Debating the merits of Seth Curry versus those of Erick Green comes down to a classic sports argument. Is a player on a bad team that puts up great individual stats better or worse than a player who is statistically inferior but on a team that wins?
On the face of it, Erick Green is vastly superior to Seth Curry statistically. This season Green is averaging 24.6 points, 4.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals (via StatSheet). Curry’s game average line is 16.6 points, 1.4 assists, 1.8 rebounds and .7 steals (via StatSheet).
However, the case to be made for Seth Curry goes beyond the basic stat line. Curry’s Duke is 14-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country. Green’s Virginia Tech, meanwhile, is 9-5 and in the midst of a three-game losing streak wherein the Hokies lost by margins of 36, 26 and 23 points.
In Erick Green’s defense, his team probably would have lost by more if it weren’t for him. Green has scored fewer than 21 points only once this season. In Virginia Tech’s lone marquee win, a 10-point victory over Oklahoma State, he had 28 points. The following game Green had a double-double with 23 points and 10 assists in a one-point loss at West Virginia (via ESPN game log).
The Hokies second-leading scorer is Jarell Eddie who’s averaging 14.1 points on 41.7 percent shooting. After that, it’s Robert Brown with 10.6 points-per-game on 36.7 percent shooting. Those two are the only players other than Erick Green to have shot over 100 times and Green, who has 225 attempts, is shooting substantially better than them at 48.9 percent (via ESPN).
There is no question that Erick Green is the Hokies’ best player and that he constitutes almost all of Virginia Tech’s offense.
Conversely, Seth Curry is a member of an extremely balanced Duke team. All five of Duke’s starters have shot well over 100 times this season and all of them have a shooting percentage of 41 percent or better. As a result, Curry doesn’t have to shoulder as much of the offensive burden as Green (via ESPN).
While Green accounts for 32.24 percent of his team’s points, Curry comprises 19.27 percent of Duke’s total points. As a result, Curry can afford to pick his spots and fit into an offensive set whereas Green basically is the offensive set.
You could argue that Seth Curry trails Erick Green in the points, rebounds and assists because the other Blue Devils pick up the slack while Green has to do everything himself. From there you could point out that Curry’s 48.6 field-goal percentage is comparable to Green's and point out that Curry bests Green in three-point percentage, averaging 40.8 percent to 34.4 percent with close to the same amount of attempts.
What undercuts the argument for Curry’s superiority as the best guard in the ACC over Green is that Green is being defensively keyed on far more than Curry.
Seth Curry has the benefit of a point guard who can drive and dish, a post player who draws defenders into the paint and a myriad of other shooters who can swing the ball around the perimeter to find an open man. Defenses simply can’t afford to smother one player on Duke and even if that was an opponent’s strategy, they probably wouldn’t consider blanketing Curry instead of Plumlee or Cook.
Erick Green, on the other hand, gets matched up with the opposing team’s best defender and is subject to double teams and help defense specifically designed to shut him down. So the fact that he’s putting up stats in the same realm of the far less maligned Seth Curry is that much more impressive.
When it comes to individual awards, Duke fans can be magnanimous. It seems fair to say that Erick Green is the better of the two guards, but that Curry’s importance to his team can’t be understated and that his contributions are a huge part of Duke’s success so far this season.