In 2016, no move caught the NBA by storm more than Kevin Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors in free agency. Despite being an Oklahoma City lifer, Durant moved on to the 73-9 Warriors with hopes of a winning title. By teaming up with two-time MVP point guard Stephen Curry, star guard Klay Thompson and two-way forward Draymond Green, Durant viewed joining the Warriors as a win now scenario; however, while he’s still his elite self, and nothing has drastically changed in his game, Durant has closed the gap between himself and LeBron James as the NBA’s best player.
Durant’s Successful 2016-17 Season
This year, Durant is averaging 26.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game; however, his point per game total is lower than his career average of 27.3. The catch here though is that he’s averaging that amount on a team with three elite scorers, featuring himself, Curry, and Thompson.
To jump into an unfamiliar situation, like Durant did this offseason with Golden State, and lead that team in points is truly remarkable. It’s also amazing considering the Warriors have who some consider the game’s most unstoppable scorer in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The biggest piece in Durant’s 2016-17 success though is his defense.
Durant Is An Elite Defender
While his offense production is his bread and butter, Durant has also become an elite defender. His on-ball defense and chase-down ability have made him an elite defender. It’s a facet of his game that Durant has never got enough credit for, and maybe something Lebron James has gotten too much for.
Lebron James’ Defense Has Overshadowed Durant’s
LeBron James is the most unstoppable force the NBA has to offer. He is a built up, two-way perennial All-Star who can go one-on-one versus anybody and guard any position. However, while James is very valuable on the defensive end, James is not much better than Durant defensively.
Whenever you watch the highlight reel of a Cleveland Cavaliers game you see Lebron James. Whether it’s a late-game jumper, a high flying alley-oop, or a chase-down block in transition, James is on the highlight reel. However, why should James get so much more glamor than Durant? For what it’s worth, Durant is averaging over a block per game more than James. Strangely enough, James gets all the credit for being a shot blocking presence and Durant doesn’t.
When you put it all together, Durant is the more skilled and better offensive player than James. While he can get to the rim at will, James isn’t much of a threat from the outside, and he’s at best an above best shooter. Durant is a different story.
Throughout his entire career, Durant has been an elite shooter from the outside, but also from the free throw line. Durant is a career 88.2% free throw shooter. His defense is also nearly identical to James’.
Ever since he was drafted by the Cavaliers in 2003, it’s been a given that James was an elite defender. It was and has been a big part of what’s made many think of him as the superstar that he is. Durant hasn’t ever and still isn’t receiving that treatment. The question is why?
Kevin Durant Is Closing The Gap Between Lebron James And Himself As The NBA’s Best Player
Kevin Durant is the second-best player in the NBA, but he still doesn’t get the credit that he deserves. Durant is arguably the best scorer in the NBA and has become an elite defender. That facet of his game is just as good if not better than that of Lebron James. James remains an elite two-way threat, but parts of his game have in a way overshadowed that of Kevin Durant. 2016-17 has been a telling year for both players. While he hasn’t yet surpassed him, Durant has narrowed the gap between James and himself as the NBA’s best player.