Damian Lillard is well known throughout the Pacific Northwest. He is an elite point guard who has the ability to dominate an NBA game at any given moment. However, for some reason he doesn’t get much love outside of the Pacific Northwest. Whenever I turn on Sportscenter, I hear about Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul. The aforementioned players are all elite point guards however they don’t quite possess the same magic that Lillard demonstrates on the court. In my opinion, he is the best point guard in the NBA.
In no particular order, I will compare Damian Lillard to the other elite point guards in the NBA. To begin, I will compare him to Stephen Curry. Many NBA experts and fans alike believe that Curry is the best point guard in the NBA. He is exciting, electric and makes impossible shots look easy. However, when you take away all the razzle dazzle, is he really better than Lillard? I don’t believe so. When analyzing the “2017-2018” season statistics between the two players, they are very similar. Both players average around 26.5 points per game, around 6.5 assists, and 5 rebounds. The main difference statistically between the two players is that Curry has a higher field goal percentage than Lillard. Curry shoots about 49% from the field while Lillard shoots about 45%. However, Lillard has a better assist to turnover ratio. Lillard’s ratio is 2.3 while Curry’s ratio is 2.0. The stats are almost identical, so what separates the two players from one another? Playoff performance! Even though Curry has three championship rings, he has shied away from big moments. In the “2015-2016” NBA Finals, Curry completely disappeared which allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their first championship in franchise history. Furthermore, Kevin Durant has carried the Golden State Warriors to their last two championships, not Curry. On the other hand, Lillard has hit huge shots in the playoffs including the series ending fadeaway three pointer to eliminate the Houston Rockets in 2014. With the exception of last year’s playoff debacle against the New Orleans Pelicans, Lillard has consistently been amazing in the playoffs. Even though the two players are almost identical in playing style I believe that Lillard is the slightly better player. In this instance, I would rank Damian Lillard 1A and Stephen Curry 1B.
Russell Westbrook fans are extremely passionate in their belief that he is the best point guard in the NBA. Statistically speaking they are not wrong; Westbrook is a walking triple double and can dominate the game from the point guard position unlike any other player. Based off of only statistics, he is by far the best point guard in the NBA. Furthermore, his athleticism is off the charts and unlike anything we have seen before at the point guard position. I personally love him and the passion that he plays with on the court. However, he lacks one CRUCIAL skill that Lillard has and that is the ability to make good decisions at the end of games. True leaders know when to pass and when to shoot; Westbrook has not yet mastered this skill. Furthermore, he only plays at one speed – fast. Most of the time, this benefits the Oklahoma City Thunder; however, at the end of games, it tends to hurt their offensive productivity. On the other hand, Lillard knows when to slow the game down and run a half court offensive set. If Westbrook could master this skill, then he would by far be the best point guard in the NBA. However it still hasn’t happened. Lillard demonstrates an intangible skill-set that Westbrook has not yet developed. This is why I believe he is better than Westbrook.
Kyrie Irving is the best dribbling point guard in the NBA. In fact, I believe he is the best all-around scorer at the point guard position. He constantly executes impossible moves that I can’t even pull off in NBA 2K18. His ability to create shots for himself is unmatched by any other point guard with the exception of Russell Westbrook. However, Irving cannot seem to stay healthy. He has literally had ten different injuries throughout his career that have effected his entire body. Some of these injuries include a fractured jaw, a hyperextended right knee, a broken hand, and a concussion. He got injured before the playoffs last year and missed the entire post season with the Boston Celtics. Furthermore, he got injured during the NBA Finals when playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. All in all, I personally think that Irving is the best point guard in the NBA, when he is actually on the court. Nevertheless, he is not on the court in critical games which is why I give the nod to Lillard.
Chris Paul is the only point guard I have included in this article that plays elite defense. Paul has a career average of 2.3 steals per game. Lillard has a career average of 0.9 steals. Paul’s all-around defense is much better than Lillard’s. However, Chris Paul does not have the same offensive firepower that Lillard has. Lillard is a threat to shoot from anywhere at any time. Furthermore, he attacks the hoop ferociously and constantly puts pressure on the defense. Paul does have the ability to score through a well ran offensive scheme, however he struggles to create his own shot. Lillard averaged 26.9 points per game last season while Paul only averaged 18.6. I believe that Paul in his prime was a better point guard than Lillard, however Paul is not in his prime anymore. Paul has lost a step as he has gotten older and cannot create shots for his teammates as efficiently as he used to. His assists dropped below 8.0 per game for the first time since his rookie season last year. This is also due to James Harden dominating the ball, nevertheless the Houston Rockets play an up-tempo offensive style that should allow Paul to create ample shots for his teammates. I think that Lillard’s all-around offensive game makes him a better point guard than Chris Paul.
In my opinion these are the best five point guards in the NBA. I think that all of these players can dominate the game in a unique way. However, I believe that Damian Lillard is the most complete player out of everyone. His ability to shoot, drive, pass, lead a team, stay healthy, and his improvement in defense last season is why I believe Lillard is the best point guard in the NBA.