Before I try to climb into the prolific Golden State point guard Stephen Curry’s head, allow me first to set the stage. On Tuesday, August 12th, on The Dan Patrick Show, Patrick conducted an eight minute phone interview with the copious three-point shooter. Curry responded to questions about everything from what his favorite NFL franchise is to why he thinks LeBron James returned to Cleveland and even added his thoughts about the gruesome Paul George injury. To this point in the interview Curry’s responses were both kind and politically correct. Then Patrick asked one simple question,
“Who’s the better offensive player, you or LeBron?”
“Better offensive player? Me or LeBron? … Me. Gotta be, right?” Curry replied.
Before we get into who’s the better offensive player let’s analyze what an offensive player truly encompasses. When you think offense, you think points. We all know who we would take first on our fantasy team, but when someone makes comments so bold about the league’s four-time MVP we should at least take a look into the numbers right? Anything that leads to the ball being put in the basket should be considered. So points, field goal % and assists should be our main focal points.
Since LeBron has been in the NBA twice as long as Curry and for the sake of simplicity, let’s just compare the two stars’ regular season stats after five years in the league.
LeBron’s point average after five years was 27.36. Stephen’s is 20.3.
Granted, back then LBJ was the main focus on a team with almost no help. While the weight of a championship deprived town was unfairly placed on his broad shoulders, 27+ points per game is still nothing to laugh at. On the other hand Steph came in playing next to Monta Ellis, an accomplished scorer who, at that time, was the center of the Warriors franchise.
Still, if the question is about the better offensive player, the player who scores more points has to have the edge, right? This point goes to LeBron.
Field Goal %
Through five years Curry is a 44% field goal shooter. At the same time in his career LeBron edged him slightly with a 46.5% clip. The difference is minuscule, especially when you consider that a majority of Curry’s shots come from beyond the arc. Add the fact that in James’ rookie season he only managed a meager 41%. Nevertheless, LeBron was able to convert a higher percentage of his shot attempts into points.
So once again, James slightly edges the young All-Star.
If there is any category besides three-point shooting that one would expect Curry to have the edge in, it should be assists. Especially when you consider that Curry is a point guard and James is a forward.
In five years James’ assists per game were 5.9, 7.2, 6.6, 6.0 and 7.2. Steph’s APG are 5.9, 5.8, 5.3, 6.9 and then last year’s jumps to 8.5. That puts LeBron at a 6.58 assists per game compared to very close 6.48 from Steph.
Once again this point goes to, by a very slim margin, LeBron James.
Best of the Best
When it comes down to it, LeBron James is a four-time MVP and a two-time NBA champion. He has added a different layer of offense to his game every single year since his rookie season. He has assaulted the league with a mix of smoothness and physical prowess elsewhere unseen in his generation, and has rewritten the post Jordan history books forever. With no disrespect to Stephen Curry’s growing game, a point guard who has potential to be the league best at his position, this competition was never even fair.
If the question had been ‘who’s the better perimeter shooter’, then the answer is obviously Curry. Steph led the league last year with 261 three-pointers made, more than 30 over second place. After just five years in the NBA and 905 made threes, he’s already 96th on the all-time NBA list. But Patrick’s question was not about who the better three-point shooter is, he simply inquired about the better offensive player.
After looking at the numbers it really isn’t all that hard to tell.