If not for the lockout, the NBA would be in perfect shape right now. With tons of young superstars taking over the league, the future couldn’t be any brighter. Just take a look at last year’s MVP voting. Four out of the top six finishers were under 27 years old. With plenty of talent about to enter their prime, the competition in the NBA could be at its best since the Jordan Era.
Two of these young phenoms include Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Do they need any more introduction? Both of these guys have been dominating the NBA since their rookie season and look to continue to do so in the future. But which one would you rather have on your team? As my man Kristofer Habbas has been doing with the Great Point Guard Debate, looks like it’s time for another round of Who’s Better.
LeBron James: 627 games, 27.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks
Kevin Durant: 314 games, 25.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.9 blocks
The one thing Durant can do better than anybody in the league is put the ball in the hole. Since only averaging 20.3 his rookie season, he hasn’t missed a beat, putting up monstrous scoring numbers on his way to the scoring title the past two seasons. However, in comparison to LeBron, his other numbers are rather pedestrian.
One rule of thumb in statistics is that the numbers never lie. These stats say that LeBron James has the best all-around game in the league and most would have to agree. At 6-8, LeBron can see the floor like a point guard, rebound like a power forward, and score with the best of them. Although Durant barely edges LeBron in blocks, ‘Bron wins over the defensive stats by averaging a half of a steal more per game than the Durantula.
Advantage: LeBron James
LeBron James (2009-10): 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.0 blocks
Kevin Durant (2009-10): 30.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks
Having free reign in Cleveland, LeBron was able to put up mind-blowing statistics. While jacking up (and making) 35-footers, throwing down alley-oops and patenting the chase-down block, he led his team to a 61-21 record, good enough for the first seed in the Eastern Conference. Eventually, the Cavs lost in six games to the Boston Celtics in what would be the last games LeBron would ever play for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
Going into the 2009-10 season, people thought the Oklahoma City Thunder were an up-and-coming franchise, but not quite ready to make the playoffs just yet. Putting his team on his shoulders, Durant set out to prove everybody wrong. By averaging 30.1 points per game, he led the youngest team in NBA playoff history to a 50-32 record. Fifty wins was an astounding mark, but only good enough for an eight seed in the deep and competitive Western Conference. Despite being bounced in the first round by the Lakers, Durant’s coming out party proved to the world that he would be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Coincidentally, both of these guy’s best seasons culminated in a first and second place finish in the MVP voting. With this category being such a toss-up, I’ll leave it up to the AP voters, who gave the nod to LeBron. Hey, anyone who can lead Mo Williams, an aging Shaq, and Delonte West to 61 wins deserves all the credit in the world.
Advantage: LeBron James
LeBron James: 92 games, 4,011 minutes, record: 56-34, series record: 11-6, Finals record: 0-2
Kevin Durant: 23 games, 953 minutes, record: 11-12, series record: 2-2, Finals record: N/A
Determining who has had more playoff success is difficult considering Durant has only been to the playoffs twice. This past postseason, Durant led the league with 28.6 points per game before being bounced in the Western Conference Finals by eventual champion Dallas. Impressive, yes, but nothing compared to what LeBron did in his second postseason.
At the spry age of 22, LeBron completely took over the Eastern Conference Finals against an experienced, veteran-laden Detroit Pistons team. Down 2-0, he would lead a comeback to take down their division rival in six. Game 5 produced one of the best single-game performances ever. Dropping 48 points to go along with nine rebounds and seven assists, LeBron showed his dominance by scoring Cleveland last 25 points in a double-overtime thriller. It was a performance for the ages, one that Steve Kerr described as “Jordan-esque.” Despite his recent fourth quarter disappearances, you can’t take away the fact that he has now been to two NBA Finals.
Using only their first two playoff appearances to level the playing field, LeBron still takes the cake by leading his team to the Finals.
Advantage: LeBron James
Since both of these superstars still have so much basketball ahead of them, instead of comparing their historical effect, we are going to take a look at what lies ahead.
As everybody and their mother knows, LeBron “took his talents” to Miami last year to set himself up for multiple championship opportunities. On a much more quiet front, Durant also locked himself up long term in Oklahoma City last summer.
Both of these players did wonders for their respective careers, as they will be playing on competitive teams for years to come. No one should be surprised if LeBron-Durant matchups become a regularity in the Finals. With good young talent around them, the sky is the limit for both of these potential Hall of Famers.
LeBron edges out Durant 3-0-1 in a matchup (much closer than it looks). Had Durant had the same experience as LeBron, they would most likely be dead even. With a better resume and more complete game, we have to give it to LeBron. For all we know we can revisit this showdown in five years and things will be completely different, but for now, LeBron James is the best small forward in the NBA.
Winner: LeBron James
Who do you think is better?
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