True Hoops

True Hoops

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Difference between LeBron and Durant: Summer League

Something tells me, if there is an NBA season this year, come December 23rd and March 25th we'll be looking back at last week's Melo league vs. Goodman league game.
If we're really lucky, we may even be looking back at it next June.

All these years talking about who was better between Kobe and LeBron.
Turns out, we had the wrong matchup.
The real question is: who is better between LeBron and Durant.
While there is plenty of time to resolve this (LeBron is 26 and Durant is 23), let's take a look at who got the better of whom at the end of the summer.

Yes, this is a only a summer league game.
But still, here is Dr. JRS' assessment:

Post game/Mid-range jumper: Advantage LeBron.
Hard to believe this area has become a strength for LeBron - at least how fast it has. I was critical of him  earlier in the year, but there is no question he has made tremendous improvement and shows much more confidence in this part of his game (if only he had that in the Finals). Maybe those lessons with Hakeem paid off.

Seriously though, check out his post move at the :58 mark and then this one at the 1:03 mark:

LeBron's footwork in this move above is beautiful, but it also requires a lot of strength. Notice how LeBron spins away from his shooting shoulder/hand and has to do a complete 360 degree spin to get separation and his shot off. 

Ball Handling/shooting off the dribble: Advantage Durant.
Talk about quick improvements - it seems as if Durant has transformed his entire game. Last summer, he was primarily a spot up three point shooter when leading team USA to a gold medal in the world championships. But my goodness, look how fluid his handle is and how much bounce he has to his game. How about the sequence at the :28 mark? You know, where Durant cooly does a behind the back crossover on someone at half court and then proceeds to in-and-out LeBron at the three point line before getting to the basket for a lay-up.

Further, in the video above Durant crosses LeBron up 6 times (:13, :35, 1:20, 1:32, 1:40, 1:46) with most leading to a score (although LeBron does manage to recover and block one). What's crazy is that Durant creates feet of space on some of his crossovers, effectively moving LeBron out of the way completely. Never mind that Durant is 6'9", how about the fact that LeBron is first team all defense?

Durant seemed to have LeBron on a string this whole video, ready to bite at any move he threw his way.
So, sometimes all he had to do was hit LeBron with a jab step and step back.
Check the move he put on LeBron at the 1:06 mark:


LeBron actually executes this same exact move himself at the 1:36 mark.
But throughout the whole video, you never see LeBron get his whole body in front of Durant in a one-on-one situation. Ironically enough, he has to resort to step-backs and post-moves.

Pulling up in transition/three point shooting: Advantage Durant.
When you have the defender on his heels, reacting to anything you do with the ball - chances are you will get almost any shot you want. It also means that you will have tons of opportunities for pull-up jump shots as well as stop-and-pop jump shots just by taking what the defense gives you.
Durant does plenty of that.

Attacking the rim in transition/finishing above the rim: Advantage LeBron.
Any surprise here?
No question LeBron is a physical specimen that possesses both tremendous power and athleticism. There isn't really much you can do to stop him in the open court - ask Austin Daye at the 1:17 mark.
LeBron had 7 dunks in the video above.
Yes, you can say that this is a summer league game with far inferior competition. However, LeBron does this on the regular. Remember when he bullied the western conference all-stars in transition during the 4th quarter of last season's all-star game to bring back the east almost single handedly?

Still, let's not forget the fact the Durant caught an and-1 dunk on Carmelo at the :23 mark.

Winner: Durant
I realize my analysis has them tied 2-2. But really it isn't even close.
Yes LeBron had an advantage in post moves - but there isn't a large enough sample size to really consider that significant. And yes, his dunks were impressive, but how important is that? Not to mention, Durant had several dunks of his own that were fairly impressive - including the best move of the game at the :49 mark. How about between the legs, crossover, back between the legs, step back to the corner, hesitation, then blow by baseline for the one handed dunk?

Conversely, Durant had major advantages in several areas that are more pertinent in game situations.
For sure, he appeared to be the better on-one-one player.
Durant scored 59. LeBron scored anywhere from 32-39 (depending on your source).
But if we're talking head to head......
In the video above, Durant scored 26 points on LeBron.
In contrast, LeBron scored 11 points on Durant.

Just by the numbers, you would therefore say Durant also has an advantage over LeBron defensively.
Indeed, all the shots LeBron hit on Durant were fairly well contested. 
In contrast, many of the shots Durant hit on LeBron  had an impressive about of separation to them.

It just seems Durant had more bounce and swag to his game. More importantly, it seemed like he had more skill. Maybe Durant took this game more seriously. Maybe he had more to prove. Maybe he had to do more because he had less talent on his team.

But still, the fact is he went at LeBron.

Two years ago, people started telling me they felt Durant was better than LeBron. I didn't even take them seriously. I think now, I'm starting to see their point of view. At the very least, I don't know if LeBron has a decided advantage over Durant anymore.

Of course, these are just highlights of a summer league game.
Hopefully, we'll get an opportunity to see the real thing later this year.

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