During the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, Damian Lillard put on a show for Team LeBron. And so did Stephen Curry.
Though the stars of the Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors were on the same team, they spent a good chunk of the night trying to outdo one another with long-range 3-point shots.
When Curry would take a shot from halfcourt, Lillard would too. If Lillard nailed a few open looks, Curry would try to match him. And on a recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, the Ringer's Bill Simmons and Ryen Russillo discussed the rivalry that was on display.
"They were high-fiving each other at the end of the first half, a lot of that stuff," Simmons said. "But it’s still a rivalry, I’m sorry. Those guys are on each other’s corner, there’s no question. … Steph and Dame, though. It did seem a little territorial."
It certainly did seem a bit territorial, as each star was trying to one-up the other. But Russillo offered an odd take about the rivalry at the end of their discussion.
Of course Lillard doesn't think that Curry's better than him!
The NBA's best players simply don't think like that. But is the gap so large between Lillard and Curry that Steph is indisputably better than Dame?
Steph's shot may be more pure, but Lillard's range is statistically better than Curry's.
That's a FACT.
Sure, people will point to Curry's 25-8 record against Lillard's Trail Blazers and 10-0 postseason record as a sign that Curry is better than Lillard. But that takes into account the team surrounding them, as well.
Lillard has played with better supporting casts in recent years, including CJ McCollum, but Curry has played along wtih the likes of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green for almost his entire career. It's a bit difficult for any superstar, even one like Damian Lillard, to will a team to victory against that type of lineup.
Winning aside, their numbers throughout their respective careers have been eerily similar.
|Player||PPG||APG||RPG||All-Star Games||All-NBA Teams|
Essentially, the only area statistically that Curry holds a significant advantage over Lillard is in his 3-point shooting, where he is 6 percent better than Lillard.
Sure, Curry may have an ultimate "trump card" of flashing his three rings and two MVP awards in front of Lillard. But the fact of the matter is that the players are a lot closer in terms of ability than most realize.
And Lillard's clutch numbers, which were referenced by Russillo and Simmons, need to be brought up in this conversation as well. According to Owen Phillips of The F5, Lillard has a 77.6 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) in the last five minutes of games decided by five or fewer points this season this season. Curry checks in at 52.3. Even more impressive is Lillard's eFG% on his 11 shots "crucial to game outcome".
So, that gives Lillard a pretty strong card of his own to play.
Remind us again why this is a debate we're forced to have?
At the end of the day, Russillo can cherry pick what he wants. But in reality, the gap between Lillard and Curry isn't as big as he's making it out to be.
And there's certainly enough room in the NBA for the both of them.