Let's assume for a moment that an NBA Draft was to be held today and every player in the league was up for grabs. You are beginning your franchise and can have any player as you hold the No. 1 pick. You can acquire the 2006 Finals MVP in Dwyane Wade, CP3 Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, or even the savvy veteran Kobe Bryant.
In the end, all five of those choices are great; but for the sake of discussion there are only two I want to put up for debate and they are LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Comparing these two and finally making a choice is a tough process in itself. The "King" and "Durantla" have things going for and against them in this debate so let's get to it.
LeBron James is currently 25 years old, while Kevin Durant is currently 21. A four year age gap is between them which would benefit Duarnt in the long term. His body is still developing as it is normal for many 21-year-olds since their muscles are slowly building on their bodies. We have seen glimpses of Durant's full potential and it could be scary if he can put it all together the next couple of seasons. If he had stayed in college like Tim Duncan at Wake Forest, he would have just finished his Senior Year at Texas which is another thought to ponder for his development.
LeBron on the other hand, is already a muscled, physical freak that could succeed in more sports than simply basketball as was shown by his high school football showings. He is 6'8'' and 250 pounds (Though I believe he weighs more) of pure energy. He is near his peak, but with the average peak for a star coming around 27-29 years old, it could still be a couple years until we see the full greatness of James himself.
Whose your Franchise Player?
Both players won Rookie of the Year and have become the Franchise player on teams that exist in small markets. This year, Durant won the Scoring title and became the youngest player to ever achieve this feat. He made his first All-Star Appearance and is a career 88.2 percent Free Throw shooter which places him 12th All-Time. He helped his team go from 23-59 last year to a stellar 50-32 in the association with Scotty Brooks winning this year's Coach of the Year Award.
During this past year, LeBron himself was neck-and-neck with Durant for the scoring title. LeBron was first in scoring average in 2007-08, averaging 30 even and has been second in scoring over the past two seasons. He has won the last two NBA MVP's and forgotten are his two All-Star Game MVP's ('05-'06, '07-'08). He has also helped a coach win Coach of the Year. Where would Mike Brown have been if it weren't for LeBron carrying his team to the best record in the league? At home like he currently resides.
James has had the league's highest efficiency rating over the past three seasons and has twice led the NBA in minutes played. He could retire today and it would almost be a lock that he would gain entry in to the Hall of Fame already.
Durant has missed 10 games total over his Career and missed none of the games this season. That equals out to him playing in almost 96 percent (.959) of his games over his three seasons.
James has played seven seasons and has missed a total of 26 games. James total equals out to him playing in almost 96 percent (.954) of games as well. We cannot forget that coach Mike Brown chose as well to keep LeBron out of games at the end of the last two seasons to try and keep him fresh for the Playoffs meaning that LeBron's percentage could be even higher. As a side note, in 2007-08 James came off the bench once for the only time in his career.
Thus noted, both have stayed healthy and are going to be there when needed throughout an 82 game regular season and the Playoffs. It is pretty much a draw when pushing for health choices. However, the fact that James has put more minutes on his body than Durant benefits Kevin.
Kevin Durant is still growing right now in build, so he is limited to the Shooting Guard and Small Forward positions. I do see however, that when Durant gets bigger he will be able to go in and play the three/four position similar to the way Larry Bird did while he was in Boston. The ability to play an inside out game could help his MVP trophies pile up.
LeBron can pretty much play any position he wants to at this time. He played a Point Forward with the Cavs that was similar to what Scottie Pippen did in Chicago. Like Magic Johnson, I could see LeBron playing all five positions, even Center if LeBron decided to work more on his post-game. LeBron is still most fitting as a Small Forward which I also see Durant eventually being.
Building Around the Players:
LeBron now has joined Miami and will finally have a second star by his side in Dwyane Wade. Some could also say it the other way around for Wade. No matter what your opinion is on whether James or Wade is better, what cannot be disputed is that James did not have a Robin to his Batman in Cleveland. They tried Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison but neither could step it up for him.
That being noted, he still took Cleveland to the 2007 NBA Finals on a team in which I couldn't tell you who the number two guy was. Admittedly, the Cavs beat an uninspired Detroit Pistons team in 2007, but he still carried the team to the Finals behind his great Game 5 in Detroit where he put in 48 points.
Durant has only been in the league for three years, so we are still watching him develop his peaks and valleys. He hasn't had a great No. 2 either. Russell Westbrook might be that man in the future. Westbrook was a stud in his second year and if he continues to grow something might be brewing in the team previously known as the Supersonics.
Taking the current teams of the Heat and Thunder out of the mix, it would probably be easier to build around LeBron in one sense because he can play more positions. In Durant's defense, he has more peak years left in him so you can build a team that will be successful for a longer amount of time. Similar to putting together an Utah Jazz team of the Stockton-Malone era. This is where titles might not come, but years of success and title chances with still be within reach. Either one of the players has strong reasons to build around them.
Can Durant be better than LeBron:
There are a few who are willing to put their necks out there and state they believe Kevin will surpass James in greatness. I personally won't go against that notion, seeing all the tools Durant has, yet I am more set in accepting greatness that I've seen. We know every year LeBron is going to be touted as the best or second best player in the game.
Durant continues to push his game and it would not be far fetched to believe that he could someday challenge James for the title of best player. That day though, is not today.
Durant has shown when the game is on the line he is willing to put the shot up and try to win the game. His unsuccessful three when he was fouled (and not called) this past season did not deter him from continually trying to win the game and put the team on his shoulders.
LeBron has done it plenty of times to the Wizards, and who can forget the three ball in the Playoffs against the Magic. Still, there are doubts about his clutch factor. I don't buy into those beliefs at all. James is still great to have with the game on the line. This might become a potential part of Durant's game where he could eventually outshine James.
Much of LeBron reminds me of Magic and Durant in Bird. I am not going to state here that they are the next Larry and Magic because there is only one rivalry that is Magic and Bird. Just like there is only one Russell vs. Chamberlain. They could still be linked in that type of manner because they really aren't that far apart in age. Considering the ongoing debate about Kobe vs. LeBron, there is a six and a half year difference between both of them. The four year difference is closer to the one between Magic and Larry.
One part of argument can always go for the potential like a roll of the dice in Las Vegas. That is what Kevin Durant is in this discussion. Great potential with great odds. LeBron James on the other hand is a given. He's going to be great we just don't know how great he truly is and we might get a chance to see it this season.
LeBron James did not bring a title home to Cleveland and is being knocked harshly for leaving. In all honesty, the management in place was just not that stellar. I believe that both make great choices; but I believe the King with help finally around him will show that he is the best player in the league and the best choice for top pick.