In response to a question on The Dan Patrick Show, Stephen Curry said he believes he's a better offensive player than LeBron James, and that's news since the latter is a four-time NBA MVP whose widely considered the game's best all-around player and a force of nature offensively.
At the same time, Curry's confidence isn't a big deal, because most players who achieve Second Team All-NBA status have an inflated ego that's helped him reach that level. But is Steph right?
First, let's hear exactly what the Warriors guard said before we take this argument any farther.
Steph Curry: "Better offensive player — me or LeBron? That's the first time I've ever been asked that question. Um, Me. [Laughs.] It's gotta be, right?"
Dan Patrick: "I don't know. I assume you would think you're a pure shooter. He can score. You can, too, but I think — you know what? — the correct answer is probably: LeBron is a better scorer, but I think you're the better shooter. How's that?"
Curry: "I don't know. He obviously demands a lot of attention on the floor, but I like to say I can distribute, get my teammates involved and be a playmaker as well."
Patrick [interrupting]: "What about just putting points up? What about points? What if I said, 'You go out and score as many as you want in a game and LeBron goes out' — who scores more?"
Curry: "I would like to say my shot would help in that situation. If I get a double team, I can hopefully shoot from farther out."
The average impartial NBA enthusiast would probably agree with Patrick's assessment — Steph's the better shooter and LeBron the superior scorer — if only based solely on the eye test.
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com/stats support that theory, too. James scored 216 more points on 30 fewer field goal attempts this past season, mostly thanks to a remarkable ability to get to the rim — where he scores at a rate 20 percent better than Curry — and the line, where he attempts three more free throws per game. As a result, LeBron owns a superior true shooting percentage (64.9 percent to Curry's 61 percent), one of the better representations of a player's pure scoring acumen.
Yet, one look at their shot charts illustrates Curry is a better shooter from almost everywhere on the court but the rim. Nearly two-thirds of Curry's points came from beyond the 3-point line or mid-range while only about a quarter of LeBron's points came from outside the paint, so the former might win a game of H-O-R-S-E between the two. One other item on Curry's side of the ledger: 70 percent of his points were unassisted in 2013-14, as opposed to 58 percent for James.
Of course, offense isn't solely about scoring and shooting. As Curry rightfully notes, distribution counts, too. While LeBron owned a slightly higher usage rate (30.9 to 28.1), the Golden State guard generated more assists per 100 possessions (26.7 to 20.6) and a better assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3 to 1.8). His 8.5 assists created seven more points per game than LeBron's 6.3. Overall, the Heat — operating at a slower pace — scored 1.7 more points per 100 possessions with LeBron than the Warriors did with Curry.
Per 48 minutes, Curry's shooting and distributing produced 53.3 points this past season in contrast with LeBron's 49.9, so maybe Steph has a point. Most folks would still take a 6-foot-8, 240-pound guy capable of playing every position over a 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard, but Curry can outshoot most double teams. It's certainly a lot closer than Dan Patrick seemed to think.
Then again, Curry — after an audible pause — chose Klay Thompson and David Lee over Kevin Love and Kevin Martin, another unpopular opinion that might bring his confidence into question.
"I don't think you can give up Klay," he added, as if he could have responded otherwise. "We have such a good core together. You've got David Lee and Andrew Bogut, who's a great front line. If you put pieces around them, we were a great team last year, and you put the same core together another year, you've got to get better, right? That's the mission. I've got to hopefully prove that message right this year."
With Curry/Klay paired out West and LeBron/Love together in the East, this season will provide further evidence on both theories — another reminder that actual basketball can't get here soon enough.
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