Portland Trail Blazers

Why Damian Lillard is better to start a franchise with than Stephen Curry

Portland Trail Blazers

Both Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry are certainly in the conversation for being in the top-5 of point guards in the NBA right now.

Fans of both the Blazers and Warriors, as well as NBA experts around the league can all agree on that.

The timely argument of “who is better?" or "who has better range?" and so on has been going on now for years. That debate especially heats up anytime the two teams play each other. 

But, this time, the discussion continued without the two squaring off, and occurred between Bill Simmons and Ryan Russillo Monday on “The Bill Simmons Podcast.”

Simmons: "Dame -- I don't know where he is on the top-10 players in the league list and what the qualifications are -- but is Curry better than him at this point?"

Ryen Russillo: "Oh come on. Let's take it easy. Don't do this when Curry's missed a year."

Simmons: "I'm not talking about career. I'm not talking playoff chops (or) stuff like that. I'm just talking game-to-game, the stuff Dame is doing now consistently, reminds me of Curry. I feel like he's money. He's in the top eight or nine for me now. And I don't know what the list is. But I just think he's great."

Warriors fans are most likely losing their minds right now by what Bill Simmons is saying right now. “Lillard is NOT better than Curry right now, how can he say that?” Is already ringing in my ears right now.

 

But, doesn't Simmons have a point right now?

If we are talking about present day, this very moment, isn’t Lillard a better player and leader than Curry?

If one was going to start a franchise today, who would you rather have: Damian Lillard or Steph Curry?

[Listen to the latest Talking’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

My answer to that question, while potentially impartial, is Damian Lillard.

For starters, Steph Curry is a phenomenal basketball player and one can't take anything away from what he has brought to the game with his scoring ability and incredible streaks. But, Curry is also injury prone. 

Here's a breakdown of games missed from 2017-18 to 2019-20:

Damian Lillard: 19 games
Stephen Curry: 104 games

The Warriors superstar has only been available for 54.6 percent of his team’s regular-season games, compared to Lillard’s 91.7.

In 2020 (before the bubble), Lillard leads the league in minutes played (and No. 3 since 2017), and the other has played in 74 games over two seasons. 

Going even deeper, let’s look at the numbers stacked up between the two over the last three seasons:

Damian Lillard:
— 5,706 points (27.0 PPG)
— 1,485 assists (7.0 APG)
— 946 rebounds (4.5 RPG)
— 57.8 win percentage (122-89)
— 59.9 TS%
— 17.6 VORP (No. 5 in the NBA)

Stephen Curry:
— 3,227 points (26.6 PPG)
— 671 assists (5.6 APG)
— 630 rebounds (5.2 RPG)
— 75.2 win percentage (94-31)
— 65.1 TS%
— 9.3 VORP (No. 21 in the NBA)

If this argument is centered around who has had the most successful career so far based on accolades, then Curry holds the advantage. But the question Simmons asked, in the beginning, is “Curry better than him at this point?"

Over the past three seasons, Lillard has been more dominant, though.

When Stephen Curry is healthy, he's electric-- his game is fun to watch and his swagger is through the roof. 

But don't put Lillard in the same category as Curry, and that just doesn't hold water.

Curry “outplaying” Lillard during the 2019 Western Conference Finals as NBC Sports Bay Area illuminated is the argument Warriors fans will quickly jump on to counter the overall point. But when Lillard was smothered, double-teamed on a regular basis for obvious reasons, it's kind of hard to say that Curry “won” the battle against Lillard when the Warriors had more threats for the Blazers to key in on.

For most of the series, Klay Thompson (Lillard took 22 shots on him), and Draymond Green were the main players guarding Lillard. Curry only guarded Lillard for four shots. FOUR

 

Meanwhile, during that series, Lillard took to guarding Curry more than any Blazer.

If we look at the playoff numbers between the two since 2017-18, they are basically identical to a degree.

Playoffs numbers (since 2017-18):

Curry — 27.1 PPG | 5.6 APG | 6.0 RPG | .608 TS% | 37 GP

Lillard — 25.2 PPG | 6.3 APG | 4.7 RPG | .549 TS% | 20 GP

Lillard also has a killer instinct, closing out two playoff series with game winning shots. The Trail Blazers clutch gene is arguably better than that of the Warriors PG. 

The answer to Bill Simmons' question, “Is Curry better than him at this point?”

The answer is "No."

If the decision came down to starting a franchise with Damian Lillard or Steph Curry, with his recent play, how he has shaped the Blazers for playoff contention every year since 2013 and how he's remained healthy-- I'm taking Damian Lillard. 

[Listen to the latest Talking’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon]