Steph Curry is better than Westbrook…and it’s not close

January 5, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) look on during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 117-91. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
January 5, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) look on during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 117-91. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook are two of the league’s top players, but Curry is on a tier above the OKC guard.

It’s a classic matchup of finesse versus power when two of the league’s top point guards come together.

Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook are polar opposites, eating souls on different ends of the spectrum in their own ways. The NBA is in a golden age where two players with such vast, fundamental differences in their games can both dominate.

As exciting as having the league’s two best regular season teams, the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, face off in the postseason, this is the matchup we all wanted. Tony Parker is a future Hall of Famer, but he doesn’t have the raw talent to oppose Curry like Westbrook does.

Even then, Westbrook just isn’t in the same tier as Curry who, after winning his second consecutive MVP award, stands far above the rest of the league as the NBA’s best player.

There’s a large “Westbrook-truther” movement, especially on Twitter; a community that believes the Thunder guard is not only the best point guard in the Association, but one of, if not, the best “all-around” player. On one level, it’s understandable–Westbrook’s numbers on the surface are enticing and his angry scowl can inspire millions. Doing a little bit of work reveals that he isn’t close to Curry at all.

One of his fans’ favorite narratives to push is that he plays defense while Curry is beyond incompetent on that end of the floor. The best “all-around” point guard or player qualifier serves as a shot at Curry who, because of former head coach Mark Jackson‘s strategies three years ago, has been incorrectly tagged as a poor defender while a simplistic view of Westbrook’s abilities creates this notion that he’s great on that end.

Westbrook’s elite athleticism and speed allow him to come away with a play or two every night that leaves you amazed, a chase-down block or an incredible steal. But what gets lost in the highlights is the poor footwork or defensive rotation that let his man get great positioning. Westbrook’s athleticism doesn’t save him most of the time and he lets his man walk to the rim after gambling on a steal or refusing to shuffle his feet.

Curry, on the other hand, is a very competent defender. He’s not Gary Payton, but he’s closer to that end of the spectrum than the James Harden side. Offensive players are 3.1 percent worse than their average when Curry guards them as opposed to Westbrook who lets his man shoot 1.7 percent better, according to the NBA’s official stats. The Warrior also led the league in steals.

Offensively, they have such contrasting styles. Westbrook tries to get the game into a chokehold from the get-go, imposing his will. He attacks the rim, going all out from the opening tip. Curry lets the game happen, picking his spots, reading the defense trying to figure out when to get his own looks and set up teammates.

Westbrook’s numbers are fantastic. He nearly averaged a triple-double for the entire season. But a large number of his assists come as a result from dominating the ball for most of the shot clock until he dishes it off to someone who has to put up a shot. That’s not to say he’s not good at creating for others, but the numbers are deceiving.

Curry is just on another level. He lets the offense develop, using his all-time great shooting ability to help him play off-ball. He gives his teammates the space and freedom to operate and attack when they want. He’s an unprecedented combination of production and efficiency. His offensive rating (125) and PER (31.5) were significantly higher than Westbrook’s (115, 27.6 respectively).

Despite all of Westbrook’s thunderous dunks, Curry is better in the paint, converting over 64 percent of his attempts at the rim while the OKC point man finished about 57 percent of his attempts. And there’s no comparison on the perimeter.

These guys are both fierce competitors that show that in different ways. Westbrook glares and yells while Curry shimmies and dances. Westbrook is a top 10 player in the league and his demeanor covers up all his flaws. Curry gets criticized for sometimes not defending the other team’s best player when that’s the right decision. Klay Thompson is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league with length to bother the shiftiest of guards. Westbrook, on the other hand, gets praised for taking the other team’s best offensive player only to get beat over and over again.

Quite simply: Curry gets burned for making the right decision while Westbrook gets called great for getting burned.

Again, theres are both really terrific players. But the gap between Curry and Westbrook is much larger than most people want to believe because Russell’s abilities are more obvious, more comfortable. As basketball fans, many are OK with Westbrook’s greatness while they have difficulty accepting Curry’s.

Russell Westbrook is doing things we haven’t seen for a long time, but Steph Curry is doing things we’ve never seen before.

The Western Conference Finals tip off tonight and we’ll finally get to see these two go at each other. Westbrook has been playing some really great basketball since the Thunder’s terrible Game 1 against the Spurs and Curry, despite battling injuries, has already put out a historic, record-breaking performance.

The Thunder have several advantages in this series (a guy named Kevin Durant, big man depth), but the point guard position is not one of them. It doesn’t matter if you want to look at head-to-head or overall, Curry is better than Westbrook and it’s not that close.