21. Wataru Misaka
Misaka isn’t a big-name athlete. We aren’t quite sure why, considering Misaka broke multiple barriers en route to a professional basketball career. A native of Utah, the 5-foot-7 point guard became the first non-white player to ever play in the NBA. Duly, he was also the first player of Asian descent to feature in the association. After helping the University of Utah win a national title in 1944, Misaka played in three games for the New York Knicks during the 1947-48 season. Though the 94-year-old didn’t have a long career in the NBA, he still should be recognized regardless.
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20. Earl Boykins
A Cleveland basketball legend, Boykins carved out quite a nice niche for himself in the NBA. The 5-foot-5 dynamo constantly played the game with a chip on his shoulder. He had only one college scholarship out of high school (Eastern Michigan), and went undrafted upon graduating. Regardless, Boykins terrorized opposing guards with sublime quickness and shocking power (Boykins was rumored to bench press well over 300 pounds despite weighing roughly 135 pounds himself). For his career, Boykins averaged 8.9 PPG in 13 NBA seasons.
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19. D.J. Augustin
Augustin is the quintessential backup point guard. Heady and smart, he isn’t overly good at any one trait. Essentially, the New Orleans native is ‘capable’. Augustin has started in spurts for various teams throughout his 10-year career. Currently 31 years of age, he’s commanding the lead guard spot for the Orlando Magic. For his career, Augustin has averaged 9.6 PPG and 3.9 APG in 23.7 MPG.
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18. Aaron Brooks
The Seattle native has proven over the course of his career to be lightning in the proverbial bottle. In his prime, Brooks could score from anywhere on the floor. Despite his thin 6-foot frame, Brooks averaged 19.6 PPG as a third-year player for the Houston Rockets. He was adept at slithering in-and-out of traffic in pick-and-roll situations. Brooks was at his best when running at defenders in transition. Throughout the course of his career, the former Oregon Duck averaged 9.7 PPG.
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17. Avery Johnson
The term ‘floor general’ completely applies to Johnson. A gregarious individual, Johnson was instrumental to the success of the San Antonio Spurs through the ’90s. Johnson — generally listed at 5-foot-10 — played much bigger than his size would indicate. He was an absolute pest on the defensive end of the floor. Duly, he did anything to help his team win. Johnson was the unequivocal leader on the Spurs’ 1999 title team. His ability to inspire teammates led to him eventually becoming a very successful NBA coach.
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16. Ty Lawson
Lawson was a flash in the proverbial pan. The thickly-built 5-foot-11 lead guard was a former first-round pick out of North Carolina. By his second year, Lawson quickly garnered a reputation as a player capable of scoring in bunches. He loved to push the pace, and often excelled when putting pressure on the opposition. Lawson’s best season came in 2013-14 (17.6 PPG and 8.8 APG). After being a fringe All-Star, Lawson completely fell off the map. Injuries and off-the-court issues led to Lawson being out of the NBA by the age of 30. His professional career will primarily be known for a solid five-year run with the Denver Nuggets.
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15. J.J. Barea
The pugnacious Puerto Rican went from an end of the bench player to one of the most reliable reserves in the league. He’s spent the vast majority of his 13-year career with the Dallas Mavericks (where he’s incredibly beloved). Barea — standing at 6-feet — has an uncanny ability to get to any spot on the floor he wants. He’s not athletic — nor is he overly quick. Still, Barea has continued to be a very productive playmaker. This includes scoring for himself as well as involving teammates. Barea was a key cog in the Mavericks’ 2011 title run.
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14. Patty Mills
The diminutive Australian has long been a staple on San Antonio’s bench. Mills plays the game with tremendous energy. Oftentimes, this infectiousness enables the Spurs to get out and run. Mills — generously listed at 6-feet — was immense in helping San Antonio capture a title in 2014. He’s averaged double-digits on four separate occasions, and still is considered to be an elite backup point guard.
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13. Spud Webb
Anthony ‘Spud’ Webb ushered in a welcome party for all vertically-challenged individuals hoping to play in the NBA. The Dallas native was a fourth-round pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. He quickly made an impact as a highly-efficient rim-attacker. Despite standing 5-foot-7, Webb was a freak athlete. This was illustrated when Webb won the 1986 Dunk Contest. Well will forever be regarded as one of the most unique dunkers in NBA history.
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12. Darren Collison
The former UCLA Bruin has been a solid professional. Collison — standing at 6-feet tall — began his career as an elite backup guard to Chris Paul. From there, he filled in as a spot-starter. For a reserve guard, it’s rather impressive to see that he’s averaged double-digit point totals in all nine seasons of his career. Collison was primarily known for his on-ball skills as a defender. However, he’s also developed into a very good three-point shooter. A career 39 percent shooter from behind the arc, Collison connected on a blistering 46.8 percent of his three attempts in 2017-18.
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11. Nate Robinson
Nate “The Great” could have gone pro in a half-dozen sports, including football, which is the original sport that earned him an athletic scholarship at the University of Washington. After deciding to commit fully to basketball, Robinson was selected with the 21st pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. Robinson developed into a dynamic spark plug over his career, holding a 11.0 PPG average over his career. His most memorable moments came during All-Star Weekend. The three-time Slam Dunk Contest champion is one of the best ‘little guy’ dunkers of all-time.
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10. Muggsy Bogues
Standing at just 5-foot-3, Bogues holds the distinction of being the shortest player to ever play in the NBA. The pesky point guard is a legend at Wake Forest, and parlayed an impressive collegiate career into becoming the 12th pick in the 1987 NBA Draft. Bogues excelled on the defensive end, where he used quick hands and even quicker feet to disrupt ball handlers and force turnovers. An astute floor general, Bogues ranks 20th all-time in career assists per game.
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9. Damon Stoudamire
The southpaw from Arizona made a nice career for himself at the professional ranks. Stoudamire burst onto the scene very early on, posting a 19.0 PPG average through his first three seasons. After settling into more of a traditional point guard role, Stoudamire began seeing an improved level of team success. His Portland Trail Blazers were just one game away from reaching the 2000 NBA Finals before running into the Kobe/Shaq Lakers. Stoudamire’s height (or lack thereof) and aggressive style of play earned him the nickname “Mighty Mouse”.
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8. Jameer Nelson
People seem to forget just how good Nelson was early in his career. After winning the Naismith Player of the Year award during his final season at Saint Joseph’s, Nelson ended up being a first-round pick in 2004. Playing alongside Dwight Howard, Nelson developed into one of the better lead guards in all of basketball and even made an All-Star team. Nelson helped lead the Magic to six-straight playoff appearances during that run, including a trip to the NBA Finals. Had Nelson not been injured versus the Lakers in 2009, the series could have played out very differently.
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7. Terrell Brandon
This may surprise some, but Brandon made two All-Star appearances during his 11-year NBA career. The Portland native went on a run in which he averaged double-digits in seven-straight seasons. When healthy, Brandon was exceptionally gifted in the open court. He was the focal point for Cleveland’s offense during the mid-90s. There were a plethora of very good guards during this time span. It’s easy to forget about the 5-foot-11 athlete. However, Brandon was clearly an above-average NBA player during his prime.
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6. Isaiah Thomas
Thomas’ prime may have been short, but his impact during that time span was surely felt. After stretches of success with the Kings and Suns, Thomas arrived to Boston as a disgruntled sixth-man that couldn’t stay on the floor. Thomas began to blossom in Year 2 with the Celtics, and by Year 3 was one of the most unstoppable offensive forces in all of basketball. Averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists while leading the Celtics to the top seed in the Eastern Conference earned Thomas a fifth-place finish in MVP voting – a spot ahead of Stephen Curry.
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5. Mark Price
The NBA’s former free-throw shooting king (tenths of a percent separate Price, Steve Nash, and Stephen Curry) was a potent offensive player in his day. Playing a majority of his career with the Cavaliers, Price built a great rapport with fellow All-Stars Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance. Price was highly efficient as a scorer, and is a card holding member of the exclusive 50/40/90 club (when a player averages 50 percent field goal shooting, 40 percent three point shooting, and 90 percent foul shooting in a single season).
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4. Kyle Lowry
The diminutive vocal leader of the Toronto Raptors has taken a unique path through the league. At one point, it appeared as if Lowry wasn’t built to be a starting point guard in the NBA. Following stops in Memphis and Houston, Lowry settled in Canada where his career began to boom. He’s now made four All-Star teams and has been one of the key leaders during the best stretch in the franchise’s history. At 32 years old, Lowry has a chance to creep up even higher on this list before it’s all said and done.
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3. Calvin Murphy
The 5-foot-9 Murphy used a unique blend of speed, elusiveness, and touch on his way to a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Unlike a majority of shorter players, Murphy didn’t have to rely on an outside shot to be an offensive force (14 percent career shooter). Instead, the diminutive Rocket relentlessly attacked the basket on his way to a 17.9 PPG career average.
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2. Chris Paul
While his lack of postseason success is often criticized, Paul’s consistency and playmaking ability remain unquestioned. He’s as well-rounded of a guard as we’ve seen in the league. A gifted passer with elite vision, Paul also has the ability to light up defenses with jumpers from all over the floor. Most impressively, Paul has been one of the better defensive point guards over the past decade. If he were to ever capture a championship, Paul would have a legitimate case for the top spot.
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1. Allen Iverson
Few players in NBA history have had a more cultural impact than “The Answer.” The four-time scoring champion had every kid in America rocking a headband, and it wasn’t until Iverson that NBA players started wearing shooting sleeves. The 6-foot-nothing guard oozed swagger, and possessed arguably the quickest first step the league has ever seen. He regularly put lesser teams on his back, including the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers who would reach the NBA Finals and take a game off of the Kobe/Shaq Lakers. Although he lost a step or two after being traded to Denver, Iverson dominated the first half of the decade as a perennial All-NBA level guard.
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