Who’s better?

So today at training my friend Rory asked a very good question, who’s better or will be better Dame Lillard or Kyrie Irving? I asked my coach Brendan and he gave a resounding Irving. Now, I am a huge fan of both and I really like what they’re doing. 

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So first of all lets take some facts. 

Kyrie Irving, 20 years old, 6′ 3″, 191 lbs and is now a sophomore after winning the ROY award last year.

Damian Lillard, 22 years old, 6′ 3″, 194 lbs and is in the midst of a great rookie year.

Now lets take their stats.

Irving; 24PPG, 5.6APG, 3.6RPG and 1.8SPG.

Lillard; 18.3PPG, 6.6APG, 3.5RPG and 1.0SPG.

So clearly at the moment there’s no denying that Irving is a better player. But we’re comparing a second-year player with a rook. So let’s compare Irving’s numbers from year one (Which was lockout affected.) to Lillard’s at the moment. 18.5PPG, 5.4APG, 3.7RPG and 1.1SPG. So, they’re pretty much the same but Kyrie played on a way worse team. As well as that Lillard spent more time in college with Weber State to polish his game compared to Kyrie’s injury interrupted 7-game campaign with Duke. 

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But at the same time if Lillard played for the Cavs would he have better numbers than Irving did or even better numbers than Irving now? I mean Irving has pittance compared to Lillards wealth of talent at the Blazers. Compare Waiters, Gee, Thompson and Varejao to Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, Hickson and Leonard off the bench. That’s a lot of scoring power. So a lot of responsibility falls on Uncle Drew’s shoulders to put the ball in the bucket. I think that Lillard could put up the same sort of numbers at the moment if he was on such a bad team.

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Now I just want to dissect their respective games and split them into five categories.

1. Ballhandling.

I would be classed as mentally insane if I didn’t give this to Irving! Watch any video of his drills with team USA during the summer and you will know what I’m talking about! At the same time I think Lillard has better iso moves to beat his man or get an open shot. But Irving has so much control on his dribble and can weave through the best of defenses. Irving wins but not because of Lillard’s inability but because of his elite status in this category.

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2. Shooting (From three.).

Lillard’s 3P% : 0.355. Irving: 0.404. That looks like a clear Irving win, but if you look at the actual makes/attempts you’ll see that it isn’t that simple. Lillard: 94/265 Kyrie: 65/161. Now I know Kyrie has missed quite a few games this year and that would explain the lesser amount of attempts but at the same time Dame’s taken 100 more shots and made 30 more than Irving and is also ranked ahead of him in the 3-point field goals per minute section. Two reasons for a dip in Lillard’s percentage is because of his shot selection at times. He tends to pullup for three on a fastbreak which is a tough shot and also shoots at will off a pick and roll which won’t go in ALL of the time. And Lillard ranks #9 in three pointers made compared to #36 where Irving lies. I give it to Dame because he can make tougher shots but he needs to work on his desicion-making.

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3. Passing.

Damian’s passing statistics are better but only by one dime. As well as that Lillard has more people to pass to and he is the main ballhandler so more passes count as assists compared to some passes Irving might throw to Waiters. But still Irving averages more TO’s (3.64 to Lillard’s 2.9.) and is 17th in the league in total turnovers which isn’t great. Even though Lillard has more ammunition he is a better passer at the moment (21st in the league in assists per 48 minutes where Irving lies 30th.) because he doesn’t have the pressure Irving does to score and he isn’t as focused at putting the ball in the hoop. So I give this to Lillard but the talent on his Portland team has a lot to do with it.

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4. Leadership.

The Blazers, at the moment, stand 9th in the tough western conference with a 19-19 compared to Cleveland’s 12-32 and 12th spot. The Cavaliers’ failure to be good is of no fault to Irving! Whereas all of the Blazers’ success isn’t down to Lillard. One thing I will point out is that just because Lillard is a rookie doesn’t mean he isn’t a leader. He’s 5th(!!) in the league in the minutes per game slot compared to Irving’s 28th place berth. But Irving is a better leader because:

1) He does everything for his team.

2) He’s more experienced in the league.

At the same time Lillard is older so don’t expect him to be far behind Irving in this category for long. Fairly easy win for Irving.

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5. Potential.

Irving was recently named to the Allstar reserve for this year but Lillard wasn’t a million miles away from the western spot even though he wasn’t on the ballot. Right now Kyrie’s career high in points lies at 41, which he scored against the Knicks but they still pulled out the W (KNICKSTAPE!!!!), whereas Lillard’s is 37, which he put up in a loss to hometown team Golden State, so it’s hard to tell who is a clear-cut victor here. It’s also hard to tell who is more clutch. Irving has made a number of clutches this year and last year, including a layup to win the game against the Celtics with 2.7 left. Lillard meanwhile has had a number of clutch plays like the buzzer-beater he nailed against the Hornets and the dagger of a three he sunk against the Knicks to seal the win. Anyone remember Kyrie’s MVP performance in the rookie-sophomore game last year or Dame’s MVP effort at the summer league in Las Vegas? See these guys go blow for blow. I’d give this to Lillard because of his dominance right now in the race for the ROY award. I mean compare the fact that all the competition Kyrie had last year was Isaiah Thomas (Who is a beast.), when Lillard has to fend off the likes of Davis, MKG, Shved, Drummond and Brad Beal.

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To be honest I can’t really differenciate between them. Usually I could say that one is more mature or seasoned than the other but none of these categories are clear cut. I give it to Lillard overall even though at the moment Kyrie is better I can see Lillard being a serious MVP candidate in the future. 

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Also he has one dope youtube series; A Licence to Lillard, HIT IT UP!!!!!

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Peace.

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