Remember Kevin Durant? Before Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire and all things Miami Heat stole your attention this NBA season, Durant was the hottest topic in basketball. Depending on whose preseason predictions you listened to, KD was going to average 35 points a night, lead the Thunder to the Finals, cop league MVP, and beat the Monstars 1-on-5 in the Space Jam sequel. This was his year for the taking.
Durant hasn’t exactly been forgotten — he is still leading the NBA in scoring, and will be announced later today as an All-Star starter — but the hype around him had noticeably slowed down until very recently, when he followed up a weekend buzzer-beater to defeat the Knicks with a 47-point, 18-rebound magnum opus in Minnesota that included another game-winning bucket in overtime. It wouldn’t be right to say Durant is “back,” but the hyperbolic way we talk about him has made its return.
Nobody has snatched the NBA spotlight away from Durant, however, more than Blake Griffin. Ever since he exploded on Opening Night with a handful of vicious dunks that nearly crashed Twitter’s server, Blake has been the League’s new golden child. He had his own 47-point effort a couple weekends ago, and has otherwise scattered his game log with 30-point, 15-rebound stat lines and owned YouTube with his impersonation of Shawn Kemp inhabiting He-Man‘s body.
Griffin, 21, and Durant, 22, are the NBA’s two hottest young superstars. So if you had the chance to pick one as the foundation of your own franchise, who would it be? (Notice how things change so quickly: Not long ago, this question was reserved for LeBron James and Dwight Howard.)
Oddly enough — especially if you remember how Durant’s durability was a question mark going into the ’07 NBA Draft — the 250-pound powerhouse Griffin may be the least “safe” choice. As solid as he is, Griffin has already missed an entire season with a knee injury, and his mosh-pit style of play and nightly attempts to jump over 6-foot and 7-foot human beings makes it seem like another major injury is only one bad fall away. Durant, meanwhile, has held up to the NBA rigors with his skinny frame: Of a possible 293 games so far in his pro career, he has played in 283 of them. He has made the pre-draft camp bench press irrelevant.
One is a prolific and smooth scorer on the perimeter, the other a buckets-and-boards machine under the glass and above the rim.
Who would you take to start your team?