What Is Playmaking In The NBA?

Basketball is a team sport that expects players to share the ball to find the highest-percentage shot. But while it’s highly appreciated if all the players are good at passing the ball, unfortunately, it’s not very common. Playmaking, especially in the NBA, is an essential skill that has been traditionally assigned to the point guard position.

So, what exactly is playmaking, and why is it essential in the NBA?

Playmaking is the ability of players to create offensive plays and pass the ball that will lead to a basket. Traditionally, the team’s primary playmakers and ballhandlers are in the point guard position. In the NBA, some of the best playmakers of all time are John Stockton, Chris Paul, and Magic Johnson.

Now, let us learn more about playmaking and why it is crucial in basketball and the NBA.

What is Playmaking in the NBA?

NBA players in a game

Playmaking in the NBA, and basketball in general, is players’ ability and skill set to find the open man for the best possible shot. However, great playmakers are great passers and skilled in reading the defense, knowing when to shoot, and adjusting the coaching plays mid-game.

In NBA history, the point guard position is expected to be pass-first and the team’s primary playmaker, as shown by the majority of the NBA’s all-time leaders in assists, mostly points guards, except for LeBron James, who is a Small Forward.

What are the Stats that Determine a Great Playmaker in the NBA?

Player passing the ball to another player

A great playmaker in basketball must know to be a great decision-maker. They should know when to pass and when to score.

They are also expected to be careful with the ball and avoid turning it over. Here are some stats that can be used to determine if a player is great at playmaking.


An assist happens when a player passes the ball to a teammate, which immediately results in a score. Since playmakers are expected to be great passers, the assist is a helpful stat to determine a good playmaker.

The most outstanding assist men in NBA history include John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Chris Paul, and Steve Nash.

Assist-to-Turnover Ratio

The assist-to-turnover ratio is used to determine how many assists a playmaker does for every turnover he commits. A good ratio is 3:1, meaning the player commits one turnover for every three assists he gives. A low ratio means the player is not a good ballhandler or passer.

Assist Percentage

Assist Percentage or assist ratio is an advanced stat that aims to determine how good a player’s passer is. This stat tries to determine how many assists the player gives his teammates while on the court.

A higher percentage means the player is a great passer and shares the basketball with his teammates. Depending on his team’s pacing, a player with a high assist percentage will also have a higher assist per minute.

Turnover Percentage

Turnover percentage or turnover ratio is an advanced state that aims to determine how often a player’s possession results in a turnover.

However, turnovers include intercepted passes, offensive fouls, and time violations (3 seconds, eight seconds, shot clock), so it may not be the most accurate state to use to determine playmaking efficiency.

Assist-to-Pass Turnover Ratio (Unofficial Stat)

While the assist-to-pass turnover ratio is not an official NBA stat, some websites and teams try to veer away from the standard assist-to-turnover ratio since it considers all turnovers and not just passing turnovers.

Since this stat doesn’t consider other types of violations resulting in a turnover, the assist-to-pass turnover ratio is a great way to determine if a player is an efficient passer.

Best Point Guard Playmakers in NBA History

Since playmaking is expected from point guards, here is a list of the best point guard playmakers in NBA History.

NBA PlayerAssist Stats
1. John Stockton15,806 Career Assists | 10.5 career assists per game
2. Jason Kidd12,091 Career Assists | 8.7 career assists per game
3. Chris Paul10,977 Career Assists | 9.5 career assists per game
4. Steve Nash10,335 Career Assists | 8.5 career assists per game
5. Mark Jackson10,334 Career Assists | 8.0 career assists per game
6. Magic Johnson10,141 Career Assists | 11.2 career assists per game
7. Oscar Robertson9,887 Career Assists | 9.5 career assists per game
8. Isiah Thomas9,061 Career Assists | 9.3 career assists per game
9. Gary Payton8,966 Career Assists | 6.7 career assists per game
10. Russel Westbrook8,611 Career Assists | 8.4 career assists per game

Best Non-Guard Playmakers in the NBA

While playmaking is traditionally expected from guards, particularly the point guard position, players in other positions also excel in sharing the ball.

NBA Player Assist Stats
1. LeBron James (Small Forward)10,045 Career Assists | 7.4 career assists per game
2. Larry Bird (Small Forward/Power Forward)5,695 Career Assists | 6.3 career assists per game
3. Draymond Green (Power Forward)3,733 Career Assists | 5.4 career assists per game
4. Nikola Jokic (Center)3,281 Career Assists | 6.2 career assists per game

4 Incredibly Effective Tips to be a Good Playmaker

Girl calling a play set in a basketball game

1. Master the fundamentals

Good playmakers know and master the fundamentals of basketball. They know the different types of passes and when to use them. They also must possess excellent ball-handling skills since they are the team’s primary ball handlers.

2. Know your teammate’s abilities

A playmaker must know his teammates’ abilities to share the basketball effectively. He must know who the shooters, the cutters, the post players, and more. Learning their teammates’ abilities increases the chances of passing the ball to the best scoring option.

3. Know where your teammates are

Aside from good ball-handling and passing skills and being familiar with his teammates’ abilities, a good playmaker should also know where his teammates are. This skill is commonly called ‘court vision’ in basketball.

4. Know when to score

Great playmakers don’t mean that they should always pass the ball. They must also know when to score. Playmakers must possess the skills to know when to pass and when to shoot.

It is also essential for playmakers to have respectable shooting, driving, and other scoring skills so that opponents will have to think twice before over-committing to defense.


Playmaking is one of the most essential skills in basketball. Traditionally, it’s a point guard’s bread and butter. But now, we’re seeing a lot of big men accepting the role as well.

Related posts:

Leave a Comment