We argue. You decide…
KEVIN DURANT (by Andrew Katz)
He’s 6-10 and was put on Earth to shoot jumpers. Is there a better combination than that?
People say that LeBron James is the toughest guy to guard in the League right now, and I’d probably agree with that. But within a couple of years, I honestly think it’s going to be Kevin Durant. First of all, he’s still as physically mature as a cub. There’s something awkward about KD when he’s walking in the street — he’s still 2-3 years away from being as fully coordinated as he will become.
So what will happen when he becomes a touch more explosive, a bit more fluid, and most importantly, more confident going to the basket? Pair that with his already automatic jumper, and what do you have? At Danny Granger‘s age (25), KD will be the next Kobe Bryant.
Durant’s already given us a glimpse into his future — and to be honest, I’m giddy about it. He’s improved in every way imaginable in less than two full years in the NBA. He averaged 20.3 points as a rookie — when he won Rookie of the Year — on 43% shooting from the field and 28.8% shooting from three. Now, he’s up at 26.3 points per night (fourth in the League) on 48.6% shooting from the field and 43.6% shooting from three. You’ve got to imagine that his jump in three-point shooting is a function of getting used to the deeper line, as he’s always had the range.
At 6-9/6-10, there isn’t anyone in the League who can really guard him on the perimeter and really prevent him from being able to lock eyes on his target. And as a shoot-first, drive-second type of player, Durant has learned how to move very well without the ball. Earlier this season, when P.J. Carlesimo was still at the helm in OKC, Durant waited at the top of the key to get the ball before attacking his man. Now, he’s running the baseline (like a gazelle), occasionally posting up smaller defenders, and catching the ball ready to shoot. That ability makes it exponentially harder to stop KD from letting his quick-trigger J rip from anywhere inside of 27 feet.
At this stage in his career, Durant is a much better shooter than any of his superstar predecessors. I’d venture to say that he’s a better shooter than Danny Granger, too. KD’s percentages are slightly higher — which isn’t really statistically significant — but he hits at a super-efficient rate even though everyone in the gym knows that he’s the guy wearing the ugly Thunder jersey who is going to shoot. At least Granger has Troy Murphy and Marquis Daniels to draw some attention away from him. Don’t kid yourself and pretend like Jeff Green is drawing any attention away from Durant. He’s not.
Imagine what happens when Durant is playing on the same team with a real post player who gets him some more open looks. That is terrifying.
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DANNY GRANGER (by Austin Burton)
How do you want your buckets?
Adhering to the predatory snake analogy set forth by the NBA’s most vicious scorer, if you look at Kevin Durant as a cobra — sleek, rangy, quick-striking, fascinating yet socially reclusive (and, FYI, can kill five times faster than a mamba) — Danny Granger would be more like a boa constrictor.
Over the course of a game, Granger doesn’t enthrall you with how he puts the ball in the rim. He’s not as highlight-friendly or “sexy,” as Rick Kamla might say. Granger’s process is slower, more methodical. At the end of the night — or at least until late in the fourth quarter when he starts to take over — you may not realize he’s dropped 30, 35 points. But ask the defenders who just had the life squeezed out of them: it’s deadly just the same.
Like a boa constrictor, Granger can flourish in almost any environment. We’ve never seen how Durant plays when he’s not the centerpiece of everything his team does, whether it’s high school, at Texas, with the Sonics/Thunder, even in the Rookie Challenge. Granger can adapt. The Pacers drafted him to be more Ron Artest than Alex English, a future defensive stopper. While serving that role he showed his scoring prowess even when he wasn’t the No. 1 option, and since then has gradually become one of the League’s elite offensive weapons.
While Durant is chasing the NBA scoring crown — currently in fourth place and rising — Granger has been more impressive in how he’s getting it done. His 25.0 points per game are right behind Durant’s 26.3 ppg. And while the Pacers’ record isn’t much better than OKC, they’ve played in more down-to-the-wire games in which Granger’s crunch-time scoring has been on display. Even when Granger isn’t dropping game-winners, he’s racked up countless clutch shots that have either kept his team in a game, or that were potential game-winners before an opponent delivered more timely daggers.
And at the end of a game, when Durant thrives or dives on jumpers, Granger is dangerous anywhere on the court. Against Cleveland on Feb. 10 he stuck the game-winning free throws with 0.1 seconds remaining. In Phoenix on Jan. 7 he dropped a buzzer-beating three when everyone in the building knew he was getting the ball. In Houston on Nov. 26, Granger was struggling with his J, but won the game on a drive to the basket where he tipped in his own miss; then on Houston’s last possession, forced Artest to give up the ball and helped force Yao to miss a layup. When has Durant made that kind of mark defensively?
Because he’s stronger and more mature, Granger (25) can play and defend more positions than Durant (20), including power forward, which he often plays when the Pacers go small.
Another thing to consider: Granger has played this entire season with a sore knee, until he was recently sidelined with a foot injury. Already far from the quickest, most athletic scorer — hardly the cobra — the fact that Granger has been performing at less than 100 percent puts him over the top.
Who do you think is better?
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