Kevin Durant: His Case For Being the Best Player in the NBA

Kevin Durant and LeBron James are two great basketball players and the two are undoubtedly the best in the NBA right now. But which of the stars is better?

Durant and James faced off in the NBA Finals last year, with the Miami Heat winning in five games, winning three close games and one blowout to secure their first championship with James. However, Durant fell short and he is now on another quest for a title. Durant is having another great year and he is getting better at passing and rebounding.

However, Durant is still scoring, as he is averaging 3.2 PPG more than James. Durant is second in the league at 29.5 points per game. Durant is challenging for another scoring title and he’s pushing towards his first MVP award. The Heat have four more losses and six less wins than the Oklahoma City Thunder, which also shows how valuable Durant is to his team. The Thunder are 32-9 and have won almost 80 percent of their games.

Durant’s stats are a big part of that, as he is well over his career averages with 7.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. His career averages are 6.7 and 3.0, respectively. Durant is also exceeding his career average of 26.5 PPG and he is proving why he should be the MVP this year. Chris Paul and James have good cases, but Durant may have the best at the moment.

Why? Because he’s dominating the league and making everything look easy, while having the best year of his career. In his last four games, Durant has put up 37, 52, 20 and 41 points, good for an average of 37.5 PPG. It’s hard to say because Durant is a star, but he’s almost taken the league by storm with his play this year. And it will keep going for sure.

Durant is still very young, and he has a lot of prime years ahead of him. But James is enjoying his prime as well and he is more dangerous than ever right now. So who is better?

James is averaging 26.3 PPG on the year, and he also has 8.1 RPG and 7 APG on the year. He plays good defense as well. James is a complete player and he finally has something to show for it: a championship ring. Durant doesn’t have that elusive prize yet, but he has more than enough time to capture a championship.

And at this rate, he will definitely win a crown with the Thunder.

The East isn’t considered as strong as the West and the only legitimate contenders out of the Eastern Conference aside from the Heat seem to be the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks (although I’ve got doubts about them). So it’s safe to pencil in the Heat as the favorites to make the NBA Finals in the East, although I think the Thunder are the better team at this point.

Oklahoma City is in a tougher conference and Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade don’t reside in Oklahoma City with the Thunder. James has the better supporting cast and while it may bring down his scoring totals just a bit, it also boosts his assist totals. And it’s also worth noting that Durant has gotten better at defense, rebounding and assists–and last year, he was pretty good at everything.

So you know that Durant is a phenomenal player who can match up with James. But what sets him apart and what makes him the best player in the NBA?

I already mentioned his scoring totals, but he is also shooting very well: better than 51 percent. James is shooting very well too, but not at the free-throw line. Durant is a  90.9 percent shooter from the charity stripe, putting him up there with some of the best in the league. James is shooting only 73.4 percent from the line, which is killer for the Heat. Free-throw shooting is key and determines the outcome of a lot of games, so a 17.5 percent difference is monumental.

The statistics are very similar otherwise, as Durant leads in blocks by 0.3 per game and James leads steals by 0.1 per game. Player-efficiency rating (PER) and many other stats are also very similar. I could overwhelm you with pointless statistics or just cut to the chase, which is that while James has more talent, Durant’s team is performing a lot better. They are a safe bet for the NBA Finals, because of Durant. He makes more than half of his shots and is almost automatic from the free-throw line, while James is not automatic and his team isn’t doing as well.

James is arguably having a career year, but so is Durant and currently, Durant’s team is seeking revenge and in a better position to win it all. He doesn’t have as much help and he’s just as good at rebounding, while being better at scoring, free-throw shooting and other things. However, he’s also a team leader who takes and makes the final shot. While James has proven he can win big games, he definitely isn’t labeled as “clutch.”

Is LeBron James an incredible player? Yes, he is. But does Kevin Durant have a legitimate–maybe even a better–case for winning NBA MVP? Yes, he does.

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Tags: Kevin Durant Lebron James NBA

  • Anonymous

    “James isnt clutch”

    James has played 86 minutes of clutch time, which is defined by as when the game is within five points in the final five minutes. In those 86 minutes of high-stakes basketball, James has registered 62 points, 28 assists and 24 rebounds. The assist total is what’s most astounding when you think about it. He has more clutch assists this season than any other player. Actually, James has more clutch assists in 86 minutes than Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook have combined for in 213 minutes.

    If we put it all together on a per-36 minute level to better wrap our heads around it, we find that James is averaging a staggering 26 points, 11.7 assists and 10 rebounds in crunch-time. That’s right, James is playing at such a high level in the clutch that he’s averaging a triple-double on a per-36 minute level. No one else really comes close.

    Kind of hard or Say Durant is “more clutch” when Lebron took him to school in the NBA finals?

    I guess Durant is the new drug of the Lebron Haters now that he has proven himself as a winner

    • eric

      Lebron has been putting up ridiculous numbers in those close game situations for several years now. The only difference is that he scores much less now due to sharing roughly half of those possessions with Wade over the 2.5 years they have been together.
      Also, Lebron is currently shooting 58% in +-5 situations (full game not just clutch) that shows me that his shot selection is better in close game situations. His fg% could be much higher if he didn’t settle for poor shots when his team is well ahead.
      I think the biggest thing that sets Lebron apart is his consistency. Go to a site like basketball reference and look at his game logs. He is automatic for 20 points on 50% shooting every night. Look at Durant’s or even Jordan’s game logs and you will see that they don’t come close to the consistency of Lebron this year. I believe he recently concluded a streak of 70 straight games of at least 20 points including last season and the playoffs and that is just incredible. What makes all of this more amazing is how unselfish he is. I don’t know how many times in his career that he has scored 15 or more in the first quarter and taken less than 3 shots over the next 2 or 2.5 quarters. If his team is well ahead he typically doesn’t milk it when he is hot and that brings down his numbers a bit.

      • Eric

        I checked again and it was not 70 straight games but 61, although he also had a streak of 72 games of at least 19 points. Either way he is remarkably consistent.
        So far this year, Lebron has only shot below 50% 7 times compared with Durant’s 14, below 47% 4 times to Durant’s 13, and below 44% twice to Durant’s 7 times.

      • Baily Deeter

        Great numbers for LeBron and great point. LeBron has done very well in close games, but he doesn’t get much credit.

    • Baily Deeter

      That’s true: LeBron gets tons of heat for not being clutch. Those numbers are absolutely astounding: over 15.6 assists per 48 minutes. I said he’s not labeled as clutch, though, and I do believe that he is a lot better at game’s end than people give him credit for. However, he isn’t labeled as clutch.

  • Anonymous

    So far this year, LeBron is 12-27 (44.4%) in 4th Q or OT with less than 2 minutes to go and Durant is 12-28 (42.9%). Just sayin.

    • Baily Deeter

      Yeah, I was saying that Durant is labeled as more clutch. I do believe he is the better guy to take the last shot with the game on the line and a few seconds left, but LeBron gets lots of undeserved heat for that.