Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kevin Durant - Much Respect

I've never watched Kevin Durant play prior to the FIBA World Championship semi-finals game between USA and Lithuania. Meanwhile, I've watched Lebron James play numerous times. In just one game, Durant has done two things that Lebron has not. He led a team to a championship on the professional level and he's earned my respect as a basketball player.

On the professional level, Lebron James has never lead a team to glory. He's never won an NBA Championship. He's won an Olympic Gold Medal back in 2008 but he was clearly not the leader of the team; Kobe Bryant was.

Kevin Durant, on the other hand, was the clear leader on this World Championship team. His teammates deferred to him. He knew what his team needed from him and he executed. He risked his reputation by taking over the team. He knew that he would be the one to blame if Team USA lost but did it anyway because he had the courage and the heart to do so. This is something that you can't say for Lebron James (Remember, his kick-out pass to Donyell Marshell?).

Heart is difficult to measure. So I won't continue to question James' heart in the game. I'll question his skills.

In all my time of watching Lebron James, here's my breakdown of his game:
- He has excellent court vision primarily because of his height, he simply sees over the defense.
- He has never developed a post-up game. He has no back-to-the-basket moves.
- The way he gets to the rim is he just drives hard and powers his way through the defense. I've never seen him use deception on his moves.
- No change of speed moves.
- His perimeter shooting has improved but is unreliable.
- He's able to get perimeter shots off because of his length; not because of quickness or deception.
- His defense is over-rated. Uses his hands more than he uses his feet.

In my one game of watching Kevin Durant, his game was just beautiful to watch.
- Like James, he can see over the defense and makes excellent passes.
- He's 6-10 but naturally plays the 3 spot and prefers to operate on the perimeter. But when he's put on the low block, he has shown he has some nice low post moves (ie, shoulder fakes, spin, hooks, etc)
- He's tall but he handles the ball like a guard. His dribbles are low, wide, and most importantly, blindingly fast. Several times I see him with a live dribble walking up to the defender and he just simply shook him back several feet with just a couple of dribbling moves.
- He gets to the rim with finesse. The defender never even touches him because he faked him so hard that he's out of the picture.
- He has a beautifully clean shooting stroke for such a tall player. Very effortless even when far out on the 3pt line.
- Durant likes to use his step-back move to set up his jumper. And he sells the fake very nicely. Each time he does it, he successfully creates space between him and the defender to get a clean look. James also likes to use the step-back. But every time he does it, the defender is still right up on him and the only way the shot gets off is because of James' length.
- I've not seen enough games to comment on Durant's defense. But with his speed and length, he's definitely no slouch.

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