Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers have had pretty similar NBA careers so far. Both are fantastic scorers, great ball handlers and passers, and both have dealt with injuries.
Injuries aside, both players have lived up to the hype surrounding them as they entered the NBA. Curry is 25 while Kyrie is only 21, so many consider Irving to have a brighter future. Irving is also more athletic than Curry, and his scoring ability around the rim is something Curry has been unable to replicate.
This isn’t to say Curry is only a shooter. Just last season, Curry displayed a beautiful floater than seemed to be automatic by the time the playoffs rolled around. He doesn’t get the praise Irving does for his ball handling, but he is able to do whatever he wants with the ball in his hands.
While Irving showed his shooting prowess when he won last year’s Three-Point Contest (even beating Curry), he can’t compete with the shooting touch of Curry. Irving has shot just under 40 percent from three for his career, which is about 5 percent lower than Curry has shot.
Curry simply has no equal when it comes to shooting. People who don’t watch him often might think he relies on his shooting, but Curry simply utilizes it. Why not shoot if you can make 45 percent of your attempts beyond the arc? His shooting ability actually opens up other areas of the floor for him to work in.
Curry also averages more assists and fewer turnovers for his career than Kyrie. This speaks to Irving’s youth. He is younger than Curry and has time to improve on his decision making.
Curry and Irving are not known for playing great defense. Both are good enough on offense that their defensive play can be ignored. However, defense is half of the game and players can’t always depend on a great offensive night.
Curry’s defensive reputation is a bit outdated. He still isn’t great on defense, but he has certainly improved since he entered the league. Part of his reputation might come from his stature; he looks young/small and doesn’t have a lot of athleticism.
Size and athleticism are both important in the NBA, but Curry has learned to play defense with fundamentals. Mark Jackson, Golden State’s head coach, called Curry an “elite” defender last year because of his improvement in playing the pick-and-roll. Curry certainly isn’t an elite defender, but he is much more respectable than he used to be.
Irving has more athleticism than Curry does, but he also struggles on defense. As I mentioned before, Irving is still very young. He has time to improve his defense and I fully expect him to make strides over the next few seasons. He is a hard worker and has the ability to become the best point guard in the league.
At this time, Curry is the better player. He has the better all-around game and his maturity definitely helps him. This matchup will be one to look at in a few years, because both of these point guards have bright futures.