NBA: Better of Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry Will Determine Pecking Order in West


Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry are two of the best players in the NBA. Who plays better of the two might determine winner of the Western Conference

Man, the Western Conference and its point guards…

To no one’s surprise, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry are off to fantastic starts. They have and will continue to prove why they are not only the two best point guards in the basketball, but two of the best players in the NBA. There are so many factors that go into a team winning the West, but is whoever plays the best between Westbrook and Curry the biggest this season?

In just two games, both Westbrook and Curry have already had unbelievable performances that only they make seem normal. Curry tallied 40 points, six rebounds and seven assists on opening night against the pretty much point guard-less Pelicans. In game two for Westbrook, he put up 48 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to edge the young Magic in double overtime.

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Outings like these have already come early, and will surely come often as the season goes on. All due respect to Chris Paul – a dog on both sides of the court and one of the fiercest competitors in the NBA – but Steph and Russ are the two best points guards going right now.

They play differently, but the outcomes seem to be the same. Curry and his dazzling handle, unguardable shot and pure vision. Westbrook and his relentless attack of the basket, rebounding and passing ability of his own. Curry likes to dance around, Westbrook just runs right through you. Both styles are incredible to watch, because no matter how the defense plays, they are not going to win. If Curry and Westbrook struggle, it’s on them.

We saw these two breakout, so to speak, last season, both in different circumstances. Curry got a new head coach, Steve Kerr, who made minor changes and simply coached-up a team already on the cuff to stand far above every other team in the NBA. Those changes and coaching brought the best out of Curry.

Westbrook? He was just doing any and everything he could to get Oklahoma City to the playoffs with Kevin Durant missing the majority of action with a foot injury.

Curry won the championship, and Westbrook missed out on the playoffs.

This season, things will be different. They won’t be too different for Golden State, who lost only one player– David Lee – that played any sort of a role in their 4-2 NBA Finals victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But a certain someone will return for the Thunder.

Westbrook will be getting his running mate – Durant – back this season. Durant had just short of six months (when the regular season started) to recover from his three right foot surgeries, but is healthy now and has shown that in two games. After shaking off the rust in the first game (22 points, 6-of-19 shooting), Durant exploded for 43 points and 12 boards (in 54 minutes of play) to top a Magic team that wouldn’t go down easy. The Thunder actually had to come back to win this game, as they were down 18 at one point. Two overtimes later, OKC finally managed to close Orlando out.

The production and minutes show Durant is healthy and can take the stress on his body that a player endures nightly. Still, people will worry about KD’s health all year, as foot problems are nothing to mess with. Especially when you run up and down a hardwood floor a few hundred times a week for six-plus months.

Right now, we can just take what we have seen, and what we have seen has been incredible. The supporting cast hasn’t been much help, as the other three starters have a combined 35 points total through two games. Westbrook and Durant had 91 combined just against Orlando. They are the only duo to score 40-plus points each since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in 1996, by the way. Pretty good company. KD and Russ also did this two other times in 2011-12.

That supporting cast should start to help out more eventually. Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are starting for defense, and Serge Ibaka will help protect the rim as well as stretch the floor. D.J. Augustin, Enes Kanter and Anthony Morrow should also consistently produce off the bench, with possible flashes from Dion Waiters.

Curry doesn’t have that luxury of a fellow superstar to help carry the load, but he doesn’t need it. Curry leads the pack in Golden State, but he consistently has help around him. Kerr has designed that rotation so perfectly, with the proper balance in the starting lineup and second unit of shooting, passing and defense.

The question is, which is better?

I’m inclined to stick with the better overall team, because even when Curry goes off, everyone else around him is involved and playing better team defense, too. Kerr has this group synced on both ends of the floor, so that they are moving around Curry as well as defending on the other end.

Aside from Steven Adams high pick-and-rolls for Westbrook, the Thunder just pretty much sit around and watch their two superstars go to work. Can they win that way? Absolutely. No one can guard both Durant and Westbrook, so that offense works automatically. The full team approach, however, is a much more reliable and logical way to play.

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Even with more of a two-man show in OKC, the two starring have enough firepower to go all the way. Especially if they can get consistent production that is even just good enough from Ibaka and the role players.

Thing is, Golden State doesn’t need Curry to carry the load, making them so much better when he does have a huge game. When Curry is hot and behind the three-point arc, that defensive attraction alone opens up everything closer to the basket. And as mentioned earlier, Curry has the vision to take advantage of that.

Whoever plays the best of these two this season might determine the pecking order in the West, a conference dominated by elite point guard play. Curry might not have to play as well as Westbrook for his team to go far, but don’t doubt Westbrook unless you want him to tear down the rim on his next ferocious slam.

So, in that case, go ahead and doubt him…