The Oklahoma City Thunder – Portland Trail Blazers series hasn’t been nearly half as competitive as we expected, as the Thunder has choked once again even despite Jusuf Nurkic’s gruesome injury.
Enes Kanter has outplayed Steven Adams and Paul George’s shoulder injury has taken a toll on his game, but it has been Russell Westbrook the one that hasn’t been able to dominate the way he did in the regular season.
Moreover, he got into a heated altercation with Damian Lillard just because the latter pretty much locked him up on defense and then cooked him on the other end of the floor. But who’s actually a better player? Let’s break it down.
Inside Scoring – Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook makes the most of his damage from within the close range. Actually, he’s one of the most efficient scorers and finishers below the rim, knocking down 80% of his shots in the restricted area, compared to Lillard’s 58%. Obviously, the farther he gets, the worse his percentages get as well.
Outside Scoring – Damian Lillard
This one’s not even close. Damian Lillard is quite a prolific three-point shooter while Russell Westbrook is historically bad in that regard. Lillard is a career 36.9% shooter from beyond the arc, compared to Westbrook’s 30.8%. Also, Lillard’s career high for made threes is 10, while Westbrook has recorded just 8.
Playmaking – Russell Westbrook
Even though most people believe he’s just a stat-padder, Russell Westbrook is actually one of the best creators in the game when he’s actually willing to facilitate for others. He’s led the league in dimes the last couple of seasons and averages 8.4 per his career, with a career-high of 24 assists. Lillard, on the other hand, has a career high of 16 dimes and averages 6.3 per his career.
Athleticism – Russell Westbrook
Michael Jordan himself once claimed that Russell Westbrook was the most athletic player he had ever seen. Truth to be told, that may not be that far-fetched. He’s long, strong, quick and incredibly agile. He loves to draw contact and still manages to finish and is an incredibly explosive dunker.
Defense – Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook has made great strides on defense as years go by, especially next to Paul George. People don’t credit him for his defense, but he’s really improved in that regard lately. Lillard is not much of a backcourt stopper at all, and probably he’ll never be. He averages 1.8 steals per game to Lillard’s 1.0, and his career high is 8 compared to Lillard’s 6.
Rim Protection – Russell Westbrook
Once again, Russell Westbrook gets the nod here, even though they’re both pretty mediocre shot blockers, to say the least. Westbrook has better timing, hops, and length to swat opposing shots, but they’ve put the very same averages throughout his career: 0.3 blocks per game with a career-high of 4 swats.
Rebounding – Russell Westbrook
Westbrook is one of the league’s leaders in boards per game despite his height, and that’s why he’s been able to average a triple-double for three straight seasons. Throughout his career, he’s averaged 7.0 rebounds with a career-high of 20 boards, which is insane for a point guard. Lillard’s career average for rebounds is 4.2, with a career-high of 18.
Clutch – Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is arguably the most clutch player in basketball. That’s why the clutch time is called Lillard Time. When in need of a bucket late in a game, just give him the ball. He’s not afraid to fail and will pull up from distance without any kind of hesitation. Westbrook is overconfident in the clutch but winds up bricking most of his attempts.
Leadership – Damian Lillard
Year after year, the Blazers are supposed to be really bad and barely make the playoffs. Year after year, Damian Lillard proves everybody wrong. He’s led this team since entering the league and he just refuses to give up without a fight even despite the lack of a good supporting cast. Westbrook hasn’t made it past the second round of the playoffs without Kevin Durant.
Basketball IQ – Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is quite a smart player, especially when it comes to off-ball movement. He doesn’t force things in the offense as a playmaker either but excels at making his teammates better. Westbrook’s shot selection is terrible, and his decision making in the clutch is just awful. Also, he averages 4.1 turnovers per game compared to Lillard’s 2.8.
Better Scorer – Damian Lillard
This one may be kind of controversial, as Russell Westbrook has won 2 scoring titles so far and is an incredibly dominant scorer. Yet, Lillard is a much more versatile scorer for today’s NBA thanks to his ability to score from all three levels. Also, Lillard’s career average is 23.5 compared to Westbrook’s 23.0, and his career high is 59 compared to Westbrook’s 58.
Impact – Damian Lillard
While Westbrook is a much better defender than Damian Lillard, I actually believe the latter’s impact is way bigger for his team than Westbrook’s. Westbrook’s stats don’t always translate to team success, and truth to be told, the Thunder was Paul George’s team this season. The Blazers, on the other hand, just can’t win without Lillard.
1 on 1 Game – Damian Lillard
Once again, Westbrook may be stronger, quicker, more athletic, and a much better defender than Lillard, but his overconfidence and poor decision making would give Lillard the edge on this matchup, as it’s been shown throughout the playoffs. Lillard would definitely beat him 1-on-1 out of his competitive nature, heart, soul and, of course, his clutch gene.