Years ago I did a crazy thing, I wanted to see how players of different eras compared. What I discovered was that John Stockton’s career numbers were ridiculous (by themselves); but straight up lugubrious when compared to the likes of Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, and Gary Payton.
It’s not all about John Stockton though, especially not today with this new golden age of point guards. The Golden State Warriors are sitting pretty with the reigning MVP, Stephen Curry. The NBA Champs, the Cleveland Cavaliers, wouldn’t be champs if it wasn’t for Kyrie Irving. The runners up in both conferences were powered by points as well — Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors.
I can’t stress enough how great it was to see each team in the NBA’s Final Four to be somewhat led by point guards. Two other stalwarts continued to have huge impacts on their teams, the near excellent Chris Paul and the crafty Rajon Rondo.
So how do these six active players stack up against NBA/ABA history? Well . . . if you rank them by average Player Efficiency Rating (PER) then things obviously favor these guys — where only ONE of them is even 30 years old. See for yourself:
Only Magic, Oscar, and the Logo can contend with the likes of CP3, Steph, and Russ. Some of the highest EVER years for PER by age by a point guard have come at the hands of these three active players. Rondo isn’t that impressive, and Lowry seems to be peaking right now.
Stockton was point-gawd from the age 35 on-wards. Some of his seasons at that age were better than the seasons other point guards had when they were 10 years younger. For example: Stock had a PER of 22.3 at the age of 38, Isiah Thomas’ PER at the age of 28 was only 17.3 — fo’ reals. Another one? Okay. At age 40, Stockton had a greater PER score than Kyrie Irving had LAST season. Irving was 23. (I know, Ringzzz. Be proud, Cleveland fans.)
I can only imagine how crazy Stock’s first few seasons would have been had he been given the ball from day one, like most of these active players. (School’s in kids, John Stockton didn’t become the full-time starter until his 4th year in the league.)
Still, from the age of 22 to 40, Stockton was BELOW average in PER compared to the other 34 players listed above twice, age 22 and age 23. He was tied at age 24 and 40 — and only tied at 40 because he was the only player who HAD a PER score at all at that advanced age.
Oh yeah, and his average is based upon the PER scores for the absolutely best-ever point guards to play in the ABA/NBA. OF. ALL. TIME.
There are more observations to be had, but frankly I can’t get over how GREAT Stockton was for decades. If you put these guys in a line graph most of them fade away (check out Penny Hardaway for example). Stockton was strong all the way though. Which might explain why he has five kids, but that’s a PER evaluation of a different kind.
Chris Paul has been great his entire career, and is a legend on his own. And he may not feel the need to play 19 years in this league. Lowry and Rondo are going to be 30 and on the downsides of their careers as well. But for Curry, Irving, and Westbrook — we can only expect many amazing seasons left to come.
Will any of them be hyper efficient as 40 year olds? Probably not. And in this regard, Stockton is truly in a class all his own.