One of the truly entertaining things about dissecting the greatest individual players in the NBA — or any sport, really — is the degree of #wellactually it allows. For example: To say Stephen Curry is the hardest player to guard in the NBA, as Kobe Bryant did Wednesday, is a super specific statement.
The question is whether Kobe is right. Without a doubt, Curry is the best player on the best team in the league. The toughest to defend, though?
There’s room for debate. What Bryant did not say is that Curry is the NBA’s best player, even though Curry is the reigning league MVP, leads the league in points per game and can hit insane shots at will when he’s hot. To put Curry in a different context, he is playing at such a high level right now that “NBA 2K” developers can’t fully translate his game to a virtual setting.
But to say Curry is the league’s hardest player to defend can be more easily disproved. Yes, he’s a tremendous shooter. But, like all shooters, there’s a certain degree to which he relies on a short memory during slumps. Just a month ago, in fact, Curry wasn’t playing his best ball, meaning Draymond Green had to do things like record a triple-double. What you bank on, then, is that Curry will find his stroke sooner rather than later.
Then there’s Curry’s quickness and ability to distribute the ball, but those are qualities needed by a lot of point guards.
Maybe the players who can do multiple things inside the paint and out have a better case to be considered the hardest to defend. LeBron James is a transcendent athlete who could (and does) play every position on the court if you needed him to. He can bang it in the post or get into a shooting war, like he did briefly with Curry during last year’s NBA Finals.
Or, there’s a guy like Kevin Durant, who has almost all the size of a big man but also nearly all the range of a shooter like Curry — plus a higher release point with his shot.
Before the season, DIME even made a case for Carmelo Anthony as the best pure scorer in the league today.
The point being, there are plenty of examples of players who could be harder to defend than Curry because of their versatility, speed and size. That’s not to say Curry isn’t one of the best point-producers in the NBA today — that should go without saying; he could very well go down as one of the greater scorers of all time — but the toughest to defend?
There’s room to disagree with Kobe there.
(Via Baxter Holmes)