Damian Lillard has been tearing it up this 2022-23 season. In 56 appearances, Dame is averaging career-highs in points (32.4), FG% (46.7%), and TS% (64.8%). There is no doubt shooting is Lillard’s calling card but is it enough to put him in the same category as Steph Curry? In this Stephen Curry vs. Damian Lillard comparison, the stats and body of work will definitively determine who the best shooter is.
Stephen Curry vs. Damian Lillard: NBA Career Overview
Steph Curry was drafted three years before Lillard, but their college careers were eerily similar. Curry and Lillard went to mid-major schools; both are NOT “one-and-done,” and both were picked in the lottery. Their player profiles also mirrored each other– small combo guards who may not be strong enough to dominate at the next level and could be exploited defensively. There were questions about whether Curry and Lillard could play point guard full-time at the next level.
Steph Curry’s NBA Career Overview
For Curry, his NBA career started as well as he could have hoped. His shooting range and accuracy were game-changers, but he had to deal with ankle issues by his third year. Around that time, Golden State tried to use Curry as trade bait to address the need at center. The Bucks were concerned about Curry’s ankle problems, so they went with a package of Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh in exchange for Andrew Bogut.
The trade successfully went through and was the catalyst that brought the Warriors to contention. It was a message to Curry that the franchise keys were his while bringing needed size, rebounding, and passing with Bogut’s entry. After a taste of the playoffs in 2013 and 2014, the Warriors’ front office made shrewd personal and coaching moves, building around Curry’s skill set.
As soon as all these were set, Curry literally took over the league. In 2014-15, Steph was named the MVP, while leading Golden State to its first championship in 40 years. The next year, he became the first unanimous MVP ever and broke the all-time regular season record set by the Chicago Bulls. They fell short in the Finals against LeBron James’ Cavaliers, but it was nonetheless a historic season for Curry.
From there, Steph Curry’s star was at its peak. He won the championship in 2017 and 2018, fell short in 2019, but secured one more in 2022, this time bagging Finals MVP honors. Steph was also the inaugural Western Conference Finals MVP that year. Along the way, Curry broke the record for most three-pointers of all time and is unanimously considered the best shooter ever.
Although he was mired by injuries in 2022-23, Curry was still as deadly as ever. He is averaging 29.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists while making five threes a game in 50% shooting overall.
Damian Lillard NBA Career Overview
Like Curry, everyone can see how special Damian Lillard is from the get-go. Lillard tallied 23 points and 10 assists in his first NBA game, a feat only done by two others in history, Allen Iverson and Oscar Robertson. He also broke Steph Curry’s record of 166 made threes as a rookie, making 185 at the end of the 2012-13 season. That also smashed the franchise record of 181 total threes made in a season set by Damon Stoudamire in 2004-05.
As good as Lillard was, though, the Blazers failed to make the playoffs in 2013. However, 2014 was a different story. From a Robin to LaMarcus Aldridge’s Batman, Dame was inching to become the latter’s equal, at least, according to how coach Terry Stots was using him. The Blazers finished fifth with a 54-28 record, beating Houston in the first round while succumbing to the eventual champions San Antonio Spurs in the second round.
When Aldridge left Portland for free agency in 2015, it was Lillard’s turn to handle the reins from there. He was relatively successful, as he led the Blazers to the postseason in each of the next six years. But in a league where rings are held in high regard, Lillard’s career falls short in that metric. He only made it past the first round twice, absorbing four sweeps, one second-round exit, and one foray to the Conference Finals.
Despite a flawed roster, Lillard is still viewed as a beacon of loyalty after deciding to stay in Portland. Even with his current numbers, the Blazers are in danger of missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
How Does Curry Compare to Lillard?
As individual players, the Curry vs. Lillard comparison is closer than you think. However, the edge goes to Curry with a better team and personal success. In a league where the slightest of edges can mean the difference between a great player and a generational one, there is no doubt that Curry’s career is superior to Lillard’s up until this point.
Stephen Curry’s Accomplishments
- Winning a ring is primarily a team success, but Curry has proven that he can be the best player on a championship squad. He currently had four rings and one Finals MVP.
- Curry is a two-time NBA MVP and the only unanimous winner in league history. Not even Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, or LeBron James became a unanimous MVP.
- Steph Curry is a nine-time All-Star and the ASG MVP in 2022. He was named to eight All-NBA teams, with four First, three Second, and one Third Team selections.
- Curry once achieved the mythical 50-40-90, a season where he shot at least 50% from the field, 40% from three, and 90% from the free throw line.
- He also won the All-Sar three-point competition twice (2015 and 2021) and the scoring championship twice (2016 and 2021). Curry was also the steals leader in 2016.
- Curry was named to the NBA’s Top 75 players of all time.
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Damian Lillard’s Accomplishments
- As of the 2022-23 season, Damian Lillard still has no championship rings. He also does not have an MVP award to his credit. The best finish he had was 8th in the 2020 MVP race.
- Lillard is a seven-time NBA All-Star and a member of six All-NBA teams. He was named to the First Team once (2018, the second team four times, and the Third Team once (2014).
- An award that Dame had that Steph doesn’t is the Rookie of the Year. Lillard was named the 2013 ROY, where he actually won it over the first overall pick Anthony Davis. On the other hand, Curry lost to Tyreke Evans.
- Lillard has never been named the All-Star game MVP, but he did win the three-point contest in 2023.
- Lillard was also in the top 75 list.
Curry’s Stats Compared to Lillard
When it comes to individual and team achievements, Curry blows Lillard out of the water. But as mentioned, Lillard’s and Curry’s stats are closer than you may imagine. Is Damian Lillard a better shooter than Curry? Read their individual numbers side-by-side and make the conclusion:
|Stephen Curry||Damian Lillard|
|Points Per Game||24.6||25.2|
|Rebounds Per Game||4.7||4.2|
|Assists Per Game||6.5||6.6|
|Steals Per Game||1.6||1.0|
|Blocks Per Game||0.2||0.3|
|Threes Made Per Game||3.8||3.1|
At first glance, Curry and Lillard are statistically similar players, but why does Steph experience better individual and team success? Well, aside from being surrounded by better players, Curry’s efficiency is off the charts. Lillard’s best single-season mark from the field is 46.3%, and he only has one season where he made 40% of his deep attempts.
Meanwhile, Curry shot over 50% from the field once and at least 48% in six seasons. Although Steph had seven seasons where he attempted over 10 shots from deep, he makes them at a consistently higher rate. In those seven seasons, he only shot sub-40% from three only once (38%), and that’s coincidentally in his championship season in 2021-22.
So while the Curry vs. Lillard stats comparison is close, overall efficiency made most of the difference.
Steph Curry’s Impact on the NBA
Steph Curry changed the game as fans know it because he’s above and beyond better than everyone else in one thing: shooting. Curry can catch and shoot, pull up, fade, off the dribble, and run through screens while drilling a three. Most shooters before him can do one or two things well, but Steph has everything completely figured out.
Because of his shooting, Curry became the face of the three-point revolution. In some ways, Curry “destroyed” the game in the sense that young players nowadays thought shooting threes was cool. Unbeknownst to them is how Curry worked on his fundamentals to get to this level and the fact that he is more than just a three-point shooter.
You see, Curry has gotten so good as a three-level scorer that opposing teams could not run off the three-point line. He has a nifty mid-range game and an underrated layup package to finish over taller defenders. His movement and activity off the ball are among the all-time best, and his presence alone opens a lot of things up for his teammates.
But with all of Curry’s great attributes reflected all over the court, the conversation always comes back to one thing: shooting. When you see little kids or high school boys chucking up threes from 40 feet and beyond, that’s Steph Curry’s impact right there. When Golden State’s shooting and motion-centric offense translated to championships, everybody realized it could be done. No NBA offense now does not put a premium on shooting and spacing, and that’s Steph Curry’s clearly-rendered fingerprints.
Damian Lillard’s Impact on the NBA
Damian Lillard is already 32 years, so it’s improbable that he’s going to overtake Steph Curry in terms of individual and team success. But make no mistake about it, Lillard has already cemented his impact in the NBA as a man of loyalty and principle.
For one thing, Lillard’s loyalty to the Trail Blazers franchise cannot be quantified. Despite the recent string of adversities, he never requested a trade or threatened to leave Portland to find greener pastures elsewhere. The team may find him a solid later in his career and trade him to a contender, but that’s not something Lillard would do.
Last week, Lillard lamented the NBA’s ring culture and said he doesn’t enjoy what the league has become. In a podcast with JJ Redick, here’s what Dame had to say: “I just don’t know if I can play a long, long time because I don’t enjoy what the NBA as a whole is becoming.”
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Only time will tell if Lillard changes his tune, but right now, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone as loyal as him in the NBA.
Steph Curry vs. Damian Lillard Debate
If you’re still asking, “Who is a better shooter, Curry or Lillard?” you probably have not been watching the NBA for too long. There certainly is no debate, even to Lillard. After Curry, though, Dame considers himself the “clear-cut” choice, even better than Ray Allen or Reggie Miller.
But as for a direct Curry vs. Lillard comparison as players, there is no doubt that Steph is a tier above Dame. That’s not to say Damian Lillard is a bum, but there aren’t many better players on a basketball court than Steph Curry in his element.
Fans can always play the “switch game” and hypothetically swap Dame and Steph’s places, but the fact of the matter is Curry has been at the pinnacle while Dame has not. Winning championships is not just about the box scores; leadership and the intangibles matter. In that regard, Curry is undoubtedly a better player than Lillard
Wrapping Things Up: Stephen Curry vs. Damian Lillard: Who is the Best Shooter in the NBA?
Since the NBA has turned into a shooter’s league, it’s a worthwhile question to ask who the best shooter in the league is. For the majority, that would be Steph Curry, while some may throw Damian Lillard’s name into the conversation.
However, the fact is, this is hardly a debate. Even if Steph Curry and Damian Lillard are statistically similar players, “shooting” is Curry’s world, and they are all just living in it. Steph is the all-time leader in three-pointers made and a shade below Kyle Korver in the all-time three-point FG% rankings at 11.
On the other hand, Lillard is sixth all-time in three-pointers made, but he is almost 1,000 treys behind Curry. Percentage-wise, Lillard’s 37.2% career mark is 199th. At the rate and efficiency that Steph Curry is going with the three-ball and other shooting attributes, he is far and away the best shooter that ever stepped foot in the NBA.
So, the next time you hear a Stephen Curry vs. Damian Lillard debate regarding who the best shooter is, the stats and numbers unequivocally point toward Curry. Lillard is a great player in his own right, but if shooting is solely the metric, no one touches Steph Curry. In short, if Dame is an exceptional shooter, Steph would be the boogeyman. That’s how scary good the guy is.
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