Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry vs. Russell Westbrook


January 23, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) attempts to drive past Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) in the third quarter at ORACLE Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 104-99. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook are two of the best young point guards in the league, but they have made their marks in different ways.  Stephen Curry just might be the most likeable guy in the NBA; his shooting ability has pushed his popularity through the roof.  Russell Westbrook has been playing second fiddle to Kevin Durant since he entered the league and is known for being a bit of a chucker.

Westbrook’s reputation revolves around the way he plays basketball.  He doesn’t fit the mold of the traditional point guard.  He looks for his own shot, his athleticism is off the charts, and he is routinely criticized for his bad attitude.

While some people think he takes shots away from Kevin Durant, who is a better player and a better shooter, the Thunder are lucky to have Westbrook.  His scoring ability takes a lot of pressure off of Durant and he still distributes the ball well (7.4 assists per game last season).

Westbrook will always be in Durant’s shadow, but he should be thankful for that.  The combination of Durant and Westbrook will make the Thunder championship contenders for years.  Durant’s presence also makes it easier for Westbrook to find his shot.

Westbrook’s speed and athleticism allow him to get to the rim with ease; opposing defenders just can’t stay in front of him.  He converted 56.6 percent of his shots at the rim last season, which just goes to show how valuable he can be when he bullies his way into the paint.

The problem with Westbrook offensively is his jump shot.  Although he does have the ability to knock down shots and three-pointers, he isn’t very efficient when taking those shots.  Westbrook needs to learn to improve his shot selection.  He won’t always be able to rely on his athleticism, so he needs to find other ways to score.

Curry’s problem offensively is the exact opposite.  He can shoot lights out from anywhere near and beyond the three-point line, but he has trouble finishing at the rim.  Although Curry and Westbrook are listed at similar heights and weights, Curry does not have the explosiveness and athleticism that Westbrook has.

He has worked on finishing at the rim this offseason, but he may never be a great finisher in this league.  His shooting ability makes his finishing less of a problem, but a more well-rounded game will help carry Curry to the next level.

Athleticism also comes in handy for Westbrook on the defensive end.  He is quick enough and strong enough to stay in front of his man and, if he ever does get beat, he can recover quicker than almost anyone in the league.

Westbrook might not have the most technically sound defense, but he is a monster on the defensive end. He has great size for a point guard and a knack for stealing the ball.

Again, Curry must manage without elite athleticism.  Although he has found ways to compensate on the offensive side of the ball, he has had trouble finding ways to contribute defensively.  Curry is a below average defender, but he has made improvements each year he has been in the league.

Injury history is another factor when comparing these two players.  Curry has dealt with multiple ankle injuries over the past few years.  Curry’s ankles are now the concern of every Golden State Warriors fan.  Ankle injuries are not to be taken lightly in the game of basketball.  If Curry’s ankles continue to bother him, his career could be shortened.

Westbrook, on the other hand, has avoided injury for almost his entire career.  He tore a meniscus this past season, but has had a clean slate other than that.  If Westbrook does run into injury problems in the future, his career will be greatly impacted.  He depends on his athleticism so much that, if injuries make him lose a step, his game could take a huge blow.

At this point in time, Russell Westbrook is the better point guard.  He needs to improve his shot selection and decision making on offense, but he still knows how to put the ball in the hoop.  Curry excels on offense, but he can’t match Westbrook’s defensive production.