I think how highly he is rated depends how much you value longevity. Stockton’s all time ranking is based almost solely on his ridiculous longevity – a feat shared with his teammate Karl Malone. Stockton’s all time assist record of 15k assists and 3k steals is unlikely to be broken – in fact Kareem’s ‘unbreakable’ scoring record is about to be broken by Lebron, yet Stockton’s assist record is still quite safe and untouched.
Stockton led the league in assists 9 times – only Bob Cousy comes close with 8. He has 8 seasons averaging over 12 APG.. for comparison, Magic has 5 seasons over 12 APG, Kevin Johnson has 1 season, Isiah has 1 season, and Curry, Westbrook, Oscar, CP3, Nash and Kidd all have never averaged 12+ APG in any seasons. Stockton’s ridiculous assist numbers is unlikely to ever be broken. Thus when it comes to pure assist numbers, Stockton could be considered the GOAT pure PG. If you need a guy who will give you 12–14 assists a game, count on Stockton to do it.
In addition to his bonkers assist numbers, Stockton was also a stellar shooter and a very solid defender as well.
However, my main issue with Stockton is you can’t really rely on him as a scorer. Stockton really can’t give you more than 13–18 points a game, and if you really need a guy to carry the scoring load, that’s not him. That’s where he gets beaten by many other PGs. Magic and CP3 could raise their scoring in big moments if needed be in addition to being fantastic playmakers. Curry, Oscar, Isiah, Frazier, Payton, Westbrook of course could all be the primary scorers for their team. Stockton probably fits better with Nash and Kidd, where he is about the same level in scoring but a slightly better passer than them.
So overall, it’s hard to rank Stockton. What do I do with a guy who never had a great peak, can’t really carry the offensive load for my team, but has such ridiculous passing numbers? I’d put him somewhere in my top 7 PGs all time, and maybe in the top 5. But right now I have him #7 greatest PG. That sounds low to a lot of NBA fans, but I don’t think he’s better than Magic, Curry, Oscar or Isiah. In addition, I personally think CP3 and Walt Frazier are better than Stockton as well since they can be counted on to be great scorers in addition to being great defenders, playmakers and floor generals. I have Stockton slightly above Kidd, Nash and Cousy, who round out my top 10 PGs.
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