It's not going to be a marquee game, but Friday's matchup between the Warriors and visiting Philadelphia, for hard-core basketball fans, is certainly a treat. Oracle Arena will feature two of the NBA's burgeoning young point guards in the Warriors' Stephen Curry and the 76ers' Jrue Holiday.
The 2009 draft class was highlighted by its wealth of point guards. Of the 11 selected in the first round, Curry and Holiday have risen to the top. This season, both are producing at levels that are garnering All-Star whispers.
Denver's Ty Lawson got the biggest contract extension. Minnesota's Ricky Rubio gets most of the buzz. But on the court, Curry and Holiday are becoming the favorites of basketball insiders.
Curry is a sharpshooting scorer whose craftiness and skill has caused problems for opponents.
"I see him as a point guard who can score really well," Holiday said of Curry.
"He's a lights-out shooter, but he makes things happen off the dribble. He usually makes like all the right decisions, too. To me, that's a point guard. ... I have (watched him play this year). I think, one thing about him, he's always progressing, always getting better."
Holiday, on the other hand, is a prototypical modern point guard. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds,
"He's a tough guard," Curry said of Holiday. "He is a capable shooter. He is athletic, sneaky athletic. Gets to the basket. He's strong. He's almost like a (Deron Williams) just not as shifty. He just gets to his spots."
Despite their contrasting styles, there are similar circumstances that helped pave the way for Curry and Holiday to get off to hot starts.
Both guards' improvement was spurred by the departures of a star (Monta Ellis for the Warriors and Andre Iguodala for the 76ers).
Both have been asked to carry their teams while the starting center recovers from injury (Andrew Bogut for the Warriors and Andrew Bynum for the 76ers).
Both have a young cohort to share the backcourt (Klay Thompson for the Warriors and Evan Turner for the 76ers).
Now both are having career years.
"It really is intriguing," one Western Conference executive, who requested anonymity because he was speaking about other team's players, said of the matchup. "They are two of the best under-25 guards in the league. Both have finally been given the keys to their respective offenses. Jrue still doesn't drive as much as he probably should and doesn't get enough credit for his shooting ability. Steph doesn't get enough credit for his penetration and playmaking."
Holiday is averaging 18.1 points, 8.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds. He has the Sixers (14-15), the eighth-youngest team in the league, in the playoff hunt for the second consecutive season.
"He's improved at running a team," Curry said. "It's exciting to go against him because he's established himself as a solid point guard in this league."
Philadelphia is struggling of late, having lost seven of 10, with Holiday missing four games during that stretch because of a sprained foot.
Golden State, on the other hand, has won seven of 10 games. The Warriors have the fifth-best record in the Western Conference at 19-10, and a win over Philadelphia would give them their best 30-game start since the 1991-92 season.
Curry is a big reason for that. He's averaging 20.3 points, 6.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds in a career-high 38 minutes per game. His ability to play both guard positions has been a bonus for coach Mark Jackson.
"I think on his team," Holiday said, "he pretty much makes everybody better."