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Kyrie Irving vs. Russell Westbrook Career Comparison: Kyrie Has An NBA Championship, But That Is Not Enough

Kyrie Irving vs. Russell Westbrook Career Comparison: Kyrie Has An NBA Championship, But That Is Not Enough

Both Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook could retire tomorrow, and both would likely be inducted into the Hall of Fame. They are two of the most decorated point guards in the history of the league. With their talent, the league has been mesmerized for the last decade. From Irving’s Game 7 three-pointer to Westbrook’s triple-double history, both have long resumes of accomplishments that have them stand out in comparison to others.

As of today, the debate is about which player is more likely going to win a team a championship. The Los Angeles Lakers are in that predicament right now with Westbrook under contract for one more season, while there are rumblings that Irving could be acquired. If the Lakers had the true choice of choosing between the two players to form a big three with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who would be the better option?

Here is the full comparison between Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook. 

NBA Championships

Kyrie Irving: 1 (2016)

Finals Record: 1-2

Russell Westbrook: 0

Finals Record: 0-1

When LeBron James left the Cavaliers in 2010, the team’s first season without him was a disaster. That led to the Cavaliers landing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which was promptly used on Kyrie Irving. At 19 years old, Irving was thrust into becoming the new face of the franchise after the greatest player in team history left them in the middle of his prime. During that growing face, Irving turned into an All-Star, which was part of the reason James chose to return.

When James came back to Cleveland, the team also made a move to land Kevin Love. The trio of James, Irving, and Love led the Cavaliers to new heights, which included a three-year run of making the NBA Finals from 2015 to 2017, all against the Golden State Warriors. In 2016, the Cavaliers made NBA history by becoming the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship. Irving had one of the biggest moments in the series with a clutch three-pointer in Game 7 to give the Cavaliers the lead late in the game.

Westbrook has not played in the NBA Finals since 2012. At the time, Westbrook was part of a young group that featured Kevin Durant, James Harden, and himself. The 2012 team shocked the Western Conference by making their way to the NBA Finals and winning Game 1 in the series against the Miami Heat. However, the Heat won four straight games to take the title and land James his first championship.

The 2014 and 2016 Oklahoma City Thunder also made the Western Conference Finals but were defeated. The 2014 team was defeated by the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. The 2016 team held a 3-1 lead but blew three games in a row to the Warriors. Had the Thunder pulled off that series win, it would have led to an Irving and Westbrook pairing in the Finals that season.

Advantage: Kyrie Irving

Finals MVP Awards

Kyrie Irving: 0

Russell Westbrook: 0

In 2015, Irving played one game in the NBA Finals but missed the rest of the series due to injury. In that one appearance. Irving scored 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and four steals. When the Cavaliers won the championship, Irving had the second-best stat line among all players. LeBron James won Finals MVP for averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals, and 2.3 blocks. Meanwhile, Irving averaged 27.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.1 steals, and 0.7 blocks.

The last Finals played with Cleveland saw Irving’s best overall stat line with 29.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.0 steals. The Cavaliers lost to the Warriors in five games, but even if the Cavaliers won, James would have likely won. In those five games, he averaged a triple-double of 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 10.0 assists per game.

Westbrook has never won a championship and has played once in the Finals in 2012. In those five games, Westbrook averaged 27.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.0 steals. Durant had the better line and would have been the better choice had the Thunder won. Durant averaged 30.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.4 steals. In the end, both players were the second-best players on their teams that made or won in the Finals. Playing with James or Durant would have been hard to land either player a Finals MVP.

Advantage: None

NBA MVP Awards

Kyrie Irving: 0

Russell Westbrook: 1 (2017)

Irving has put up some stellar scoring numbers. The last three years for the Nets, he has hovered around 27.0 points per game. That included making the 50-50-90 Club in 2020-21 while he also averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. That also included him moving to shooting guard after transitioning from point guard when the team acquired James Harden. With that said, Irving has never finished in the top 10 for the MVP voting.

Westbrook owns an MVP trophy after he won the award in 2017. Westbrook led the league in scoring and became the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double in a season. In 81 games, Westbrook averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists. What made it more special was that it was the first season that the Thunder were playing without Kevin Durant, who had left the team to join the Golden State Warriors.

Advantage: Russell Westbrook

All-NBA Teams

Kyrie Irving: 3 (1 Second Team, 2 Third Team)

Russell Westbrook: 9 (2 First Team, 5 Second Team, 2 Third Team)

Irving did not make the All-NBA Team until 2015. It was his only appearance on the All-NBA Third Team as a member of the Cavaliers. Irving’s lone appearance on the All-NBA Second Team was when he played for the Boston Celtics. He recently made the All-NBA Third team in 2021 as a member of the Nets.

Westbrook made his first All-NBA appearance in 2011. It was a run of three straight seasons of making the All-NBA Second Team. Westbrook made it again in 2015 and 2018 as well. He recorded two appearances on the First Team in 2016 and 2017. His last two appearances came in 2019 and 2020 on the Third Team.

Advantage: Russell Westbrook

All-Star Teams

Kyrie Irving: 7 All-Star Appearances, 1 All-Star Game MVP Award

Russell Westbrook: 9 All-Star Appearances, 2 All-Star Game MVP Award

Irving made the All-Star team two times before James rejoined the Cavaliers. The first time came in 2013 and then Irving won MVP in 2014. In the game, Irving scored 31 points on 14 of 17 shooting while also leading the team with 14 assists. Irving made the All-Star team for three years from 2013 to 2015 and then from 2017 to 2019. His most recent appearance came in 2021.

Westbrook made All-Star appearances from 2011 to 2013 and then from 2015 to 2020. Westbrook won the All-Star Game MVP back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016. In 2015, Westbrook scored 41 points on 16 of 28 shooting. The following year, Westbrook scored 31 points and made seven three-point shots, while also recording eight rebounds, five assists, and five steals.

Advantage: Russell Westbrook

All-Defensive Teams

Kyrie Irving: None

Russell Westbrook: None

When it comes to defense, it is not something that Irving is typically known for playing. Irving owns a career average of 1.3 steals per game. When Irving first came into the league, he recorded three straight seasons of at least 1.5 steals per game after his rookie season. Irving recorded 1.5 steals in his last season with the Celtics and has averaged 1.4 steals per game in the last three seasons with the Nets.

Westbrook has never made an All-Defensive squad despite playing fairly hard in his early days. Westbrook has averaged at least 1.8 steals per game seven times while topping 2.0 steals per game in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016. Westbrook has also been a strong rebounder, averaging double-digit rebounds three times in his career.

Advantage: None

Total Win Shares

Kyrie Irving: 72.0

Russell Westbrook: 106.5

When LeBron James came back to the Cavaliers, it was the best season for winning shares in Irving’s career. It remains the best season for offensive win shares with 8.4 and total win shares at 10.4. Irving recorded 8.9 win shares in his last season in Cleveland and his first season in Boston while topping 9.1 win shares in his second season with the Celtics. Since joining the Nets, Irving has combined for 6.2 win shares in two shortened seasons. When healthy, he was at 7.4 win shares.

Westbrook owns over 30 more win shares than Irving. That included a stretch of four straight seasons with double-digit win shares, as well as five in six seasons. Two times, Westbrook led the league in usage percentage, topping 41.7% during his MVP season in 2017. The year before was his most efficient season, where he recorded 10.0 offensive win shares and 14.0 total win shares.

Advantage: Russell Westbrook

Career Player Efficiency Rating (PER)

Kyrie Irving: 22.40

Russell Westbrook: 22.58

Irving and Westbrook are very close in the all-time career player efficiency ratings. Westbrook’s rating has him ranked 32nd, while Irving is ranked 34th. Given how much more Westbrook is used, it’s a testament to Irving for him being close. With that said, Westbrook has been asked to do a lot more on his load.

Westbrook led the league in assist percentage for three straight seasons from 2017 to 2019 and then led again in 2021. That included assisting on his team’s offense 57.3% of the time in 2017. Westbrook also led the league in the offensive box plus/minus. Westbrook also had a rebounding percentage that topped 15% during those three years as well.

Advantage: Russell Westbrook

Final Score

Kyrie Irving vs. Russell Westbrook 1-5

The Only Thing Missing For Westbrook Is A Championship

When you break down each player, Westbrook is the better individual player. The only thing missing from his career is a championship ring. The question that is getting passed around is if Westbrook’s current playing style will be good enough to get him that ring. For the last 10 years, it hasn’t been good enough to lead his team to the Conference Finals, while making a few second-round appearances.

One day, we will miss what Westbrook brings to the table. Westbrook has averaged a triple-double for a season four times. While that is impressive, Westbrook’s style of play does not translate to championship rings. Westbrook needs the ball in his hands frequently to pile up these impressive numbers. Paired with another ball-dominant player in LeBron was not something that produced wins in the long run for the Lakers last season.

Irving might be the better fit for the current Lakers right now in comparison to Westbrook. He does not have to be a ball-dominant player and is a great facilitator. While stats do not measure dribbling, he might be the best at that element of basketball too. As an overall offensive player, Westbrook is the more explosive one.

Westbrook needs a championship to validate his legacy as a top player in the league, but it will have to come with some sacrifice. There are a lot of things that Westbrook can do on the court. That is evident by the numbers and awards he has accumulated up to this point. With that said, Westbrook does not mesh well with this current Laker team with his current style. The trio of Westbrook, Davis, and LeBron remain talented on paper, but it’s going to come down to what role is being altered for the benefit of the team. 


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