NBA: Is Mike Conley More Valuable Than Russell Westbrook?


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Mike Conley and Russell Westbrook are both top-five NBA point guards.  Conley is 25 and Westbrook is 24.  They both star on terrific and youthful teams.  Each was the fourth-overall pick in their draft class.  Both players have been in the top five in steals the last three seasons.

You could argue that the similarities end there…

  • In his first five pro seasons, Conley made zero All-NBA Teams while Westbrook made two in his first four seasons.
  • Conley was rewarded with a five-year, $40 million contract while Westbrook earned a five-year deal for nearly $80 million.
  • Westbrook has played in twice as many playoff games as Conley, including one NBA Finals.

So is the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard really twice as valuable as his counterpart in Memphis?  As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.”

Compiling their performance over the last ~110 games played…

Total Wins Produced from
Westbrook +10
Conley +14

Total Simple Rating from
Westbrook +14
Conley +12

Player Efficiency Rating:
Westbrook 23
Conley 17

The first two player-rating tools are a wash; Westbrook has a big advantage only in PER.  Not surprisingly, usage percentage plays an important factor in this.  The Thunder guard takes eight more shots per game than does Conley, but each player is similarly efficient at scoring.  Over the last two seasons they both averaged 53 percent true shooting.

Westbrook is one of the best in the league at getting to both the basket and the foul line.  He is for the third year running in the NBA’s top five in free throws made.  But the Memphis point guard has an advantage in shooting range.  Conley makes 37 percent from 3-point range compared to 32 percent for Westbrook.  Westbrook is a 38 percent deep 2-point shooter this year while Conley makes 47 percent of his deep 2s.

If you put a lot of weight on shot taking and assists, then the conclusion is that Westbrook is the better offensive point guard.  Obviously playing with the best scoring machine in basketball, Kevin Durant, helps make anyone look better than they would be playing with an average small forward.

But what of their respective defensive skills?  Conley is more effective at forcing opposing point guards to turn it over.  His steal percentage is fully 1 percent higher than Westbrook’s, which equates to one additional turnover per game.  Westbrook, being the all-world athlete that he is, has the advantage in defensive rebounding (10 percent to 7 percent) and shot blocking.  While Conley hardly blocks any shots, he is absolute terrific at holding opponents scoring in check.

Thanks to, we can view each player’s counterpart’s effective field-goal percentage (eFG) while they are on the court.  Point guards opposing the Thunder with Westbrook sticking them are sporting a 49 percent eFG.  This is near league average.  Conley has been in the shorts and face of the opposition holding them to just 44 percent eFG.  Their on-court/off-court numbers confirm this, as Westbrook is viewed as a tick better than league average while Conley is entrenched as a top-three defensive point guard.

Russell Westbrook and Mike Conley have clear differences in their game’s but as we have seen their total value is quite a bit closer than their contracts and the media would suggest.

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