2 Diamonds In The Rough Western Conference

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley

League-wide the debate over who is its best point guard usually involves the names Chris Paul, Deron Williams, at times Rajon Rondo, and when he was around to change lanes faster than Jason Statham, Derrick Rose. When limiting the ranking to the Western Conference, you have CP3, Tony Parker, and Westbrook dominating the conversation. But two other point guards in the Western Conference, a conference winning at a 57 percent clip over the Easter Conference, need greater attention. Anyone with a keen eye for stats, a winning record, and under-the-radar talent should understand why Stephen Curry and Mike Conley are underrated.

Golden State Warriors shooting guard Stephen Curry
Golden State Warriors shooting guard Stephen Curry Gary A Vasquez US PRESSWIRE

Curry, the starting point guard for the Golden State Warriors, is playing at a pace similar to his sophomore year, when he averaged 18.6 PPG, 5.8 APG and 3.9 RPG in just 33.6 minutes a contest. In the 2012-2013 he is averaging 18.6 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.9 RPG and 36.6 MPG―almost identical numbers. Though it should be noted that his FG% is at a career low 41.7%, with also a career low in BPG, and a career high in turnovers, tallying 3.31 a game. But as Warriors coach Mark Jackson, a stellar point guard himself, said last night after a win over the Pacers, “’We knew exactly who [Curry] was as a basketball player, person and face of this franchise. He’s playing on a level that we thought we would play at. Leading his team, making plays down the stretch, defending — it’s great to see.”

For those not paying attention, Golden State has the West’s fourth-best record, tied with the Clippers, and sit alongside the L.A. team in the Pacific Division. After finishing second in the 2009-2010 Rookie of the Year voting, Curry seems to be returning to form after following a 20-point, 10-assist performance against Denver on Thursday, with a 20-point, 11-assist night against the Pacers (the first time in his career he has put together back-to-back 20-10 games). After an injury-prone 2011-2012 campaign in an already shortened year, playing only 26 games, it seems that some of the field goal shooting rust will disappear over the course of the year as he settles into playing form.

Tack on that Curry has to share a frontcourt with fellow starter Klay Thompson, who is shooting a horrendous 38.2 % and a -18 in the +/- category for the year, and his value only increases. Of course having a solid replacement in Jarrett Jack doesn’t hurt matters.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley
Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley Soobum Im US PRESSWIRE

Conley, the starting point for the West-leading Memphis Grizzlies, is also establishing himself as a superb player. An integral part of its starting lineup, Conley only trails Marc Gasol in the +/- category, with a plus-121 differential, which is the highest for a point guard in the NBA after Russell Westbrook. His worth seems to be only on the rise as he is averaging 15.3 PPG, 6.7 APG, 2.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG, and is shooting 49.7% from the field and 46.3% from behind the arc―all career bests. Given the quality of talent he has to face on any given night at the one position, the fact that he has managed such an impressive jump in stats at a lower MPG rate than the past two years, and that his +/- differential is a whole 120 points higher backup point guard Jerryd Bayless, Conley should at least be in consideration for an All-Star appearance.

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Bogar Alonso
Bogar Alonso is a dedicated student of the hardwood, soccer pitch, boxing ring, and tennis court. He is a regular NBA contributor to XN Sports. His work, involving more than just sports, has appeared on The Creators Project, A&E Networks, XXL Magazine, and others. Follow Bogar on Twitter @blacktiles