In the third year of the Golden State Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, an inside rivalry has risen between Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry. The two highly talented point guards have led the point guard department over the past couple of years and with them going head-to-head in the past three years, a debate has grown with that of who’s the better point guard. While it’s quite the inquisitive debate, I truly believe it’s a tough one.
The defensive side of the ball has always been the weak point when critiquing these two. While at times they’ve struggled defensively, their elite offensive capabilities have always caused others to overlook this cog in their games. Stephen Curry’s struggle has come from his slim frame. Coming into the league he was labeled small and weak which is often heaven to a scorer’s ear. Often we see a lot of teams look to expose him defensively such as now with the Cleveland Cavaliers. They try to put him in pick and rolls just to get a mismatch against LeBron James. Despite being in the top-3 in steals (league leader in the 2015-2016 season), the label of a liability on defense has stuck with him.
Just a quick example of one of Kyrie Irving’s biggest defensive moments.
Kyrie Irving has gotten the same treatment and people mainly pinpoint it to his lack of effort and lack of discipline. We’ve seen bright spots from Kyrie and he has shown what he can do when he decides to lock up but the problem is that we just don’t get it consistently. He has a habit of getting blown by, reaching recklessly, and not fighting over screens which is unfortunate because I truly believe he can be a solid defender in this league.
Kyrie being the phenomenal scorer that he is, isn’t really labeled a passer. Half of that is due to the fact that his scoring clouds other parts of his game and the other half is due to the fact that he plays alongside one of the best passers in the game in LeBron James. Irving is not really called to be a distributor on this team. His role is to purely get buckets by any means necessary. However, with that being said, he still averaged 5.8 assists this past season and 5.6 for his career. While that’s not Steve Nash/Chris Paul numbers, it’s still decent for what he’s called to do.
Stephen Curry’s impact is through his incredible shooting and just his presence on the court. However, I truly feel he’s underrated as a passer. We’ve seen him on multiple occasions make passes through tight pockets, pass teammates open and even distribute assists that no one else saw.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) June 5, 2017
On a 6.8 assist per game career, Curry’s ability as a passer is one that doesn’t get enough credit. He passes with both hands, over the head, behind the back, you name it, he’s done it. The one detriment to his passing game is the fact he can be too flashy at times. Stephen has a high tolerance to turn the ball over at a high rate at times. He averages 3.2 turnovers for his career which isn’t pretty, however, with everything else he does on the court, he doesn’t get too much flack for it. While he may be a remarkable scorer, don’t sleep on how great his passing is.
These two guys are the best ball-handlers in the league right now in my opinion. Shifty, quick, elusive, tight, and deceiving are all adjectives that you can use to describe the way these guys handle the ball. All ankles are at risk when matching up against these two. They are two of the hardest guys to defend in isolation situations. Kyrie is more of the type to play with the defender a little just to get him dancing whereas Curry just looks for that instance of separation so that he can either get his shot off or make his way to the basket. But the things these two guys can do with the ball is incredible. Their showmanship is entertaining so much so that people come early to games just to watch Stephen Curry warm-up.
The scoring category is where these two make their bread and butter. They’re two of the best scorers that we have in the league today. These two dynamic guards hold the #10 (Curry) and #11 (Irving) spot in this season’s top scorers as well as both average 20+ points during their career. Stephen Curry’s scoring greatness comes from his elite shooting ability. We’ve had some great shooters over the history of the NBA but we’ve never seen someone with the gift of shooting like Curry. His quick release and ability to shoot off the dribble separates him from the rest of the field. The range runs deep which makes him a threat as soon as he crosses half court. But he’s not just a shooter. His quickness combined with the great ball-handling that I mentioned earlier makes him a threat off the dribble. Stephen Curry will dance with the best of them and make his way to the basket. He’s a great finisher at the rim as well as a superb pull-up shooter. There’s not much he can’t do and as soon as you give him that little bit of breathing room, you’ve already lost the battle.
Kyrie Irving has a knack for scoring by any means necessary. While he’s not the shooter that Steph is, he does have the capability of knocking them down. His mid-range game is smooth but where he really strives is driving to the basket. Whether it’s in transition or breaking down his defenders, once he gets in that painted area, he can’t be stopped. Irving is one of the best finishers of our time. Rim protectors don’t faze him because he will maneuver his way to get a shot off. He finishes strongly with either hand and he has the upper body strength to absorb contact and still get his shot off. An aspect of Irving’s game that often gets overlooked is his ability to post up. He’s able and willing to put defenders in the post and go to work. When you watch his post work, it’s easy to see the Kobe influence on his game. He has remarkable footwork and poise when looking to score with his back to the basket. It’s remarkable the things he can do and the many different ways he can score.
The point guard position has drifted away from just being a playmaker and getting others involved. In today’s game, you have to be multi-faceted and have the ability to put the ball in the basket. When it comes to the point guard position, these two are amongst the best of the best in the game today and we’ve gotten the privilege to watch them go against each other in the Finals for three straight years. While the debate is always who got the best of who and who’s the better point guard, I’m here to say you can’t go wrong either way. It’s very tough to really put one over the other. The debate is a matter of subjection and who you would rather have on your team. Regardless, even if you have to choose between the two at the end of the day, you know for a fact you’re getting a great point guard.