Why Gary Payton believes Steph isn't a true point guard


Anyone who has watched the Warriors play since 2009 knows that Steph Curry is a point guard.

For his entire 12-year NBA career, Basketball Reference has listed Curry as a point guard.

Yes, Curry shoots more than he dishes out assists, and he doesn't look like an old-school point guard, but he is a point guard. Period. Everyone accepts that.

Except Hall of Famer Gary Payton.

"So with Curry, I really don't think Curry is a point guard," Payton told NBC Sports Bay Area's Dorell Wright on the latest episode of Dubs Talk. "You gotta understand that. To me, he's not a point guard. He's a shooting guard. He's a scorer.

"Is he going to be in all-time assists, top 10, top five or whatever? I don't think so. I really don't. Does Curry handle the ball all the time for the Warriors? No, he doesn't. He doesn't handle the ball all the time. He's coming off screens. Draymond Green handles the ball for [the Warriors] most of the time to get [Curry] off and to get [Curry] shots off.

"So to me, he's not a point guard, he's a two-guard. It's like with [Russell] Westbrook. He's a two-guard. Now you gotta understand, to me, these guys are two-guards. If you want to talk about point guards, that's Chris Paul, that's [Rajon] Rondo. They are point guards. I just don't see him as a point guard, I see him as a two-guard. Now if you want to consider him as a two-guard, yeah, I think he's going to be one of the greatest scoring guards in the history of the game because he can score that thing. As a shooter, the same way."

Payton is correct in one aspect. Curry won't finish in the top 10 all-time in assists. Entering Sunday's game against the Kings, he has 4,925, good for 69th in NBA history. He would need a little over 4,000 more assists to catch Payton, who is No. 10 in NBA history with 8,966.

Despite the fact that Curry likely won't climb into the all-time top 10 in assists, he did become the Warriors' franchise leader in dimes earlier this season. That has to count for something.

But the point guard position has evolved over the last 10 years. Players that run the point need to be able to shoot and score. Really, every position on the floor needs to be able to shoot and create for themselves.

Players like Curry, Damian Lillard, Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and others are point guards who can score in a number of ways. By today's standards, while they are score-first guards, they are considered their team's point guard.

While Payton wouldn't acknowledge Curry as a point guard peer of his, he did agree that the two-time NBA MVP and Lillard are changing the game of basketball with their ability to shoot from long distance.

"Curry, I think has been in the game a little bit longer than Dame, but when Dame catches him, when Curry retires and Dame stays in the game, and the way they're playing right now, they're probably going to be equal in a lot of things," Payton told Wright, his former teammate on the 2006 NBA champion Miami Heat. "I've been seeing a lot of these stats where Dame is like seven or eight slots behind him already. If Curry hadn't gotten hurt in the first part of his [career], what would be happening now? So we have to think about that. He was hurt a lot in the beginning. So now he's got his game going.

"Yeah, he plays like PlayStation. Why do you think PlayStation is so popular? And why he's so popular really is because he plays like he plays on the game in real life. When a guy can come over and step over half court and shot in a rhythm and is all draws, all draws, and Dame is the same way. When these two guys, and you seen it in the All-Star Game, both of them were shooting like it was nothing but a play game, they were playing around.

"Yes, he changed the game because this is their era to change the game. Remember, in our era, the big man was the focal point of everything. I think really Dwyane Wade changed the game because when we were in 2006 championship and went in and told all of ya'll 'Look here, step back, this young boy got it, get him the ball.' And he started averaging 35 and we won a championship. The game has evolved and changed and Curry is changing the game with the way he shoots the ball, the way he makes shots and the range. We watched his daddy, we watched Dale Ellis, we watched Glen Rice, we watched a lot of guys, but this dude right here is an incredible shooter and he makes shots."

RELATED: Curry firmly in MVP race after beating Embiid, Jokic

Not only has Curry stretched the court with his shooting, but he has revolutionized the point guard position. No longer can a point guard come into the league and not be able to shoot.

The days of pass-first point guards becoming stars or Hall of Famers likely are gone. Payton might not want to admit it, but point guards now have to be more like Curry than The Glove.

Programming note: You can see the full interview with Gary Payton and Dorell Wright on "Warriors Pregame Live" starting at 6 p.m. PT.

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