Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook are battling for a chance to lead their respective teams to the NBA Finals. Both point guards currently stand as two of the top floor leaders in the NBA.
Gary Payton, a prominent point guard during his playing days with the Seattle Sonics, recently spoke with rolling out and shared his thoughts on Curry and Westbrook.
If you had to start a franchise, which point guard would you pick first and why: Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook?
GP: That’s hard because of the simple fact a point guard is not what (people nowadays) think a point guard is. A point guard is a Chris Paul, a Rajon Rondo, or somebody like that. They make everybody around them better. But with your question, I don’t know. Right now, because Stephen Curry is MVP, back-to-back, and all the shooting that he does, he still gets his team involved. But with Westbrook, he’s averaging double-doubles every night and he’s making everybody better. That would be a hard choice. I don’t know. I wish I could have both of them–one of them comes in and start while the other one comes in and finish. But I don’t know yet, I couldn’t make a choice on that.
If Steph Curry played in your era where the defensive rules were different, would he still be as dominate?
We don’t know. I think that a lot of us who played in my era would’ve taken it a little bit more personal and go at him a little bit more. We would have done more hand checking and controlling. He’s doing what he’s doing in his era and he’s great at it. You can’t stop a great basketball player, you can only contain him. So in our era, we would’ve tried to contain him, beat him up a little bit more and make it happen. Just like what Michael Jordan went through. They beat up Michael Jordan before he started winning championships and made it happen. So yeah, it probably would have been different in our era, but he’s cool with what he does in his era and we can’t knock him on that.
Do you think that some people took your comments about Steph Curry being the first unanimous MVP the wrong way?
You know, I really don’t care what people think about that. If people read correctly, I said ‘I take nothing away from Steph Curry. He won the MVP, he was the best basketball player this year in the NBA.’ But what I’m saying is if you look at Wilt Chamberlin and see what he did and that he averaged 50 points and 30 rebounds and he didn’t win the MVP with unanimous vote. That’s not Stephen Curry’s fault. Michael Jordan in 1996, they were 72-10. Why wasn’t he unanimous? Why wasn’t Larry Bird unanimous? Why wasn’t Magic Johnson unanimous? They had (deserving) unanimous years too. But that’s the era we play in. I said it because I think that there were a lot more people that were unanimous decisions. That’s not Stephen Curry’s fault, that’s the writer’s fault. I remember playing against some great ones that won MVP’s that should’ve been unanimous.
-additional reporting by Kira Demund