Some of the most entertaining sports debates happen while discussing players.
Multiple different factors are typically brought up throughout the course of the debate.
Counting stats, advanced stats, eye-test, and bias are all taken into account.
— First Take (@FirstTake) February 17, 2021
As guards become more important to today’s game, floor generals constantly find themselves at the center of these comparison debates.
Both players have high usage rates because of their incredible offensive talent.
Without further ado, let’s debate these two perennial All-Star guards.
Lillard On the Same Level as Curry Offensively
A few years ago, one could make an argument either player was superior offensively.
Westbrook averaged a triple-double for three consecutive seasons while single-handedly carrying the Oklahoma City Offense.
Russell Westbrook averages a triple-double back-to-back years.
2017: MVP, All-NBA First Team
2018: All-NBA Second Team
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) May 24, 2018
Lillard was a 25+ PPG scorer who was known for his perimeter scoring.
But Lillard has ended all possible arguments the past two years.
Last season saw Lillard put up Steph Curry-like numbers.
Dame averaged 30 PPG on 63% TS% – both new career highs.
He attempted 10.2 threes-per-game, hitting 40% of them, while also getting to the line a career-best 7.8 times-per-game.
His new-found scoring efficiency has continued into this year.
Lillard is averaging 29.3 PPG on 62% TS%, which includes stroking 38% of his 10.6 3PA.
And as an added bonus, the scoring has not diminished his play-making ability.
Rather, it has bettered that aspect of his game.
Been impressed by the playmaking from Damian Lillard during this stretch. The change of speed has been big, using the threat of attack to open things up. Taking that step from reading defenses to bending defenses. pic.twitter.com/yQSylqxxbg
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) February 13, 2021
His 8 APG last season was a career watermark and he is following up that with 7.4 APG so far this season.
Lillard is clearly the second-best scoring point guard in the league behind Curry.
Meanwhile, Westbrook has somewhat faded on the offensive end.
His inability to shoot from deep has gotten worse as his career progresses.
And while Russ’s athleticism somewhat made up for that deficiency in the early years, the lack of explosiveness is starting to hurt now.
Westbrook still puts up solid numbers but is no longer the player he once was.
He is currently posting a career-worst TS% at 47.5% and he is in the 19th percentile in points-per-shot-attempt.
This may have been a debate 2+ years ago.
It is not anymore.
Point guards are so critical to a team’s success because they are typically the leader on the court.
They bring the ball up, initiate the offense, and read the defense to occasionally call plays.
While these traditional duties don’t always fall on the point guard’s shoulders, Lillard and Westbrook still carry much of these responsibilities.
Because of the vital role these two play in their offense, they have an immense impact on their team.
And just like in terms of offense, Lillard has widened the gap here.
During his MVP campaign in 2016-17, Russ posted an absurd 41.7 Usage Percentage that led the league.
At 40.8%, R.Westbrook has the highest usage rate since play by play data started to record ('96). https://t.co/YIIWsp1lnS
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) April 17, 2017
The Thunder were +13.4-points-per-100-possessions better with Westbrook on the court than when he sat.
But now, he is down to a 31.5 USG%, right in-line with Lillard’s 31.8% USG%.
And what’s worse, the Wizards are actually 8 points worse when Russell is on the court.
Meanwhile, the Trailblazers are 12.5 points better with Dame running the show.
Part of that can be chalked up to overall team talent (Wiz are 8-17, Blazers are 17-10).
But Westbrook’s teammate, Bradley Beal, makes Washington 1.8 points better when he plays.
The eye-test supports these advanced analytics.
Teams know Westbrook can’t shoot from outside, which allows them to crowd the lane.
This eliminates his driving lanes and hinders his teammates’ ability to cut to the basket.
Lillard’s elite shooting forces the defense to open up.
Teams have to guard him well beyond the 3-point line and occasionally send double-teams.
In turn, this frees up other Blazers for open looks at the basket and rolls to the rim.
Lillard himself is an offensive dynamo.
But his ability to use his incredible offensive prowess to make life easier for teammates is what makes him truly special.
Lillard Much Better
In conclusion, Lillard is far and away the better player at this point in time.
What may have once been a contest is now a one-sided affair.
Westbrook’s otherworldly athleticism makes him a better defender, but the difference isn’t great enough to offset the gulf on offense between the two.
That also isn’t to say Russ is a good defender – he is just better when compared to Dame.
Losing half a step to age has had a serious impact on Westbrook’s offensive game.
He can no longer penetrate the paint with ease which exacerbates his shooting inefficiencies.
On the flip side of the coin, Lillard seems to have unlocked a new level.
He is hitting career highs in scoring and doing so uber efficiently.
His seemingly limitless range and playmaking ability make things easier for the team as a whole, too.
Both are talented players, but Lillard takes the cake in this debate.
DAME. TIME. pic.twitter.com/3LMKfUMYqw
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 15, 2021