We now reach the top right corner of our Player of the Decade bracket. Our first matchup features a revolutionary point guard taking on a phenomenal two-way guard. Stephen Curry came into the league at the start of the decade and revolutionized the game of basketball. He broke all kinds of records and was a huge part of a Warriors dynasty. Jimmy Butler, on the other hand, had a much quieter, but productive decade. Jimmy led the Bulls, Timberwolves, and 76ers to the playoffs and played both ways doing so. So who had the better decade? Was it the sharpshooting point guard from Golden State or a two-way shooting guard from multiple teams?
Pros of Steph Curry
- Three-Point Sniper: Stephen Curry can flat out shoot the basketball. Steph set the record for most three-pointers in a season with 402 in the 2015-16 season. Steph currently sits third all-time and is only 381 back of Ray Allen for first. It took Ray Allen 1300 games to hit his mark, Steph has done it in 698 games.
- Racking Up Awards & Championships: Stephen just kept winning awards in this past decade at a staggering rate. He was back-to-back league MVP in 2015 and 2016. He was a scoring champion, a six-time all-star and three-time All-NBA first team. Steph also won three titles in the 2010s and was AP Athlete of the year in 2015.
- Underrated Passer & Dribbler: People love to talk about Steph’s scoring ability, but he also was elite at other aspects of the game too. Steph averaged over six assists in the decade, as well as over a steal and a half per game. Steph also crosses people over on the regular, especially Chris Paul.
Cons of Steph Curry
- No Finals MVP’s: Steph may have been a league MVP and champion, but he never won a finals MVP. We can give him a pass for losing out to Kevin Durant in 2017 and 2018, as he too is incredible. But to lose it to Andre Iguodala in 2015 was downright wrong. Andre “defended Lebron well” despite Lebron averaging 35 points, 13 rebounds and almost nine assists. Huge knock on Steph for not winning it that year.
- Below-Average Defender: I discussed earlier that Steph averaged over a steal per game, but that does not make him a great defender. Often he is bailed out by his backcourt running mate Klay Thompson, that is a great defender. Klay covers the opponent’s better player so they can hide Steph’s lack of on-ball defending.
- Lost Multiple Finals: Steph did win three titles in the decade, but he also lost in two finals. The Warriors went 73-9 in the 2016 regular season but blew a 3-1 lead in the finals against Lebron James. Steph also lost in six games to Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors this past season. Winning in the finals is great, but losing multiple times should be mentioned as well.
Pros of Jimmy Butler
- Consistently An All-Star: Jimmy Butler and being an all-star went hand and hand this decade. Jimmy was a four-time all-star from 2015-2018 and even won the most improved player award in 2015. Butler does every aspect of the game at a high level and gets rewarded for it by the coaches. Jimmy will be adding another this year as well, making it five in a row for the Marquette product.
- Solid Defender: If you had to play against a player one on one Jimmy Butler would be most people’s last choice. That is because he is one of the games lockdown defenders due to his size and length. Jimmy made the All-Defensive 2nd team four times and likely will make that list again down the road.
- Steady Scoring Threat: Jimmy Butler has the nickname Jimmy Buckets for a reason. Five times in the decade Jimmy averaged over twenty points. He is a career 45% shooter and 83% free throw shooter as well. It did not matter where Jimmy Butler played, he can flat out score the basketball.
Cons of Jimmy Butler
- Lack of Playoff Success: Jimmy Butler is another all-star player that simply cannot get it done in the playoffs. Jimmy made the playoffs seven times in the decade but only made it out of the first round three times. Of those three times he advanced, Jimmy never made the conference finals. Player’s of the decade need to win at the highest level and Jimmy did not.
- Abrasive Locker Room Guy: Few players on this list played for more than two franchises, and Jimmy Butler played for four. His longest tenure was in Chicago, but then he could not fit in. He blew up on Towns and Wiggins in Minnesota forcing his trade to Philadelphia. He could not fit in there and ended up moving to Miami this past off-season. He was never well-liked by teammates which is a shame.
- Not A Great Distributor: Most shooting guards score the ball, but also distribute to teammates as well. Jimmy simply does not, as he is a career three-assist guy. His inability to make others better has hurt his teams, especially come playoff time.
It is always tough for an eight seed to challenge the one seed and this matchup is no different. Stephen Curry revolutionized the game like few have and was instrumental in a dynasty happening. While has lack of finals MVPs is cause for concern, he at least made the finals. Jimmy could not get it done in the playoffs and is considered by many to be a selfish superstar. Stephen Curry should be an easy vote to advance to the next round, although Jimmy is a great player.
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