Facilitating has oftentimes been perceived as a duty designated for the backcourt. Because it is a guard who usually brings the ball up the court and orchestrates an offense, it is their job to share the sugar. While many of the league’s greatest assist men have in fact resided in the backcourt, frontcourt players have thrived as facilitators as well. The point forward position is real.
Deciding who the best point forward in the history of the NBA is tough, but here are some of the greatest to ever do it.
A Boston Celtics legend, Bird had arguably the highest basketball IQ in the history of the sport. He was always one step ahead of his opponents; Larry played chess while everyone else was playing checkers. Bird’s genius compared to his peers shined particularly bright when he was dishing the rock to open teammates. All the opposition could do was watch in awe as he picked apart the defense with his playmaking.
Bird averaged 6.3 dimes per game for his career, and he was more than capable of making plays that most players would never dream of attempting. Tip passes, pinpoint one-handed bullets, and no-look dimes were all a part of his repertoire. Bird constantly made his foes look foolish in the process; he would fake one way when he was passing the other, leaving defenders aimlessly scanning the floor to find where the rock was placed, but by then it was too late.
Bird was a maestro with the ball in his hands and undoubtedly one of the best passing forwards ever. He was a point forward before being a point forward was even cool. His greatness surely inspired future point forwards who would take inspiration from his playmaking ability.
When the subject of the greatest passing forward is brought up, it usually sparks a debate regarding James and Bird; and rightfully so. LeBron has always had an affinity for dishing the rock, and he is averaging the most assists per game of his career in 2019-20 (10.6). His vision is legendary; James has eyes on the back of his head, as he has performed flashy no-look passes countless times over the course of his pro tenure. Not only that, but he can also thread the needle and deliver the ball to the intended receiver with startling accuracy.
James has dished out 7.4 assists per contest since entering the NBA, and he is leading the league in assists this season. This list would be invalid without his inclusion, as he is the likely the first person who comes to mind nowadays when fans hear the term point forward. Since he was a teenager with the Cleveland Cavaliers, James has improved his squad’s offenses due to his presence as a playmaker.
The 16-time all-star and three-time NBA champion has been orchestrating the ball as well as any guard for nearly two decades, and he will continue to until he decides to retire.
Pippen may not compare to Bird or James as a playmaker, but he was a talented passer nonetheless. Pippen was never the dominant scorer that so many of the league’s all-time greats were because of his unselfishness. It was often a priority of his to get his teammates involved, particularly during his days as a Chicago Bull when Michael Jordan was handling the scoring load. The most dimes he averaged per game was seven during the 1991-92 campaign, and he distributed 5.2 nightly during his 18-year stint in the pros.
Scottie was not one to wow audiences with playmaking wizardry. Rather, he could be relied upon to make the right play more often than not. For example, if Jordan received a double-team from the defense, he would locate the unguarded player for an easy hoop. Pippen is someone who could have thrived as a playmaker on any team because of his elite knowledge of the game. His understanding of how to make simple yet effective passes allowed him to flourish as a distributor for one of the most successful dynasties in sports history.