Gary Payton: His Most Underrated Season
Gary Payton is one of the most elite defenders the NBA has ever seen. Not only is he one of the best perimeter defenders of all time, but he is also a Seattle SuperSonics legend, and one of the best players in league history. He was one of the premier legends of the 1990s and his impact even carried over all the way into the mid-2000s. With all of this in mind, it makes sense to take a look at his most underrated season and continue this ongoing series. Let’s take a look at the most overlooked campaign of Payton’s Hall of Fame career.
Gary Payton’s Most Overlooked Season
Gary Payton: His 1999-00 Campaign
During the 1999-00 season, the SuperSonics went back to being a playoff team in the Western Conference. Despite no longer possessing the likes of Shawn Kemp, the SuperSonics were still a well-rounded team coached by Paul Westphal and led by their veteran point guard, Gary Payton. With Michael Jordan now retired, the NBA title was the most wide open for a new champion to the throne since Jordan’s first retirement. With Gary Payton returning to the All-Star Game this particular year, things seemed promising for Seattle.
The SuperSonics would go on to finish with a win-loss record of 45-37. Suddenly, Seattle was no longer a title contender like they used to be during the mid-’90s, but merely a solid enough team to make the postseason. It was still better than the previous year where they finished last in their division. They finished fourth place in the Midwest Division and would lose in the first round to the division rival, Utah Jazz, three games to two. The series was still a good battle as one can see that it went to five games and Payton went on to put up very solid numbers in the series. He would average 25.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game, but it was not quite enough to overcome the John Stockton and Karl Malone led Utah Jazz.
The Glove’s Numbers in the 1999-00 Season
During the 1999-00 season, Payton tallied a career-high in points per game. He averaged 24.2 points to go along with 1.9 steals, 8.9 assists, and 6.5 total rebounds per game. Not to mention, the Glove also tallied an effective field goal percentage of 50.2 percent. However, his advanced numbers in the 1999-00 season were also impressive.
Payton would post a defensive rating of 104, which would become the last season of his career where the 1995-96 Defensive Player of the Year would tally a defensive rating lower than 105. The nine-time All-Star also averaged a defensive win share total of 3.5 to pair with a defensive rebounding percentage of 13.9 percent. On top of this, Payton also tallied an assists percentage of 37.7 percent and also came away with a player efficiency rating PER of 23.6, the highest (PER) of his career. While the Seattle SuperSonics were not the juggernaut that they were earlier in the 1990s, the 1999-00 season showed that Gary Payton was still capable of leading a team to some success. With that in mind, the 1999-00 campaign is clearly the most overlooked season of the Glove’s magnificent career.
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