Playing ‘Would You Rather’ with the NBA’s Best
This isn’t who would win in a one-on-one. This isn’t who is the best player right now. There isn’t necessarily any right or wrong answers. We’re just playing Would You Rather with the NBA’s best, debating which compared talent around the league you would prefer.
Something to keep in mind here is that this is often a difficult question since there is no other context given. You have to pick a player without knowing what other pieces may be complimenting them or what kind of system they will be in. It’s more about considering who you personally would be more inclined to build a franchise around. Age and injuries should be considered in the thought process, but try not to worry about players’ current salaries.
Let’s go through some of the top player debates (and some of the less discussed ones) at each starting position.
Damian Lillard v. Kyrie Irving
One compelling similarity here is that both of these guys possess the clutch gene. Lillard and Irving have had their fair share of game-winning shots, albeit from varying contexts, that have solidified them as some of the most clutch players in the new NBA.
Both guards can torch opponents with their shooting and can distribute at a solid rate. The pivotal differences are the rebounding and the ball control. Lillard averages more boards per game than Kyrie (perhaps because he isn’t playing alongside LeBron or Kevin Love), but Kyrie has better handles and is a better finisher around the rim.
Kyrie has an edge on Lillard in terms of age and experience. How is that possible you may ask? Because although Kyrie (24) is two years younger than Lillard (26), he has already played seven more playoff games than his counterpart (including many appearances in the Finals). These last two factors really tip the scale onto Kyrie’s side for me.
Verdict: Give me Uncle Drew
Bradley Beal v. CJ McCollum
Like the last comparison, Beal (23) and McCollum (25) are very talented scorers with two years separating them. I had one of the toughest times deciding between the two – especially considering how young Beal is – but one thing came to my attention that I could not ignore. It may be a little nitty-gritty, but that’s what it takes sometimes so hear me out.
Although both players are capable rebounders and passers (McCollum does have the edge on the boards), their high scoring averages make it pretty clear that their specialties are putting the ball through the hoop. Therefore, I want to look at how they score to determine who is more worthy.
Beal has the luxury of John Wall, one of the best passers in the league who looks to either pass or attack the paint, at his side. This greatly benefits Beal’s shooting and makes his job easier. That’s not to say that Lillard isn’t a good passer, but the fact of the matter is that he is a score-first guard who doesn’t drive or create for his teammates as often or well as Wall does.
With data from nbasavant.com, we can observe how Beal takes more jump shots off the catch, while McCollum creates more offense by himself with pull-up jumpers, driving layups, and floaters:
This helps me come to the conclusion that McCollum is a better pure scorer than Beal, possessing a better and more versatile arsenal to help him get buckets. At least for now, that is — we’ll see how the young Brad Beal continues to develop his game.
Verdict: Where’s CJ? Can someone (Mc)Collum up here so I can pick him, please?
Gordon Hayward v. Paul George
For those of you who are still with me after that brutal attempt of a joke, are you surprised that we are even having this conversation? Well, you shouldn’t be. Just take another look at those stat comparisons. PG13 has been a great athlete through his career and has always had a label of star power in the league. Hayward kind of flew under the radar as a solid player who wasn’t a great athlete and could never really be the guy for a team. While the latter is still up for debate, the former Butler Bulldog has transformed into a tremendous player who earned his way onto his first All-Star roster and since has been dunking all over the place. The forwards are 26-years-old so age isn’t a factor this time. What really sticks out to me is the difference in efficiency.
Their numbers are pretty similar except for the assist-to-turnover ratios and shooting percentages. Hayward only puts up .2 more assists than George on a nightly basis, but George turns the ball over 1.1 more often each game. This translates to the Jazz All-Star’s assist-to-turnover ratio being 1.94, while George’s is an unimpressive 1.14. Hayward has been shooting the ball more effectively as well.
Verdict: It may be a surprise to many, but I’m rolling with Hayward
Draymond Green v. Blake Griffin
Do you like offense or defense? Blake is an exceptional offensive talent with his ability to handle the ball with great court vision, dunk on anyway in his way, and knock down jumpers now. But on the other end of the court, his T-Rex arms limit his defensive capabilities. While Draymond can also handle the ball and has exceptional court vision, he cannot dunk or even shoot at Blake’s success. However, his long arms give him the tools to create steals, block shots, and contain opponents.
Griffin is one year older than Green, but what really hurts Blake is his injury history. The athletic, dunking-over-cars Blake Griffin that we all used to know does not have the same explosiveness after knee issues and other injuries. Meanwhile, Green hasn’t really missed any time from serious injuries. I am extremely skeptical of his personality, but the strong defense, high intensity, and adept vision that Green brings to games cannot be denied.
Verdict: Ugh…okay, fine. Draymond it is
Andre Drummond v. Rudy Gobert v. Hassan Whiteside
Which force on the boards do you prefer? 23-year-old Andre Drummond is by no means a lockdown defender, but his elite rebounding and beastly finishing down low is a tantalizing mixture. The Stifle Tower is also young at just 24 and is an absolute force on the defensive end – getting legitimate Defensive Player of the Year consideration in the process – but doesn’t offer too much on offense. It’s easy to forget that Whiteside is already 27 years old because he was a late-bloomer in the league, but don’t be fooled — the Miami big man can do a whole lot down low from snagging every basketball in his area to making moves and finishing in the paint.
As obsessed as I am with the forcefield that Gobert’s presence creates around the rim, he is so limited offensively that I cannot find it in me to pick him over the other two candidates. Between Whiteside and Drummond, that substantial age gap plays a huge role. If Whiteside were three or four years younger, this may be a whole different story. Also, they are both terrible outside shooters and struggle to convert on even half of their free-throws (although Drummond’s 41% free-throw percentage kind of makes Whiteside look like Steph Curry at the stripe). At 23 years of age, Drummond’s athleticism, rebounding, and strength in the post puts him over the edge as my pick.
Verdict: A 23-year-old who is already putting up historic rebound numbers? I summon Drummond!
This was tougher than I thought. Let me hear your picks in the comments or on Twitter!
Photo via the Flickr Creative Commons, thanks to Erik Drost for the shot of Kyrie.