As I watch the game today I think back to the mid-nineties when guards could play legitimate defense. Today, if a guard gets touched it's a foul, and they live at the line like Russell Westbrook or James Harden. Yes, the game has evolved to a more finesse game, but frankly players have become soft.
As I grew up I enjoyed this certain point guard from Oregon State that was brash, worked his gum between his jaws as if he was crushing the bones of his opponents, was the best trash talker to ever take the court, and was known to flat out mentally ruin a person.
Gary Payton was a force of nature on the basketball court. He did not care if you were Bimbo Coles or Michael Jordan, he was going to get inside your head and break you. Not just mentally, but physically. He enjoyed it, he loved it, he showed exactly who he was out there every night and didn't need to wear extravagant threads with glasses that didn't have glass in them to games.
Back in 95-96 Payton didn't have to deal with a player like Westbrook. Guys like John Stockton, Ron Harper, John Starks, Mark Jackson, and Kenny Smith weren't exactly known for their explosive prowess. Payton definitely took advantage of this, usually being the fastest, most athletic player on the court every night. A lot like Westbrook is today. There are few players that have that gear he does.
Athletically I think we are ultimately at a wash.
As I talked about extensively above, there isn't much in the way of Westbrook coming close to the continent where Payton was defensively. Has Westbrook ever been considered for Defensive Player of the Year? No. Who was the last guard to win the award? Gary Payton.
Now if we move to the offensive side of the ball you can see that Westbrook did score a little more than four points a game more than Payton, but he also needed four more shots from the field and three and a half more free throws per game to make up those points. He also trailed Payton by two full assists a game. That would wipe out the four points a game advantage to Westbrook right there. Payton was also three points better in efficiency on the offensive end of the floor too. Payton definitely wins this category too.
If Russell Westbrook had to deal with Gary Payton for a full seven game series, I'm not sure he could mentally handle it. I believe at some point a punch would be thrown by him, and he'd be suspended for a game or two. Unfortunately, our simulator does not take that into account. I could see Payton holding Westbrook to under 20 points a game for the series and making him a general non-factor.
This match-up isn't much of one when it comes down to it. It's definitely a mismatch that Payton wins.
For Welcome to Loud City's take click here.