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  • Stephen Curry vs. Kawhi Leonard was one of the toughest arguments on the SI top 100.
By Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver
September 16, 2017

In the latest Open Floor Podcast, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver are joined by Rob Mahoney to talk about the process of ranking Stephen Curry higher than Kawhi Leonard in our Sports Illustrated top 100 rankings


Andrew Sharp: In the top 15, was there any particular debate you found hardest? 

Rob Mahoney: I think the one we really got stuck on a lot was Steph vs. Kawhi. And it's a matter of splitting hairs on a superstar level which is always fraught with problems just because you are lucky to have either of those guys. You are lucky to deal with any of their limitations and to ride any of their strengths.

Curry is a guy who we were not going to make the argument that he's as balanced as a player as Kawhi because that would be crazy. But when you look at what Kawhi has done to kind of elevate his game into a scorer, he's just now getting to what a down-year scoring performance from Steph would look like. What ultimately gave Curry the edge for us is that he has this universal impact on an offense that isn't really matched anywhere else.

He basically has rendered entire swaths of the league completely obsolete. Like if you are a certain type of center you just can't play against the Warriors anymore. If you are a wing player who kind of falls asleep at the wheel when you are off ball, the Warriors are just going to run your guy through off ball screens all day and you are going to have to guard Steph.

He really demands a certain kind of personnel to be on the floor and in doing so makes it that much harder to play even your good players if you are playing against his team. And that kind of constant impact the fact that he's the ultimate "make guys" better superstar, combined with maybe the most accommodating superstar in the league given that he just gave up so much so that Kevin Durant can be his teammate that's a really hard thing to top and really gave him an unique case for our list.

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Ben Golliver: Let's be honest, I was the one pushing pretty hard for Kawhi and you talked me out of it. 

AS: Wait you was trying to knock Steph down?

BG: I was.

AS: Because Rob is preaching to the choir here. I would have had Steph ranked #2. 

BG: Well we have determined that you are the Steph Curry fan-boy. You have been waving his flag pretty hard but my initial instinct was well Kawhi's offense is better than Steph's defense so therefore this best two-way player idea kind of comes in and maybe he's a better all-around guy.

I think one thing that Rob mentioned is like the vacuum test. If you throw both these guys on a random team with an random assortment of teammates the odds are that Steph is going to take you to an elite offense are better than Kawhi is going to take you to an elite defense. Because he's not a center. He's not a back-line guy and I think having the ball in his hands and having this insane shooting ability where there is always going to be two or three guys going towards him virtually guarantees Steph and four dudes are going to be able to be a juggernaut offensively and that's a good place to start.

We ultimately decided that Steph's offense,his total package, his total impact was the best in the league and that was sort of the tiebreaker in terms of impact between Steph and Kawhi.

 

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