Every great team traditionally has a solid scorer and a great big man in the middle. Sometimes, that dynamic duo can only get you so far. The final component of a successful big three is somebody that can handle the ball. While it may not be a point guard, having that stapling part of the offense is one of the most underrated parts of the offense.
Over the years, we have seen some great point guards. In today’s world, it’s not just the point guard that runs the offense. In positionless basketball, the bigs need to be able to have the offense run through them. We saw some of those flashes in the 2000s and the 2010s, but it is more prevalent today.
From point guards to centers, we have an abundance of talent ranking at the top of their franchise for playmaking. These are the players that lead their franchises in assists.
Atlanta Hawks - Doc Rivers 3,866 Assists
2nd Place: Mookie Blaylock 3,764 Assists
The best season that came from Rivers came in 1987 when he averaged a career-high 10.0 assists per game. It was his only season with double-digit assists. From 1986 to 1988, Rivers averaged at least 8.0 assists per game, which was his most successful tenure with the Hawks. For now, Rivers is the most successful point guard with the Hawks, but one day Trae Young could give him a run for his money.
Boston Celtics - Bob Cousy 6,945 Assists
2nd Place: John Havlicek 6,114 Assists
Before a seven-year retirement, Cousy spent his entire professional career with the Boston Celtics. From 1951 to 1962, Cousy averaged at least 6.7 assists per game. That included a career-high 9.5 assists in 1960. Cousy spent half of his career throwing the ball inside to Bill Russell, so it was easy to grab a few assists here and there.
Brooklyn Nets - Jason Kidd 4,620 Assists
2nd Place: Bill Melchionni 3,044 Assists
The greatest passer in team history enjoyed two very successful seasons with the Nets. Before coming to New Jersey, Kidd led the league in assists three times. Then, he led the league in assists two more times. Kidd averaged at least 8.0 assists in each of seven seasons with the team, including double-digits once in 2007-2008 before being traded to the Dallas Mavericks midseason.
Charlotte Hornets - Muggsy Bogues 5,557 Assists
2nd Place: Kemba Walker 3,308 Assists
For about 10 years, Bogues was one of the better point guard options in the league. He enjoyed his most success with Charlotte, which featured averaging 10.7 assists in 1990 and 1994. Between those years, Bogues averaged at least 8.3 assists per game, topping at least nine three times. Had Kemba Walker not left the team so soon, he might have made a run at the record. Now, all eyes will be on how long LaMelo Ball sticks around.
Chicago Bulls - Michael Jordan 5,012 Assists
2nd Place: Scottie Pippen 4,494 Assists
Jordan was not your traditional passer. His career-high was 8.0 assists and that was the only time he averaged more than 6.3 assists per game. Jordan only topped 6.0 assists per game three times in his career. He was more of a take the game into his own hands type of player. Kirk Hinrich is the best modern-day point guard in terms of assists as he ranks third on the list behind Scottie Pippen. Had Derrick Rose never been hurt, we might be talking about someone else.
Cleveland Cavaliers - LeBron James 6,228 Assists
2nd Place: Mark Price 4,206 Assists
What LeBron James is doing with the Lakers right now is not being talked about enough. Leading the league in assists at 35 is something. Fans in Cleveland remember watching him play all the time. He was consistently around 7.0 assists in his years with Cleveland, including averaging 9.1 his final season with the Cavaliers. LeBron has perfected positionless basketball, so that makes him a very dangerous player.
Dallas Mavericks - Derek Harper 5,111 Assists
2nd Place: Brad Davis 4,524 Assists
Harper played for the Mavericks from 1983 to 1993. During that time, he was the team’s best point guard, averaging at least 7.1 assists per game from 1987 to 1991. After the 1990-1991 season, Harper’s production dipped slightly before leaving to join the New York Knicks. For those looking for Dirk Nowitzki’s name here, he is fourth on the all-time rankings, trailing also Jason Kidd.
Denver Nuggets - Alex English 3,679 Assists
2nd Place: Fat Lever 3,566 Assists
There was a stretch in the 80s where Alex English was playing just as good as some of the great icons. While English was scoring over 20 points per game, he was also given an adequate amount of playmaking too. English averaged a career-high 5.3 assists in 1982. There is only so much one player can do. Nikola Jokic is creeping up towards these totals, so keep an eye on this record falling within the next five years pending he stays.
Detroit Pistons - Isiah Thomas 9,061 Assists
2nd Place: Joe Dumar 4,612 Assists
Thomas was nearly the third player on this list to have at least 10,000 career assists with one team. Thomas played his entire NBA career with the Detroit Pistons. His 13.9 assists per game in 1985 led the league. That was part of a four-year run where Thomas averaged double-digit assists totals. On top of playmaking, Thomas also leads the team in points as well.
Golden State Warriors - Steph Curry 5,388 Assists
2nd Place: Guy Rodgers 4,855 Assists
On top of being the best shooter we have ever seen, Curry was pretty good at passing the rock as well. In 2014, Curry averaged a career-high 8.5 assists per game and then followed that with 7.7 assists in part of his MVP season. The year he won unanimous MVP, Curry averaged 6.7. From 2013 to 2018, Curry averaged at least 6.0 assists per game.
Houston Rockets - James Harden 4,796 Assists
2nd Place: Calvin Murphy 4,402 Assists
Had Harden played the entire season last year, he probably would have led the league in assists. Harden has led the league in assists once and that was in 2017 with a career-high 11.2 per game. Harden has steadily grown into a playmaker. In his first three seasons in the league, Harden never averaged more than 3.7 assists per game. If Harden keeps pace, he will finish with at least 10.0 assists per game for a second straight season.
Indiana Pacers - Reggie Miller 7,026 Assists
2nd Place: George McGinnis 3,433 Assists
The Pacers record is not even close. Given that Reggie Miller doubled George McGinnis’ old record, on top of finishing as the all-time leader in three-point field goals, you can understand why Miller was a Hall of Famer. Miller’s record came with longevity though. In 17 seasons, Miller averaged a career 3.0 mark. His career-high was 4.0 assists per game in his fourth season.
Los Angeles Clippers - Chris Paul 4,023 Assists
2nd Place: Randy Smith 3,498 Assists
When you have Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan flushing down every dunk you throw up, you are going to rack up a ton of assists. Paul has averaged double-digit assists six times in his career, where five of those times he was leading the league in assists. Three of those times came with the Clippers, where two times he led the league in assists. Paul is the all-time leader for two NBA franchises.
Los Angeles Lakers - Magic Johnson 10,141 Assists
2nd Place: Kobe Bryant 6,306 Assists
The two best Lakers in team history are the best in their respective categories. This category is easily owned by Johnson, who spent his entire career with the Lakers like Bryant. The only difference is that Johnson took less time to reach this mark. Johnson averaged at least 10.0 assists per game in nine straight seasons. Johnson was 31 years old when he left the league. If he didn’t retire early, he would have been the NBA’s all-time leader, not just the Lakers.
Memphis Grizzlies - Mike Conley Jr. 4,509 Assists
2nd Place: Marc Gasol 2,639 Assists
The two best players in Grizzlies history are together here, but Conley padded his mark given that he was the team’s starting point guard. There was a nine-year stretch, where seven of those seasons saw Conley average at least 6.0 assists per game. Known for his solid play at the one guard spot, as well as defense, it’s no surprise that Conley is the all-time leader if you have followed his career long enough.
Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade 5,310 Assists
2nd Place: Tim Hardaway 2,867 Assists
Wade is in the conversation as the NBA’s best combo guard. While Wade was capable of gathering close to 25 points in a game, he was able to dish out six to seven assists as well. There was a four-year stretch towards the beginning of Wade’s career where he averaged at least 6.0 assists. Wade finished his career with a 5.4 average.
Milwaukee Bucks - Paul Pressey 3,272 Assists
2nd Place: Giannis Antetokounmpo 2,982 Assists
Give it a few years and we are going to be talking about a new player holding this record. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a very special player that is going to be one of the few centers holding this record. With that said, the holder, for now, is Paul Pressey, who played from 1982 to 1989. Pressey’s career-high was 7.8 assists, which was the start of a three-year stretch where he averaged at least 7.0 assists per game.
Minnesota Timberwolves - Kevin Garnett 4,216 Assists
2nd Place: Ricky Rubio 3,424 Assists
The Timberwolves ran their offense through Kevin Garnett. Then again, the team relied on everything from Garnett. Known for his rebounding and defense, the 2004 MVP also contributed at least 5.0 assists per game from 1999 to 2004. His role changed when he joined Boston, but while with the T-Wolves, the team relied on him making the right pass.
New Orleans Pelicans - Chris Paul 4,228 Assists
2nd Place: Jrue Holiday 2,833 Assists
Paul is the only player on this list that owns a record for two separate NBA franchises. Paul led the league in assists two times while playing for the Hornets. Had Paul stayed with either New Orleans or Los Angeles, he would have been the Magic Johnson equivalent when it comes to career assists. As we speak, Paul ranks third all-time in NBA total assists.
New York Knicks - Walt Frazier 4,791 Assists
2nd Place: Mark Jackson 4,005 Assists
Frazier’s best seasons came in the early part of his career. His first four seasons saw him average 4.1, 7.9, 8.2, and 6.7 assists per game. After his fourth season, Frazier hovered around five to six assists, which is a respectable average for a starting point guard. That included making the All-Star team seven times and two championships. Frazier is undoubtedly the best point guard New York has ever had.
Oklahoma City Thunder - Gary Payton 7,384 Assists
2nd Place: Russell Westbrook 6,897 Assists
Had Russell Westbrook stuck around two more seasons instead of trailing off to Houston, Washington, and now Los Angeles, we would be talking about him as the all-time leader. Instead, that award goes to another standout point guard in team history. Playing for the Seattle SuperSonics, Payton was a wizard with the ball. Combine that with his nine All-Defensive First Team selections, Payton was doing work on both sides of the floor.
Orlando Magic - Jameer Nelson 3,501 Assists
2nd Place: Scott Skiles 2,776 Assists
When the Magic made their second run of successful runs into the postseason, the team had Dwight Howard leading the way. Many may forget that Jameer Nelson was a successful starting point guard for the team during those years. Nelson averaged a career-high 7.4 assists and 7.0 assists in his final two seasons. This record is one of the lowest among NBA teams.
Philadelphia 76ers - Maurice Cheeks 6,212 Assists
2nd Place: Hal Greer 4,540 Assists
Cheeks never led the league in assists, but he was consistent. From 1980 to 1989, Cheeks averaged at least 6.0 assists per game while playing for the 76ers. That included a stretch from 1986 to 1989 where he averaged at least 7.0 per game with a career-high of 9.2 in 1986. The 76ers have had some standout players in their history, so this is quite a big recognition for Cheeks.
Phoenix Suns - Steve Nash 6,997 Assists
2nd Place: Kevin Johnson 6,518 Assists
When Nash was the floor general and two-time MVP recipient playing for the Suns, there was no better point guard in the league. Nash led the league in assists five times while playing for the Suns. That included a stretch of eight years where Nash averaged double-digit assists seven times. His career-high was 11.6, but Nash hit at least 11.0 assists per game four times.
Portland Trail Blazers - Terry Porter 5,319 Assists
2nd Place: Clyde Drexler 4,933 Assists
Porter played for the Trail Blazers from 1986 to 1995 and remains the best point guard playmaker in team history. Damian Lillard will likely fall short of this record, but his niche is scoring. Porter was the floor general for the NBA Finals teams in the 90s, where he led a stretch of five years averaging at least 8.0 assists per game.
Sacramento Kings - Oscar Robertson 7,731 Assists
2nd Place: Sam Lacey 3,563 Assists
No surprise to see that the great Oscar Robertson remains elite here. During his days playing for the Cincinnati Royals, Robertson was in contention for the assists crown. He led the league in assists seven times, which included a stretch of nine straight years since his rookie season averaging at least 9.0 assists per game. It’s been a long time since Robertson played for the franchise, 1970 to be exact, so it’s been nearly 50 years since the Kings have seen an elite playmaker such as this.
San Antonio Spurs - Tony Parker 6,829 Assists
2nd Place: Avery Johnson 4,474 Assists
The Spurs had a dynasty with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. The final component of a big three is the point guard and the Spurs had exactly that in the 2007 Finals MVP. Parker’s career-high was 7.7 assists that came in 2012. While he may not have had flashy stats, he was always consistent. The Spurs were always a contender with these three and Parker was the runner driving the car.
Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry 4,277 Assists
2nd Place: Jose Calderon 3,770 Assists
Speaking of consistency, Lowry was that during his time with the Raptors. From 2012 to 2021, Lowry helped the Raptors rise to one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. He helped Kawhi Leonard win a championship in 2019. Lowry was the best setup man for DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors have accomplished a lot in the last 10 years and a lot of that had to do with Lowry running the offense.
Utah Jazz - John Stockton 15,806 Assists
2nd Place: Karl Malone 5,085 Assists
The greatest playmaker in the history of the NBA is the leader for the Jazz. The only way this record is falling down is if a player spends his entire career with the one team and takes over the NBA record. It’s almost unfair, but Stockton was the real deal setting up Karl Malone and company. Stockton averaged double-digit assists 10 straight years, eight times where he didn’t average less than 12.0 assists per game.
Washington Wizards - John Wall 5,282 Assists
2nd Place: Wes Unseld 3,822 Assists
There was a stretch in the mid-2010s where Wall might have been in the discussion as being the best point guard in the league. From 2014 to 2018, he made the All-Star team and he finished with at least 10.0 assists per game in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Had Wall not gotten hurt in 2018-2019, we could be talking about a top-3 point guard in the league today given that he is just 31 years old. This record would have ballooned well above its current mark.