Who is the real king of the point guard position? Stephen Curry has won 3 NBA titles and 2 MVPs including a unanimous MVP win thanks to his unbelievable season in 2016. He has also carried the responsibility of being named the greatest shooter in NBA history who changed the NBA game to how it is today. For a long time, the best point guard in the NBA was Curry and there was no discussion.
But the spectacular season of Damian Lillard has started to create doubts on Curry's standing as #1. He seems to make more shots from 35 feet, has a bigger and stronger frame at attacking the basket, and is one of the most clutch players we have seen at his position. Does Dame have enough attributes to successfully surpass Curry as the best in the league?
In order to put the debate to rest, and settle who is the best point guard, it is time to compare the two dominant players to see who comes out on top.
Scoring - Even
Dame is averaging 30.0 PPG on 46.3 % shooting from the field this season. He is also shooting 88.8% from the free-throw line and 40.1% from three. It's amazing how Lillard can shoot the ball so accurately and still have a season like he had because he has done anything and everything for his team to remain competitive amid injuries. He has always been a great scorer, but this season he has taken a big step up.
Curry never had a scoring season as good as Lillard's, but that doesn't mean he isn't as good of a scorer overall. Curry is the original marksman who can create his own shot from three, and probably the most lethal shooter we have ever seen when he is hot. Curry's career average of 23.5 PPG on 43.5% shooting from three means he is an all-time great shooter.
Overall, Damian Lillard had an unbelievable scoring year and is truly a force at putting the ball in the basket. Curry's consistency as the best shooter ever evens it up here, and time will tell if Lillard can claim to be a better scorer when he shows this type of level for at least 1 or 2 more seasons.
Athleticism - Damian Lillard
Stephen Curry is a bit underrated in terms of his athleticism. He has a slight frame and cannot leap like a Russel Westbrook, but he has good height at 6'3" and is very quick with the ball. Off the ball, he is very effective coming off screens and seems to lose guys on defense.
But Damian Lillard is another level. He has unbelievable hops and can throw it down for a massive jam over most centers. Lillard is also stronger and can attack the rim with more pace and explosiveness. Curry is clever around the rim, not necessarily explosive. As a result, Lillard is the better athlete.
Defense - Stephen Curry
Both players are not known for their defense, because they have a ton of responsibility on offense. Curry and Lillard lack the pure defensive awareness of other great defensive players and they are often hidden on defense to keep them fresh and healthy for leading the offense on the other end.
Lillard is 6'2" and has a career average of 1.0 SPG and 0.3 BPG. He does not shut down any point guards on a nightly basis and does not really offer much impact in terms of getting stops. On the other hand, Curry is 6'3" with a career average of 1.7 SPG and 0.2 BPG. Curry is an inch taller and has better active hands than Lillard. Stephen Curry is nowhere near being a defensive stopper, but he brings to the table nice height and very quick hands to come up with steals.
More often than not, Curry will be a more impactful player on defense due to his active hands and also his length. While neither player is defensive-oriented, Curry takes the nod.
Clutch - Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is a great scorer and player, but it might be his clutch shot-making that makes him so dominant. Dame has famously ended entire franchises with his shot-making, most notably the Oklahoma City Thunder with Russell Westbrook and the Houston Rockets with Dwight Howard. Dame not only takes big shots in the regular season but also during the postseason. Lillard has a knack for getting the ball, moving everybody out of the way, and taking the success of his team on his shoulders.
Curry has unfortunately faced criticism in his game about not being clutch. Curry can dominate a game and seemingly flame out in critical moments because someone of his incredible talent and skill is expected to always deliver in the clutch. Maybe it's due to the fact that defenses are so keen on stopping Curry, who is the greatest shooter ever, or he just never had the chance to showcase his clutch shot-making. His famous game-winner over the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016 was incredible, but he lacks moments that compare to Lillard.
Leader - Stephen Curry
Both Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard are the undisputed leaders of their team and face the most critical if they don't perform.
Curry is respected across the entire NBA because of his ability to shoot the ball, and he is one of the most impactful players in NBA history. Lillard is also becoming a more prominent figure in the league and his leadership has improved exponentially throughout the years. As the main ball handlers and scorers of their respective teams, they must show leadership.
So far, Steph has shown the ability to lead his team with shot-making and consistent performances on offense, along with being the franchise player for the Warriors. He made 5 straight NBA Finals, and although they had Kevin Durant, it was Curry's unselfishness as a leader that put it all together.
Basketball I.Q. - Stephen Curry
When it comes to basketball I.Q., Stephen Curry has to take it. Curry seemed born with an incredible understanding of how to play the game, and he is a true student of the game. The way he dribbles in his pre-game routines and what he does on the floor every night is not only due to his skill and training but also to his basketball I.Q. Curry knows where to be on offense and on defense, and moves without the ball better than anyone in the league.
Lillard has a very high I.Q, but he does not possess the offensive or defensive awareness of Stephen Curry. Dame has a tendency to take bad shots, even for his standards, and is not as solid defensively. Dame wants to prove he is the greatest point guard in the game in terms of basketball I.Q., but Curry is slightly ahead of him in this respect.
Impact - Stephen Curry
This is the hardest one to gauge. Lillard is having an extraordinary season while Curry has been recognized as the greatest shooter we have ever seen.
Curry has changed the game, which gives him a major plus in this comparison because the entire NBA wants to shoot threes now. Lillard may not be as renowned as Steph in terms of shooting, but he very well might be the best 35-feet and beyond shooter in NBA history. Dame can pull up from 35 with ease, which makes him a monster to deal with in his own right.
Both point guards score the ball at a high level and impact the game tremendously, but Curry is a step above Lillard. The fact that a slender point guard can change the NBA game is something that nobody would have ever expected. He is that lethal with his dribbling and his shooting.
Curry's pure skillset and unbelievable talent puts him a notch above Lillard. There is a reason why Curry has 3 NBA titles and he deserves the nod here.
1 on 1 - Even
Both Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry are sensational scorers who can shoot the lights out from outside. Curry can break his opponent down with dribble moves and can step back for his quickfire jumper. This is a patented move we have seen so many times. Curry can also attack the rim, using craft finishes due to his soft touch.
Lillard can also break down a defender with dribble moves but possesses unbelievable explosiveness in getting by an opponent. Once Lillard has passed a defender, it's game over. He is too quick and explosive and can finish at the rim with ease. He can also step back and bury jumpers, similar to Stephen Curry.
Overall, this is another hard one to gauge. Curry is the master of the contested jumper and he only needs a centimeter of space to let it fly. Dame is similar, although has more explosiveness. This one is too close and must be even.
Career - Stephen Curry
Without a doubt, Stephen Curry had a better career than Damian Lillard. Even though Lillard still has time to catch up, Curry has already solidified his status as one of the greatest point guards who ever lived. His 3 NBA titles and 2 MVPs mean he is in Hall of Fame status, and he is still widely recognized as the greatest shooter of all time.
Damian Lillard does not have an MVP yet, and the highlight of his career is making the Western Conference Finals last season. Dame slightly underperformed, and the Trail Blazers fell to the Warriors. Lillard is younger and more athletic, but Curry has had a much more successful career as a member of the Golden State Warriors.
Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard even it up in almost all the major attributes except the intangibles of being a winner. In the end, the advantage goes to Curry because he does not have much more to prove as a legendary point guard. He only has to climb the top-five rankings to catch up with the likes of Magic Johnson which may or may not ever happen. Lillard, as of today, is the most explosive scorer capable of going off for 50. He needs time to surpass Curry, but right now Curry is still the greatest point guard in the game.
Stephen Curry vs. Damian Lillard 5-2