The debate that raged in the months before Stephen Curry was drafted into the NBA endures even now, 12 years into his storied NBA career.
Point guard? Or shooting guard?
Hall of Fame point guard Gary Payton falls on one side.
“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’ve got to 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.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr acknowledges Payton’s point of view but straddles the line.
“He’s different,” Kerr said Sunday, before tipoff against the Kings at Chase Center. “He’s different from the point guards of Gary’s era. He really changed the role of the point guard. Now, it’s very rare to see a point guard who’s not a great perimeter shooter. We all expect point guards now to be dual threats, passing and shooting.
“So, I think Steph has changed the definition of a point guard. There’s no question that you call him a combo because he’s so good off the ball.”
Payton’s career (1990-2007) spanned an era of such traditional point guards as John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Andre Miller and Steve Nash. All were scoring threats but played with a pass-first mentality.
Curry’s salient statistics suggest he is more shooting guard than point guard. He leads the NBA in scoring (31.2 points per game) but ranks 24th in assists (5.8). Green leads the Warriors in assists (8.7) and ranks sixth in the league.
Moreover, most high-scoring point guards still lead their team in assists. Portland’s Damian Lillard is ranks third in the NBA scoring (28.5) and seventh in assists (7.6). Atlanta’s Trae Young is 13th in scoring (25.3) and second in assists (9.6). Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox is 14th in scoring (25.2) and 11th in assists (7.2).
Two things differentiate Curry from all other point guards in the league. One, he often plays off Draymond, one of the league’s best point forwards. Two, his off-ball movement is more like that of a traditional shooting guard. Curry typically spends more time off the ball than on it.
“That’s really what makes Steph so amazing,” Kerr said. “He can turn into Reggie Miller off the ball, and on the ball he’s as good as anybody who’s ever lived in terms of creating shots, creating offense for himself or for others.
“He’s created a new position. That’s the way I would put it.”