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Is Tony Parker or Russell Westbrook the Better Point Guard in Today's NBA?

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 29:  Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs drives ahead of Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on May 29, 2012 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2013

One of these NBA All-Star point guards is better than the other.

The Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are two very different teams. And Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker are two very different floor generals. But they're both of consubstantial value to those two dissimilar factions.

Which begs the question: Who is the better point guard in today's Association?

Seemingly unfair as it is to compare the overall worth of two vastly different players, it's a pertinent question to ponder.

Landscapes within the NBA are continuously shifting, positional roles included. A decade ago, Westbrook would have been upbraided more than he currently is for what is still considered an unconventional play style (see Allen Iverson).

For the most part, the league is more (not unconditionally) receptive to shoot-first point men, though.

Westbrook is a three-time All-Star who has left fans smitten with his explosive offensive abilities. And when Kevin Durant himself gives you the unequivocal green light, you know you're doing something right.

On the season, Westbrook is averaging 23.2 points per game, first among all point guards and sixth in the league overall. He is, however, posting more than five fewer points a night than teammate (and the NBA-leading scorer) Durant, despite attempting more (18.7) shots than him (17.9).

Westbrook's 43.7 percent shooting from the floor and 32.1 percent clip from deep are less than desirable as well and leaves him as the only player of the 10 in the league tallying at least 20 points per bout to do so while converting on under 44 percent of his shots.

Still, despite the existing qualms over his efficiency, Westbrook has emerged as a top-10 superstar.

Maybe Westbrook doesn't shoot a high percentage from the field, but he's fifth in assists (7.6), first among point guards in rebounds (5.4) and fourth in steals (1.8).

He and LeBron James are also the only two players in the league averaging at least 20 points, seven assists, five rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.

The always extravagantly dressed point guard isn't all just individual stats either. Oklahoma City's offense is scoring 113.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, compared to 109.5 when he's not. Westbrook ranks sixth in win shares on the season, too (10.3).

Only, here's the thing: Parker is better.

Monsieur Parker is a more conventional point man. He's deceptively quick, but relies on his crafty instincts more than his athleticism.

But that's not what makes him better. The results he's yielded do.

Upon further review, Parker's per-36 minute averages are right in line Westbrook's. He's posting 22.7 points and 8.2 assists to Westbrook's 23.6 and 7.7. Russ' proponents would also want us to know that Westbrook's 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per 36 minutes dwarf that of Parker's 3.3 and 0.9.

How does that prove Parker is "better"?

It doesn't. It doesn't prove Westbrook has the edge either. Really, it doesn't prove anything.

Neither does Parker's 52.8 percent clip from the floor and 35.8 percent shooting from three. They comfortably exceed that of Westbrook's, but basic, run-of-the-mill statistics are just a fraction of the painted canvas. They don't provide a definitive answer to our query.

The impact either one has on his team does.

Well then, case closed. Westbrook's win-share total (10.3) surpasses that of Parker's (9.4).

Or does it?

Parker's win shares come in just 64 games of action, while Westbrook has accumulated his through 74. When we isolate acquired win shares over 48 minutes, Parker ranks fourth with 0.22 while Russ comes in at 12th with 0.19.

Win shares aren't a case-closed, let's-go-home-and-watch-reruns-of-The-Big-Bang-Theory form of measurement, but they're a great barometer for how said case will ultimately close.

Westbrook's importance to the Thunder's game scheme is undeniable. He's the second-most important player on the team and one of the best point guards in the league.

Parker's just better.

San Antonio's offense is a plus-3.7 per 100 possessions with Parker on the floor, just as Oklahoma City's is a plus-3.7 with Westbrook. The Spurs defense is a minus-three with Parker riding the pine though, while the Thunder's is a plus-2.1 without Westbrook. 

Overall, the Spurs are a plus-11.1 per 100 possessions with Parker in the lineup. The Thunder are at plus-10.1.

Worlds better? No, but better still. Most of our evidence supports Parker, even in today's NBA.

Westbrook's dominance signifies a transition in how a point guard's role is defined, how he is perceived by the general populous.

He's young, exuberant and the equivalent of a human highlight reel. He's easily one of the most talented players in the NBA.

Yet, that's not enough to give him the edge.

Even in a league that currently values flamboyant performances more than it has ever before, Parker is the more talented of these two.

Point guards are still called upon to lead, to emblematize poise, and San Antonio's floor general does that better than most in the league, Westbrook included.

Parker is more efficient, more of a game changer (statistically). He's under more control (2.6 turnovers to Russ' 3.4). He's the most valuable player on a convocation that presently sits atop the Western Conference.

He's one of the best point guards in the league. Kind of like Westbrook.

Only better.

 

*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports, 82games.com and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.

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