can do when there’s legit pressure to advance deep into the postseason and not just be happy you made it. We all know Cardiac Kemba has a track record of balling out on the big stage dating back to his UConn days, but now that he’s running the show up in Boston the stakes couldn't be higher. Celtics fans will not let him live down any failures in the playoffs, but considering he arrives on our list at No. 7 for some very obvious reasons Boston fans shouldn’t be too concerned. A dynamic scorer with elite handles and an assassin in the pick-and-roll, Walker’s a four-time All-Star, has made an All-NBA team, and compares quite favorably to Kyrie Irving when it comes to career win shares. We all know Irving’s a class above Walker and Irving’s injury history plays a big part in why they’re so close in that advanced metric. While Irving has made some incredibly clutch shots in his professional career, who wouldn’t feel just fine letting Walker shake and bake with the clock running down before he launches one of the game’s most devastating step-back rainbow jumpers for the win.
6. Chris Paul
The immortal one, Chris Paul. It's pretty wild that he's still this good after this many years. Everyone wrote CP3 off when he was traded to the Thunder last summer, but what did he do? Led the Thunder to the playoffs while putting up 17 and 6 and shooting his best percentage from the field in nearly a decade. Truly amazing. Not only has CP3 led the Thunder to the playoffs, but he's also has taken Shai Gilgeous-Alexander under his wing and helped push SGA into one of the most promising guards in the NBA. And look, we already told you Paul is one of the best 30 NBA players in NBA history. Everything he does from this point on is just icing on the cake. Time to give CP3 his flowers.
5. Luka Doncic
The present and the future of the NBA. I know I’m not the only one out there predicting Doncic wins a couple of MVPs because at just 21 years old he’s doing things we’ve basically never seen a second-year point guard do. Last season’s Rookie of the Year is having an even better sophomore campaign, almost averaging a triple-double (29.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and 9.0 APG), including a recent game against the Kings in the bubble where he became the youngest player in NBA history with a 30-point, 20-rebound triple-double. Now we can make the case that the triple-double is overrated in today’s position-less game and people go a little too crazy over the stat. But Luka is living up to the massive hype heaped upon him as entered the league and he will assuredly be All-NBA this season after making his first All-Star Game and leading the Mavericks back to the playoffs for the first time in three years. Already featuring one of the game’s best step-back threes, Doncic is also an elite distributor with a 45.5 assist percentage that’s hovering near the number LeBron James—your 2019-20 NBA assist leader—will finish this season with (49.1). In our book, Doncic should finish in the top 5 of the MVP voting and it’d be silly to think he’s not going to be among the leading candidates for the award every season for the next decade.
4. Kyrie Irving
A lot of people have seemed to forgotten just how good Irving is on a basketball court. The injuries are obviously a concern, but can you blame the Nets for being cautious with Kyrie this year while Kevin Durant isn't even playing? Why rush one of your two max players when the other guy was never playing. When he's healthy and on the court, Kyrie is a dazzling scorer and an underrated passer. He's a guy who can get his on any level, with an excellent shot from deep and unbelievable touch around the rim. He's probably the best finisher in the NBA and has brilliant handles no matter who is guarding him. People seem to not like Kyrie for a variety of reasons, but you can't say that he doesn't speak his mind and wear his thoughts on his sleeve. His exits out of Boston and Cleveland likely left some fans with a permanent sour taste in their mouth, but you can't deny his talent. Basketball needs a healthy Kyrie Irving back on the court in 2021.
3. Russell Westbrook
Mr. Triple-Double has worked out way better in Houston than many ever believed as the Russ that’s been unleashed via small ball has shown us he remains elite at age 31. Now it’s not like Westbrook was starting to show signs of decline during his final three seasons in Oklahoma City when he averaged a triple-double each season, but let’s just say maybe we took his brand of basketball for granted. His 2016-2017 MVP season was something to behold as he became just the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double over an entire campaign, but the following two seasons where he repeated the feat didn’t hit as hard as OKC yet again failed to advance past the first-round of the playoffs. You could knock him for chasing triple-doubles with the Thunder and we know he’s a horrid 3-point shooter, but today’s version of Russ is arguably the most lethal and efficient version we’ve seen. Mike D’Antoni’s offense is perfect for Westbrook since nobody slashes to the basket like him (he had career-high .493 effective FG percentage this season) and even though he’s playing alongside ball-dominant James Harden, Westbrook continues to distribute at a high level (7.0 APG compared to Harden’s 7.5). As long as he’s playing with Harden, he won’t be the definitive handler like he was in OKC. But Westbrook, king of the snarl and rim-rattling dunks, is still an elite point guard with a maniacal competitive spirit rivaled only by Damian Lillard and Chris Paul.
2. Damian Lillard
Do we even need a blurb here? Lillard is the reason we're doing this list right now. He showed up in Orlando and set the bubble on fire. He rightfully earned the "Bubble MVP" honor after averaging 37 PPG and shooting over 46 percent from deep. Oh yeah, he also averaged 9 assists per game, too. And he led the Blazers to the playoffs. And he dropped 51 and 61 in consecutive games after being called out by Paul George and the Clippers. Dame is not only one of the best players in the NBA, he's not like everyone else. He's different and his commitment to Portland showcases that each and every night. The real question here was whether or not Dame should be No. 1 on this list. Ultimately, he was slotted at No. 2, but that's no slight. He's playing unreal right now and has continually been one of the most exciting players in the NBA. Dame deserves every bit of the love coming his way right now.
1. Steph Curry
Since we ranked Curry the 15th greatest player in NBA history last month, there was no way we weren’t going to have him on top of this list. The greatest outsider shooter the league has ever seen had a rough go of it during an injury-plagued 2019-20 season, but the skills of the 32-year-old certainly haven’t diminished and until Curry’s shot starts clanking more than swishing he’ll continue to be the game’s top point guard. Are there deficiencies in his game? Sure. We all know defense isn’t exactly his thing, but if you need a bucket there are few players in the game you’d rather have with the ball in his hands than Curry. Entering the final few years of his prime, Curry’s production isn’t quite what it was during his crazy days winning back-to-back MVPs in 2015 and 2016. That being said, the man with the quickest release in the sport and the best handles this side of Kyrie is the premier point guard in the game until further notice.