Who were the top 10 NBA point guards in 1998? Circa 98 examines:
1) Gary Payton
Although it is not considered the best regular season of his career (96 or 2000 is), Payton started all 82 games for the Seattle SuperSonics, leading them, along with Vin Baker, to a 61-21 record, the 2nd best in the Western Conference.
He averaged 26.7 PPG, 11.5 APG & 1.8 SPG over the 82-game season and then 24.0 PPG and 7.0 APG during the postseason (Lost 4-1 to Shaq/Eddie Jones/Kobe Lakers in Western Semifinals).
- All NBA 1st Team
- All-Defensive 1st Team
- 3rd in MVP
2) John Stockton
1997-1998 was far from John Stockton’s best regular-season performance. In fact, it was the first time in 7 seasons that he did not play all 82 games. Because of injury, Stockton appeared in only 64 of the 82 games despite his Utah Jazz securing the top seed in the West with a 62-20 record.
He averaged 12.0 PPG, 8.5 APG, & 1.4 SPG. However, his excellence was on display in the postseason as he led the Jazz, along with reigning MVP Karl Malone, to the NBA Finals, averaging 11.1 PPG & 7.0 APG. They were, of course, defeated by the Chicago Bulls.
- 13th in MVP (tied)
3) Tim Hardaway
Coming off of an “I’m back to full strength season” in 1996-1997, Hardaway maintained his elite Point Guard play for Miami, leading them, along with Alonzo Mourning, to a 55-27 record, the 2nd best in the Eastern Conference (behind MJ’s Bulls).
Hardaway averaged 18.9 PPG, 8.3 APG, & 1.7 SPG while playing and starting in 81 of 82 games. He took his scoring to the next level during the postseason, averaging 26.0 PPG with 6.6 APG. Miami lost 3-2 to the Knicks in the First Round.
Hardaway was honored as the cover athlete for a popular video game: NBA Live 98.
- All NBA 2nd Team
- 6th in MVP
4) Allen Iverson
Despite his eventual standing as a Hall of Fame shooting guard, Iverson’s sophomore campaign consisted of elite-level Point Guard play. In 1998, Eric Snow was a bench player as Larry Brown surrounded Iverson in the starting lineup with wing players like Jerry Stackhouse and Jim Jackson (though Stackhouse was soon traded for Aaron McKie & Theo Ratliff).
Iverson averaged 22.0 PPG, 6.2 APG, & 2.2 SPG. Showcasing his jaw-dropping athleticism, Iverson’s contributions were not enough to lift the Sixers to the postseason, as they finished 31-51.
5) Sam Cassell
After winning 2 NBA championships with the Rockets in his first 2 NBA seasons (94 & 95), Cassell became a young journeyman having played briefly for both Phoenix and Dallas before landing with John Callapari’s New Jersey Nets for the 1997-1998 season.
Cassell would lead the up & coming Nets to a surprising 43-39 record and a playoff berth as the 8th seed. Cassell averaged 19.6 PPG, 8.0 APG, & 1.7 SPG over 75 regular-season games, but was injured leading into the postseason, and only averaged 2.0 PPG while getting swept by Jordan’s Bulls.
6) Rod Strickland
The 31-year-old Rod Strickland enjoyed one of his best pro seasons during 1997-1998. He averaged 17.8 PPG & 5.3 RPG over 76 games (all starts) to go along with a career-high and league-leading 10.5 APG.
He also averaged 1.7 SPG. Although the Wizards missed the postseason they were competitive throughout the regular campaign, winning 42 of their 82 contests. 1998 was the first and last time Strickland would average double-digit assists over a full season.
- All NBA 2nd Team
- 18th in MVP
- Assists Leader
- APG Leader
7) Jason Kidd
After being named Co-Rookie of the Year along with Grant Hill in 1995, Kidd’s career was in a bit of flux by the time the 98 season had arrived. He had been traded to Phoenix the season prior and was looking to re-establish himself as the highly touted Point Guard scouts billed him as his rookie season.
In 1997-1998, Kidd averaged 11.6 PPG, 9.1 APG, 6.2 RPG, & 2.0 SPG. His Suns team would finish 56-26, good enough for 4th in the Western Conference, though they would lose 3-1 to San Antonio in the First Round.
Kidd averaged 14.3 PPG, 7.8 APG, & 5.8 RPG to go along with an impressive 4.0 SPG during the series.
- 13th in MVP (tied)
8) Nick Van Exel
Nick “The Quick” Van Exel was an integral part of the 1998 Los Angeles Lakers who finished the season 61-21 and secured the 3rd seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. Van Exel averaged 13.8 PPG & 6.9 APG despite being surrounded by 3 other scorers in Shaquille O’Neal, Eddie Jones, & Kobe Bryant.
Despite Van Exel’s quality season and a talented Lakers roster, they were swept by the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Finals, and Van Exel was traded to Denver (for Tyronn Lue & Tony Battie) shortly after.
9) Terrell Brandon
Though Brandon was limited to just 50 games during the 1997-1998 season, he played elite-level Point Guard during that stretch. Brandon averaged 16.8 PPG, 7.7 APG, & 2.2 SPG.
Despite his effective play and the presence of future Hall of Famer Ray Allen, Milwaukee finished the season 36-46 with a ticket to the draft lottery. Brandon would be traded to Minnesota the following season and retired after his age 31 season (2002) due to ongoing injury problems.
10) Stephon Marbury
Marbury’s sophomore campaign was as impressive as you would expect for the highly-touted PG from Coney Island. Stephon averaged 17.7 PPG & 8.6 APG over a full 82 game season (81 starts).
Along with Kevin Garnett, Marbury led the young T’Wolves to a 45-37 record, which was good enough for 7th in the Western Conference. The Wolves would push the heavily favored Sonics to an elimination game in the First Round but ultimately came up short despite Marbury’s 13.8 PPG & 7.6 APG.
Best Rookie PG: Brevin Knight
The Reverand Brevin Knight was as advertised as a rookie PG for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Having come off an outstanding 4-year college career at Stanford, Knight led the Cavaliers to a surprising 47-35 record, good enough for 5th in the Eastern Conference.
Knight averaged 9.0 PPG, 8.2 APG, & 2.5 SPG while starting 76 games as a rookie. He teamed with Shawn Kemp and Wesely Person to form a formidable playoff contender.
Unfortunately, his inexperience was exposed in the First Round of the postseason when he struggled as his Cavs lost to Indiana, 3-1.
- All-Rookie 1st Team
- Steals Leader
Best 6th Man PG: Terry Porter
The 34-year-old Terry Porter played in all 82 games for the T’Wolves in 1997-1998. He backed up & coming PG Stephon Marbury (#10 on our list) and averaged 9.5 PPG & 3.3 APG while shooting .395 from beyond the arc on 2.8 attempts per game.
Having previously been an All-Star Point Guard in his own right, Porter embraced his bench role for the 7th seed Timberwolves until he was asked to start alongside Marbury after Game 1 of the First Round of the postseason vs. Seattle.
Porter stepped his game up averaging 15.8 PPG, 3.2 APG and shooting over 40% from 3.
Most Improved PG: Charlie Ward
The former college football quarterback had his best pro season in 1997-1998, starting all 82 games and averaging 7.8 PPG to go along with 5.7 APG. Ward improved his FG% from .395 to .455 and his 3PFG% from .312 to .377 despite increasing his 3P attempts from 1.9 per game to 2.6 per game.
Advanced stats geeks would gawk at his league-leading 3.4 Defensive BPM which unfortunately was not enough to earn him a spot on the All-Defensive team.
Ward’s Knicks finished 7th in the East at 43-39 but upset the 2 seed Miami Heat in the First Round before losing to Indiana in the Conference Semifinals.
- 1st in Defensive BMP (for those who care)
Point Guard Pest Award: Mookie Blaylock
Known for his 3-point stroke, Mookie Blaylock actually struggled from beyond the arc in 1997-1998. That did not stop him from taking 4.8 per game, which was actually a significant decrease from the previous season in which he attempted 7.7 per game.
Blaylock did not allow his shooting struggles to impact his defense, however, as he led the NBA with 2.6 SPG and helped his Atlanta Hawks secure the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 50-32.
Blaylock averaged 13.2 PPG, 6.7 APG, & 4.9 RPG in the regular campaign and boosted those numbers in the postseason to 14.8 PPG, 8.3 APG, & 5.0 RPG. Despite his solid play, Atlanta lost 3-1 to the Hornets in Round 1.
- All-Defensive 2nd Team
- SPG Leader
Glue Guy Award: Ron Harper
Having been an excellent SG for the majority of his career (with Cleveland & LAC), Harper transitioned to Point Guard after Micheal Jordan returned to the Chicago Bulls in 1995. Harper was initially signed by the Bulls to replace Jordan (his position) after Michael retired to play baseball.
While Harper’s athleticism was severely limited because of a previous knee injury, he maintained his elite basketball IQ and defensive instincts. Harper finished the 1998 season averaging 9.3 PPG, 2.3 APG, & 1.3 SPG, starting all 82 games.
Harper would average 6.7 PPG & 2.3 APG in the postseason, on his way to a 3rd consecutive Chicago Bulls championship.
- NBA Champion