Ranking NBA's 20 best guards: The usual suspects lead the way with a few young stars on the rise

Some of the league's biggest stars come from the backcourt of an NBA team. For the last five years, a guard has led the league in scoring, with that honor rotating between James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry

Point guards used to be a traditional facilitator, always looking to get other teammates involved before ever looking to score. While there are still a few point guards like that in the league, the position has shifted to becoming more of a scoring role, blurring the lines between who is a point guard and shooting guard. Some players can interchange between the two positions, moving effortlessly with or without the ball. This is one of the reasons why Stephen Curry is at the top of this list. 

So let's rank the top 20 guards in basketball, keeping in mind the following rules: 

And so, here are the top 20 guards in the NBA

Top 20 Guards in the NBA
Stephen Curry Golden State Warriors PG
The landscape of the league may have changed, but Stephen Curry is still the best guard in the league. Even during the Kevin Durant era in the Bay Area, Curry still led the the Warriors in scoring. Now that Durant is in Brooklyn, and with Klay Thompson sidelined until at least the All-Star break, Curry could put together another 50-40-90 season that earned him his second consecutive MVP in 2016.
James Harden Houston Rockets SG
James Harden may be one of the most polarizing players ever, but his genius cannot be denied. He might be the best isolation scorer in NBA history, and while it seems unbelievable, it appears he's improving every season. Harden averaged 36 points a game last season, and while his scoring may slow down with the addition of Russell Westbrook, his craftiness will still be present in every other facet of his game.
Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers PG
Perhaps the most overlooked player at his position, Damian Lillard ensures you remember his impact on the game on a nightly basis. He never shies away from the big moments. In fact, time and time again he's proven that he thrives under pressure. He's got the confidence of a six-time champion with every 35-foot bomb he sinks at the buzzer, and he has the ability to put the entire team on his back and carry them all the way to the Western Conference finals. Lillard may not get the respect he deserves all the time, but he reminds us of his All-Star status every time he plays.
Bradley Beal Washington Wizards SG
What been most impressive about Bradley Beal over the past few years is his versatility and willingness to fill whatever role the Wizards need him to handle. He can be the primary ball-handler on offense, where he can get to the basket with ease. Or, he can play off the ball, hovering around the 3-point line waiting to launch one. Either way, Beal fits seamlessly into any system, and whether he's still with the Wizards, or ends up getting traded, any team would be lucky to have him in their starting lineup.
Kyrie Irving Brooklyn Nets PG
Last season for Kyrie Irving was filled with a lot of distractions -- most brought on by himself. Calling his teammates out for their lack of experience, not to mention his premature commitment to Boston, which backfired very quickly. With every crossover and crafty finish at the rim, Irving muddled it with postgame comments. He's a talented point guard, who is hoping that a homecoming with the Brooklyn Nets will be enough to begin a new chapter in his career.
Kemba Walker Boston Celtics PG
Not only will Kemba Walker provide Boston an upgraded supporting cast, but it will finally give him a national stage to showcase his talents. Only those who cared enough to watch a full Charlotte Hornets game know of Walker's skills. Celtics fans are essentially getting Kyrie Irving-Lite without all of the headaches. 
Russell Westbrook Houston Rockets G
There isn't another player in the league who brings the same amount of intensity as Russell Westbrook does on a nightly basis. Sometimes that intensity makes him a target for opposing fans -- and opponents -- but he's taken the once sacred idea of averaging a triple-double and turned into a common occurrence. He's no longer the face of a franchise, so the lingering question is: Can he handle being the second option in Houston when he played Superman in Oklahoma City for so long?
Jrue Holiday New Orleans Pelicans PG
Statistically, 2018-19 was Jrue Holiday's best season yet. He averaged 21 points and seven assists, and earned his second All-Defensive team honors. As far as guards go, Holiday has been underrated for years, while averaging 17 points and 6.9 assists for the past six years. With Anthony Davis now in Los Angeles, Holiday can now step into the spotlight as the leader of this team.
Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers PG
In only his second season, Ben Simmons was named an All-Star, and at 23 years old he still hasn't reached his full potential. He's already shown his elite playmaking ability, insane athleticism and rebounding ability, and at his size, he's able to hold his own on the defensive end of the floor. All that's missing is a consistent jumper, and if/when that happens, Simmons will be a nightmare in every aspect of the game.
Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks SF
Luka Doncic can shoot from virtually everywhere on the floor, already has a patented move with his step-back 3 and in his lone rookie season has already shown glimpses of superstar potential. If he can become a more capable defender, and cut down on turnovers he'll be a true star in this league sooner than later.
CJ McCollum Portland Trail Blazers SG
Oftentimes, CJ McCollum gets overlooked because of Lillard's show-stopping performances, but McCollum's play in the postseason the past few years has come up big for Portland. In a pivotal Game 3 in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, McCollum went off for 41 points in the four-overtime game against the Nuggets to give the Blazers the edge in that series. He might not receive most of the attention, but this team doesn't succeed without McCollum.
Mike Conley Utah Jazz PG
Last year, Mike Conley had a career-best season after undergoing surgery on his left heel, which caused him to miss 70 games during the 2017-18 season. This offseason he was traded to Utah ahead of his 13th season in the league. Memphis traded its franchise point guard to give him the ability to compete for a championship once more, and if he's able to stay healthy, the Utah Jazz could compete for the West crown with the addition of Conley. 
Victor Oladipo Indiana Pacers SG
If it weren't for an untimely quad injury last season, Victor Oladipo would be a few spots higher on this list. He showed he can play at an All-Star level before his injury, and if he's able to return back to form, he'll only improve on both ends of the floor.
Klay Thompson Golden State Warriors SG
Another player that is lower than usual on this list, Klay Thompson will be working his way back from a torn ACL, and won't be back until after the All-Star break at best. If Thompson makes a full recovery this season, the Warriors are once again considered one of the top 2-3 teams in the West. That's how much of an impact he has on the floor.
One of the most exciting young players in the league, Donovan Mitchell possesses an elite scoring ability and craftiness around the basket. He's shown improvement in his 3-point shot in his first two years in the league, and the Jazz are betting on him making another leap in his third year to become the All-Star he's shown glimpses of becoming. 
Chris Paul Oklahoma City Thunder PG
In today's NBA, Chris Paul's style of play is a dying breed. He looks to get his teammates the ball before looking to shoot on most occasions, but he's been able to adapt over his 14-year career. He's had durability issues over the past few years, but when he's healthy he's still one of the best guards in the league. 
Devin Booker Phoenix Suns SG
Despite averaging 26 points a night last season, Devin Booker often receive the recognition he deserves because of the team he's on. He's often considered an empty-stats guy, but despite his team losses, Booker is one of the best pure scorers in the league. If he can get a quality team around him, his talents will only be heightened and respected more.
Kyle Lowry Toronto Raptors PG
Turns out this will not be Kyle Lowry's final season with the Toronto Raptors after they agreed on a $31M contract extension. The 33-year-old point guard has been the face of the franchise for so many years, and is now an NBA champion and has an entire country eternally grateful after having a hand in delivering a title to the city of Toronto.
De'Aaron Fox Sacramento Kings PG
Last season, De'Aaron Fox took the kind of leap that many teams with young point guards would like to see from their players. His scoring efficiency, passing and court vision all improved, and was a big reason the Kings were on the brink of making the playoffs last year. Sacramento hasn't had a quality point guard in a while, but with Fox's continued improvement, it doesn't look like it needs to look anymore.
Jamal Murray Denver Nuggets PG
The Nuggets gave Jamal Murray a five-year, $170 million deal this offseason, showing how much they value their young point guard. Murray may not be mentioned as frequently as some of the other young point guards on this list, but he's proven he should be in that conversation as one of the top point guards under the age of 25.

A couple of takeaways from this list:

Point guards dominate the top 20 list

Among the 20 players listed above, 13 of them are point guards. That's not too surprising, considering finding a quality shooting guard is on the to-do list for just about every team in the league every offseason. Nearly each team in the league has its franchise point guard, but a lot of them don't have as talented of a shooting guard to complete their backcourt. Only the Warriors, Rockets and Trail Blazers both placed both backcourt positions on the top 20 list, which translates to the success of those teams the past few years. 

Young guards are on the rise

There are seven guards under the age of 25 that cracked the top 20, which speaks to the youth movement the league is undergoing. The top of the list is still dominated by older, experienced guards, but Ben Simmons and Luka Doncic made the top 10, and will likely keep rising as their careers progress. Both Simmons (6-10) and Doncic (6-7) are taller than the usual point guard too, which could be a trend toward bigger point guards who can play and defend multiple positions. Those two could be outliers, or could be the new trend as the years go on.

Jasmyn Wimbish has been closely following the NBA since Dirk Nowitzki hit his sweet signature jumper to send the Miami Heat packing in 2011. She's a graduate of the University of Kansas and Northern Arizona... Full Bio

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