When it comes to debating NBA greats, it is often subjective as many people value certain categories with more weight than others. Steph Curry is an otherworldly offensive talent who forces defenders to pick him up as soon as he crosses the half court line in fear of drilling deep three after deep three, ultimately demoralizing a defense. Curry’s offensive ability not only helps his own game, but his teammate’s on the court, too. From off the ball cuts to his incredible court vision, Curry creates plays with his offensive dynamic game in, game out.
On the other side, is 2X Defensive Player of the Year and one of the best on-ball defenders in recent memory, Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi Leonard is a pest on defense who torments other stars, rarely fouls and has a great individual offensive game on top of that. While these two talents have almost polar opposite games, they both provide an enormous value towards their team’s success. But which player provides a larger importance to their squad?
Offensive games of both players:
Shooting – Curry is the gold standard when it comes to putting the ball in the bucket and shoots at a much better rate than Leonard. From downtown, Curry shoots 41.1%, while Kawhi is 38.0% from deep. A three point percentage differential doesn’t seem like a while lot, but over a career, it adds up. From 16 to 3 feet away, Kawhi shoots 49.3%, but Curry takes the cake with 55.6%. Point to Curry.
Now playmaking, Kawhi is not a premier passer, as he’s never had more than seven assists in a regular season game and no more than eight in a postseason contest. Curry just averaged 9.4 assists per game in The 2017 Finals and averaged 6.6 Assists per game in the regular season. Curry’s teammates also shoot a better TS% when he on the court than when he’s off. Once again, point to Curry.
The 2017 season brought Leonard and Curry close together in the scoring column, both averaging just above 25 ppg, but in their careers, Kawhi averages 16.5 ppg, while Curry is a career 22.8 ppg. While the numbers were close this year, Curry had Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to dish the ball to, so his shots were not as frequent as Leonard’s. Plus, Curry won a scoring title in the 2015-2016 season.
When it comes to offensive favored accolades, Curry has Kawhi beat once again. Curry has two MVP awards, including one unanimous, plus four All Star appearances. Leonard has just two All Star appearances and has never won an MVP award.
Kawhi is an incredible talent, arguably the second best defensive player in the league and an improving all-around performer, but what is valued more in today’s game? When it comes to fantasy, the answer is simply offense, but the NBA is not fantasy. Still, I’d give the edge to offensive talent. A star on offense is much more likely to have an incredible performance than a lock down, elite defender. Sure, defense flies under the radar and isn’t as flashy, but Golden State is winning games 126-120. The offensive game carries teams. Golden State can put up 120 on any team, defensive or offensively driven.
When it comes to these two stars of the league, it’s difficult to compare two different playing styles, but Curry wins any debate. Two rings, unanimous MVP, one of the more legendary shooters and he still finds the time to be an above average defender.