The PG Finals boil down to a clash of styles. "Chris sets up his scoring because he's such a threat to pass," says a Western Conference exec. "And Steph sets up his playmaking because he's such a threat to shoot." To compare them, we looked to real plus-minus,* ESPN's newest measure of player value. Here too Paul tops Curry, and for good reason. CP3 is the better on-ball defender, a big advantage in today's pick-and-roll-heavy NBA.
Spoiler alert! Nearly every exec we polled predicted that by season's end, AD will be the NBA's No. 3. But that will be then. This is The Brow now-a man who was just 98th in RPM last season, sandwiched between Pero Antic and Josh Smith. Why? He's still poor at guarding the pick-and-roll, and his team was only 1.6 points/48 minutes better on O when he was on the floor. Compare that with Love-12th in RPM and better on D (104 DRtg) than his rep suggests. Love wins the day.
So the battle for bronze boils down to Paul vs. Love. And because Paul clearly topped Love in 2013-14 stats, we wage this one with a career metric: net rating, the measure of a team's production with a player on the floor. Through Nov. 12, Love's career net rating: plus-5.2. Paul's: plus-8.8. No contest. Conventional wisdom says Paul is the more complete player. And in this case, it's right. "It's overblown to say Kevin is a poor defender," an Eastern Conference exec says. "But his on-ball D is still weak." Paul has no such deficiency-just what you'd expect from the NBA's third-best player.