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Kyrie Irving vs Damian Lillard: Who's better? A statistical comparison

SENIOR ANALYST
Feature
1.34K   //    30 Aug 2018, 16:59 IST

Kyrie and
Kyrie and Dame pose for an All-Star Weekend photoshoot

Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard have had vastly different career trajectories thus far. Despite both of them being All-Stars right from their sophomore years, their teams were in pretty different situations when they were drafted. Irving was playing for one of the worst rosters in the league, while Lillard was on a playoff team in the West and had an All-Star other than himself in the initial years of his career to carry the team when he couldn't.

All of that changed in the space of 1 year. LeBron's decision to return to Cleveland and Kevin Love's subsequent trade surrounded Kyrie with a championship-caliber roster, while the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge as a free agent in 2015 left Dame to pick up the pieces with CJ McCollum.

Since 2014, Irving has been to 3 Finals and could conceivably have been to a 4th if he hadn't been injured at the end of last season. Lillard continues to get the Blazers to punch above their weight, and has never not played in a playoff series since his rookie year.

What you'll read now is a short analysis of who the better player is right now:

#1 Playmaking

Lillar
Lillard has a superior assists per game average

Lillard has been the de facto point guard for the Trail Blazers right from Day 1, when he was selected as the 6th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft. This gives him the advantage over Kyrie - who played 3 seasons as the off-ball guard to LeBron's point forward with the Cavaliers - in their assists total.

Neither flies out as anything remotely close to being all-time great as playmakers in the more traditional sense, like Chris Paul, John Wall and Rajon Rondo do. But they are above average facilitators, and this isn't an aspect of their game that can be considered a weakness, since both of them have played in teams with multiple playmakers and ball movement and have blended seamlessly in with those offensive schemes as well.

Nevertheless, Lillard is a better half-court facilitator in a vacuum essentially because of his prowess in the pick-and-roll - he was quite a threat alongside LaMarcus Aldridge when the 5-time All-Star played with the Blazers, and has reemerged alongside Nurkic as a premier facilitator. It is important to note, however, that Irving has a superior assist percentage throughout his career.

Edge: Dame

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SENIOR ANALYST
Started as an Arsenal fan at the age of 6. Became a Ronaldo and a Real Madrid fan after the 2002 World Cup. Bandwagon Celtics fan this season, though I've watched the NBA with increasing frequency over the past 14 years or so. Played both games with my high school team at some of the highest levels there are in India. Played against East Bengal u-17s in college. A member of Mercurial FC, 1st division Amateur League team in Bangalore.
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