#NBLrank The Greatest Players of All Time – Point Guard

#NBLrank The Greatest Players of All Time – Point Guard

With less than a month until the launch of the NBL season, the Aussie Hoopla staff has put together a list of the best NBL players of all time.

 

All-Time #NBLrank begins with this article ranking the best point guards in NBL history.

 

To create all-time #NBLrank, the Aussie Hoopla writing team have all voted on the greatest players to play at each position as well as a few select other criteria.

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Each Aussie Hoopla writer has made their decisions, but now we want to hear from YOU!

 

We will be unveiling the results of each position week by week but be sure to vote for whom you think should be #1 at each position below or tweet us your thoughts by using hashtag #NBLrank.

 

5. SHANE HEAL

Listen to Aussie Hoopla’s podcast with Shane Heal

 

Played For:

  • Brisbane Bullets 1988
  • Geelong Supercats 1989-1991
  • Brisbane 1992-1995
  • Sydney Kings 1996, 1998, 2000-2003
  • South Dragons 2006-2008
  • Gold Coast Blaze 2008-2009

 

shaneheal-celebratesArguably the most polarising player to ever step onto an NBL court, Shane Heal is a love or hate type of character.  Everyone has an opinion on his loud mouth, cockiness, altercations with the Dream Team at the Olympics, long, LONG range three pointers and a haircut that could only have existed in the 1990s.

 

None of that diminishes all the amazing things his did on the basketball court.  Shane Heal is a legend of the game.

 

Coming into the league as an 18-year-old for the Brisbane Bullets, “Hammer” played well as a rookie, averaging 15 points a game before moving onto the Geelong Supercats for the next three seasons.

 

Despite being a former Rookie of the year, he really made a name for himself in 1990, improving enough to average 22 points and eight assists per game.  Crazily enough, despite the many quality years Heal played in this league (which includes averaging 20 points per game for ten seasons) he was only named to one All-NBL First Team (2003). His lack of NBL First team selections is partially because Shane’s immense talent saw him spend his prime basketball years in Europe and the NBA.

 

Not many players have the swagger and confidence that Shane Heal had, and his deep three-point attempts was a testament to that.  A lightning quick shooter and unselfish passer, Heal’s legacy may be seen retrospectively as style over substance, but you would be making a mistake if you didn’t put him on this list.

 

Career Statistics (per game averages in brackets)

Points – 9065 (20.6)

Assists – 2699 (6.1)

Rebounds – 1278 (2.9)

Steals – 429 (1.0)

Blocks – 12 (0.0)

Shooting Percentages – 42% FG, 38% 3P, 82% FT

 

Awards

  • NBL Rookie of the Year (1988)
  • NBL Most Improved Player (1990)
  • NBL Good Hands Award (1990), 1x All-NBL First Team (2003)
  • 2x Gaze Medal winner (1997, 2004)
  • NBL Champion (2003)
  • 10th All-Time in Points
  • 5th All-Time in Assists
  • 4x member of Australian Boomers Olympic team (1992, 1996, 2000, 2004)

 

4. CEDRIC JACKSON

Played For:

  • New Zealand Breakers 2011-2013, 2014-2016
  • Melbourne United 2016-present

 

1416052263835In the 40 minute era of the NBL, it’s been proven that if you have Cedric Jackson you have a great chance of winning an NBL title.  Signing with the New Zealand Breakers in 2011 season, the man they call “Action” Jackson was a revelation. Leading the league in both assists and steals, he led the Breakers to their second championship in a row.

 

When the Breakers were able to capture their second title in a row NBL, coaches couldn’t dispute his talent and voted for him to win the league’s MVP award.

 

Jackson has been lauded as the modern era’s version of Ricky Grace, Darryl McDonald or Derek Rucker. Jackson has owned the league’s assist title since he landed in Auckland, dishing out more dimes than any player in the league during his first four seasons.  Jackson won 77 of his first 100 NBL games, making him the winningest player in the NBL since the league went to 10 minute quarters.

 

Jackson’s ability to control a basketball game has few equals. A telling statistics for Jackson is the fact that since the NBL moved to the 40-minute game in 2010, he has had five times as many triple doubles than everyone else who has played in the NBL (he is also the only player to record one in the past six years).

 

Some will say putting Jackson in this list after playing only four years may be premature, but his play, statistics, and accolades say otherwise.

 

Career Statistics (per game averages in brackets)

Points – 1801 (13.7)

Assists – 838 (6.4)

Rebounds – 758 (5.8)

Steals – 280 (2.1)

Blocks – 29 (0.2)

Shooting Percentages – 40% FG, 29% 3P, 56% FT

 

Awards

  • 3x NBL Champion (2012, 2013, 2015)
  • 1x NBL MVP (2013)
  • 2x NBL Grand Final MVP (2013, 2015)
  • 3x All-NBL First Team (2012, 2013, 2015)
  • The most triple doubles since league moved to 40-minute games (5)

 

3. PHIL SMYTH

Listen to Aussie Hoopla’s podcast with Phil Smyth

 

Played For:

  • St Kilda Saints 1982
  • Canberra Cannons 1983-1992
  • Adelaide 36ers 1993-1994
  • Sydney Kings 1995

 

The phil-smythGodfather of Australian basketball, you could argue that Smyth has done more for basketball in Australia (certainly SA) than anyone not named Gaze.

 

Crazily his NBL career would have been greater than it already is if not for two reasons. One being the fact he had to wait until 21 years old before the league began. Two he waited patiently for three years, hoping his local team Sturt would enter the league. Eventually, he gave up that hope and instead began regularly driving 8 hours along the Western Highway to play with St Kilda’s NBL team each week.

 

It was an easy choice to make Smyth the 1982 NBL Rookie of the Year after he was named the Defensive Player of the Year and voted to the All-NBL First Team.

 

Smyth moved to Canberra the following year to be closer to his girlfriend (now his wife Jenny Cheeseman) and assist with the launch of the Australian Institute of Sport. What was thought to be a short-term experience became a legendary ten-year career, including back to back championships in his first two seasons with the Canberra Cannons. Smyth winning a third title with the Cannons in 1988 (as well as the Grand Final MVP) cemented his legacy in our nation’s capital and inspired hundreds of Canberra youth to take up the game of basketball, including NBA star Patty Mills.

 

His final NBL years included stops in Adelaide (where he was able to mentor a young Brett Maher) and Sydney (where “mental” was an understatement at the time) before moving into a coaching career which resulted in two NBL titles for the Adelaide 36ers.

 

Smyth’s impeccable poise and game knowledge are clear when looking at his career assist to turnover ratio being 2.53, something better than all of the other guards on this list, compare this to Darryl McDonald tallying 1.94 assists per turnover over his career.

 

It’s remarkable that he sits seventh in steals despite missing out three seasons and the fact that statistics weren’t quite as accurate in the 80’s as they are today.

 

Smyth was and is an incredible ambassador for the game of basketball in Australia and deciding if he was a better player, coach or administrator for our sport is tough to measure.

 

Career Statistics (per game averages in brackets)

Points – 4960 (13.9)

Assists – 1717 (4.8)

Rebounds – 1482 (4.2)

Steals – 814 (2.3)

Blocks – 74 (0.2)

Shooting Percentages – 45% FG, 42% 3P, 84% FT

 

Awards

  • 4x Defensive Player of the Year (1982, 1983, 1988, 1989)
  • 6x All-NBL First Team (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989)
  • 3x NBL Champion (1983, 1984, 1988)
  • 1x NBL Grand Final MVP (1988)
  • 1x Gaze Medal Winner for Australian International Player of the Year (1988)
  • NBL 20th and 25th Anniversary Team member
  • 4x member of Australian Boomers Olympic team (1980, 1984, 1988, 1992)
  • Recipient of the Order of Australia (1988)
  • Named to Australian Basketball Hall of Fame (2004)

 

2. DARRYL MCDONALD

Listen to Aussie Hoopla’s podcast with Darryl McDonald

 

Played For:

  • North Melbourne Giants 1994-1998
  • Victoria Titans/Giants 1999-2003
  • Melbourne Tigers 2003-2008

 

705110-d-mac“D-Mac” had one of the most incredible debut seasons in NBL history. After spending time bouncing around Canada and lower level USA competitions, McDonald landed in Melbourne after then Giants Coach Brett Brown was wowed by his skills after seeing a VHS of him playing in the Continental Basketball Association. In perhaps the NBL’s most watched season in history, 1994, D-Mac led the Giants to an NBL championship and was the Defensive Player of the Year and runner-up league MVP.

 

He led the league in both assists and steals during his first three seasons, averaging a near triple double over that time (17.5 points, 10.1 assists and 4.1 steals per game)

 

With charisma and understanding of the game that very few possess, McDonald was able to control the game from both ends, often without needing to score. He also possessed a passing ability which had fans thinking he had eyes in the back of his head and teammates learning to keep their hands up (many Giants players spoke about receiving facial injuries from McDonald’s pinpoint passes which they hadn’t been ready for).

 

The most willing passer that will ever be on an Australian basketball court, he amassed 3518 assists over his 486 game career, qualifying him to be second all time. Although Andrew Gaze has the most assists in NBL history, McDonald finished only thirteen assists behind him despite having played in 126 fewer games.

 

Two things that are perhaps more amazing than any of his statistics is the fact he was able to play until the age of forty-four (the same number of his childhood hero George Gervin) and he was able to make history by taking the court with his son Derrick in 2007 and become the first father/son to play in the same NBL game.

 

The ultimate showman, D-Mac’s on court success has led to him being arguably the most popular import in NBL history even to this day.

 

Career Statistics (per game averages in brackets)

Points – 6308 (13.0)

Assists – 3518 (7.2)

Rebounds – 2207 (4.5)

Steals – 1249 (2.6)

Blocks – 216 (0.4)

Shooting Percentages – 49% FG, 29% 3P, 69% FT

 

Awards

  • 3x NBL Champion (1994, 2006, 2008)
  • 3x All-NBL First Team (1994, 1995, 1996)
  • 3x NBL Good Hands Award (1994, 1995, 1996)
  • 2x NBL All-Star Game MVP (1996, 2006)
  • 1x NBL Best Sixth Man (2004)
  • 8x NBL leader in steals (1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003)
  • 2nd All-Time in Assists
  • 1st All-Time in Steals

 

1. RICKY GRACE

Listen to Aussie Hoopla’s podcast with Ricky Grace

Played For:

  • Perth Wildcats 1990-2005

 

7c46bbf47c4a817f8cb4d8757050078bArriving in Australia shortly after narrowly missing out on an NBA roster in 1988, Ricky Grace lived up to his name from day dot.  “Amazing” Grace was all that and more, averaging 21 points (57% from the field) and handing out 7.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 steals in per game in his first season. While his amazing play was never questioned his longevity and tenacity for a career that lasted sixteen years is what became Ricky’s legacy.

 

A four-time NBL Champion, six-time Wildcats MVP and a member of the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame, there was little he didn’t achieve while on the opposite side of the globe to his hometown of Dallas, Texas.

 

Grace’s skillset was so revered that in 1993 that when Perth lost the championship to an impressive Melbourne Tigers team, Grace was named Finals MVP despite playing in a losing effort. Two years later Grace had become a naturalised Australian and suited up for the Boomers in the Sydney Olympics (2000), helping the team achieve a 4th place ranking, a finish which is still equal to our best Olympic performance ever.

 

Despite Ricky retiring, the accolades continued to pile up. Grace was named to the NBL’s 25th Anniversary All-Time team in 2003.

 

This team was regarded as the best player’s in our game’s history, selected by a committee of basketball icons which included Barry Barnes, Adrian Hurley and Robyn Maher, to name but a few. As Australia’s basketball royalty put their opinions to the vote Grace received the sixth highest amount of votes behind only Andrew Gaze, Leroy Loggins, Mark Bradtke, James Crawford and Phil Smyth.

 

One word has followed Ricky Grace throughout his whole career and funnily enough it sums him up perfectly… simply AMAZING.

 

Career Statistics (per game averages in brackets)

Points – 8802 (18.3)

Assists – 3470 (7.2)

Rebounds – 2027 (4.2)

Steals – 734 (1.5)

Blocks – 296 (0.6)

Shooting Percentages – 47% FG, 40% 3P, 82% FT

 

Awards

  • 4x NBL Champion (1990, 1991, 1995, 2000)
  • 2x NBL Grand Final MVP (1990, 1993)
  • 4x All-NBL First Team (1991, 2001, 2002, 2003), named to the NBL’s 25th Anniversary Team
  • 6x Gordon Ellis Medal for Perth’s MVP (1991, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002)
  • Number retired by Perth, named to Australian Basketball Hall of Fame (2004)
  • A member of Australian Boomers Olympic team (2000)
  • 12th All-Time in Points, 3rd All-Time in Assists, 8th All-Time in Steals, 1st in games, points, assists and steals for Perth.

 

 

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Author: Kyle Abbott (56 Posts)

Kyle has barracked for the North Melbourne Giants, Victoria Titans, Victoria Giants and the South Dragons. He's hoping the Melbourne United don't fold like the rest of them