Both Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard had individually impressive seasons last year. Lillard won rookie of the year, scoring 19.0 points per game on a 54.6 true shooting percentage, while Curry scored 22.9 on 58.9 percent true shooting and broke the single season record for three pointers made and is the face of the Golden State Warriors franchise.
At this moment, Curry is undoubtedly the better player. He is a more efficient scorer, has a higher assist percentage, and is a better defender than Damian Lillard. However, neither Lillard nor Curry has reached his apex. Both players, despite their already developed skills, have significant room for improvement.
Damian Lillard, though often called a “polished player”, retains significant potential. Most notably, he was a disaster defensively for most of last season, getting beaten on ball and losing his man off ball. His position versus the pick and roll was consistently poor, though he improved over the course of the season, and he struggled to use team defensive concepts to his advantage. His offensive game also left room for improvement. He has a very good shot and is an adept finisher at the rim, but struggle to remain highly efficient due to poor shot selection.
Curry began the year as an around-average defender. However as the season, interrupted by periodic ankle injuries, progressed, Curry’s defense declined. He pressured opposing ball handlers at a decreasing rate, and was less aggressive with his off-ball rotations, perhaps conserving energy for the offensive end of the floor. On offense, Curry leverages his one transcendent talent, shooting, and a combination of high-level skill, dribbling and passing, to create one of the league’s most potent offensive games. However, Curry struggles mightily in the paint and rarely draws free throws, allowing opponents to aggressively deny his jump shot.
While Lillard does have significant potential, it seems likely that Curry, only two years older, has the brighter future. Few players’ in league history have had ability on the level of Curry’s shooting, reminiscent of Dennis Rodman’s rebounding ability. Curry’s combination of skills ensures that he will always be an elite offensive player. While Lillard has this potential, its attainment requires a development of his passing and decision-making. This is not out of the question, and partial leaps are likely, however, it is not ensured that Lillard ever approaches Curry’s level of offensive production.