For much of this summer and parts of this past season. The NBA Media seemingly has taken a stance to elevate Kevin Durant into the debate of best player. For the most part, the debate has often been between three players. Those three players for the most part have been Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade. It appears that many are more than ready and willing to dump Wade out of the equation.
Their newest preference of choice resides on the Oklahoma City Thunder and is named Kevin Durant. Somehow the 21-year-old Durant is now viewed as a better player than the 28-year-old 2006 NBA Finals MVP.
To be honest, it’s illogical to think that a player who wasn't even considered as a top 10 player after the previous season (2008-2009) could somehow be considered a top three player after this past season.
To make a claim like that, one would have to suggest that the proposed player doubled his production while all the previous players who were consider better decreased their production by half of what it was. That’s the only way the claim can bare some semblance of truth.
So either Wade was overrated after the 2008-2009 season or Durant was drastically underrated.
Either way, this situation deserves a closer look as to what's truth and what's fiction.
In early August of this year two NBA analysts set the fire ablaze with their controversial claims that Durant was better than Dwyane Wade. Those two analysts were Kenny Smith of TNT, and Steve Kerr who had recently been relieved of his GM duties for the Phoenix Suns.
Intelligent fans didn’t gasp at their claims, they gasped at the lack of reasoning and the misinforming direction of them.
The claims came in an interview constructed by NBAtv.
Smith was initially asked if the Christmas Day game that featured the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Miami Heat also featured the top three players in the world. Smith quickly disagreed on the assumption.
Smith commented by saying, “No, I don’t agree it’s the top three, I think Kevin Durant is in the top three.”
He would follow his bold statement with an argument that left tons of holes to poke at.
“I’ve been saying this for the last year and a half, for two years now…I said it was three, but now in two years, I still think he’s going to be the best basketball player in the planet. I think he offers that much to the game. It showed in the Lakers series last year…that he was capable of taking his team to seven games and they pushed the Lakers probably harder than anybody in the whole playoff round so Kevin Durant is in that mix. I think LeBron James is numero uno, but Kevin Durant is in the passenger seat going “oh, hey how you doin?”
The statement exposed just how misinformed and unaware he is of the very sport he proclaims to be an analyst of.
In regards to his claims that the Thunder pushed the Lakers to seven games, it just isn’t true. The series lasted six games and Durant shot 35-percent for the series. So his claims that Durant took his team anywhere in the playoffs is a ignorant statement to say the lease.
Next he proclaims that Durant and his Thunder teammates pushed the Lakers harder than any other team in the playoffs. This was ridiculous to say the lease.
The Boston Celtics were the team that reached the Finals and pushed the Lakers to their only seven game series of the playoffs; holding a 64-61 lead with 6:12 to go in the final game.
So as fans can see. Just because a guy has the title of analyst, doesn’t mean he’s very credible at doing such. But that wasn’t the end of Smith‘s interview.
He followed the previous statement with, “I think that Kevin Durant is better…in my estimation at this point, he’s probably a hair above Dwayne Wade or just right there. You can’t exclude him from that conversation like you were about to saying the top three players in the world today.”
Notice how he arrogantly suggests that a person can’t exclude Durant from debates of the top three players. Seemingly passing his opinion off as actual fact.
As a human being, I felt offended that Smith suggested what I could and couldn’t do. But then I reminded myself just who I was listening too.
In regards to Steve Kerr's statement of, “Actually, you know I think Kobe is No. 1. He’s the world champion and he’s the guy as Kenny said, who hits all the big shots at the end of games. I think LeBron has to be in there and I might put Durant in there, right there with Dwyane Wade. I think if you have to pick somebody for the future, you absolutely go with Durant because of his youth and his size and his health. I think he’s on the rise and I agree with Kenny, I think he’s already in the top three.”
There are two problems with his statement. The first is that he suggests Durant is better based on physical attributes and youth. He doesn’t make a single reference to ability or production. The second problem I have is him contradicting himself by initially saying he’d put Durant right next to Wade but a few seconds later saying Durant was top three. Thus pushing Wade out of the debate.
Basically suggesting Durant somehow got better during his interview.
The Problem with the Argument
There is nothing wrong with people having opinions that differ from those of others. Conflicting interest are what leads people to discussing their differences, which in return leads to a better understanding of one another. I preach this as often as possible.
However, most people would suggest that we all have a moral obligation to be logical in our assertions.
So is there any logic in the notion that Durant is a better player in just three seasons of basketball when compared to the seven year veteran Dwyane Wade?
In order for the statement that Durant is better than Wade to bare merit, three things need to be agreed upon.
One: Durant has too be better overall in the skills department. He’d have to exceed Wade as a ball-handler, passer, defender, shooter, finisher, and etc.
Two: Durant has to be viewed as possessing a better understanding of the game in only three seasons of basketball.
Three: Durant has to have some foundation to suggest that he’s more accomplish with his abilities than Dwyane Wade. Keep in mind that Wade has the distinction of holding the highest recorded player efficiency ranking in NBA Finals history.
If a person can honestly lay claim to those ideas by providing a logical and factual argument that bare resemblance to truth, the argument can be considered as a valid point.
However that isn’t the case.
There hasn’t been one argument to date that suggests those claims. There have only been statements that aren’t being supported with reason or logic.
This isn’t fair to the sport of basketball, nor is it fair to the player who has consistently proved himself to be a top three performer for much of his seven year career.
For most of the NBA’s existence there has been a struggle to achieve a criteria as too what player is better than the next. Regardless of how brilliant the mind that lends it’s opinion or how well formulate the option, it still remains nothing more than an opinion.
So rather than partake in a battle of bias opinions on which player is better, it’s probably better to discuss what each player brings to the court and allow people to chose what preference of style they enjoy most.
After all, the attraction to players’ abilities is what draws fans into rooting for them. This is probably the best and worst part of trying to debate over which player is better. People have a poor habit of basing their opinions off of what they enjoy, rather than trying to understand how it is a person goes about achieving an end result.
No two situations are ever the same in basketball. The reason this holds truth is because no two players are the same, which explains why no two teams are the same and so on.
So for clarity, there will never ever be a definitive response to the question of who’s the best player. A more reasonable argument would be whom is a more productive player, because production can be calculated and tracked.
However, production too can be misleading. One has to understand team systems, teammates’ capabilities, coaching, and a ton of other things that one can consider.
To help one better understand this, allow me to pose a hypothetical question: What if Carmelo Anthony stays in Denver and carries them to a NBA Championship in 2011?
Does he leap frog Durant and Wade for honors of being a better player?
Does he leap frog LeBron James because of a team accomplishment?
What about the legendary Kobe Bryant who is viewed as being better individually and team wise?
Reason why I present the argument is because it’s the very reason Durant is being viewed as better player than Wade. What reason am I speaking of? The individualization of a team accomplishment!
The Media is trying to pad Durant’s abilities on the false notion that his Thunder team improved solely because of him.
Very few bring up the fact that the Thunder organization changed 10 players that was on the 2008-2009 club that won only 23 games. Even fewer bring up the fact that players like Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook had every bit as much to do with the team’s improvement because they too were better players than the season before.
This isn’t to devalue what Durant means to the Thunder organization or what he accomplished as a individual. The truth is, the same premises can be applied to what Wade and the Miami Heat achieved in 2008-2009 when they went from 15 wins in 2006-2007 to 43 wins in the following season.
Everyone wanted to attribute all the success to Wade and his remarkable season. Very few took note that the Heat removed 14 of the 22 players that played in the 15 win season.
Could it be possible that the Heat won 28 more games primarily because they brought in 8 new players? It sure would be a more logical assertion than the one that a single player could be responsible for a team winning that many more games.
The Media has made it’s living on the practice of preaching that individual talent is the biggest reason for team success. Just looking at this statement makes me want to roll my eyes. It isn’t even remotely logical, being that no All-Star talent has ever lead a mediocre brand of teammates to any kind of real success.
Yet fans fall for the foolishness every time. And I’m not just speaking of casual fans. I’m including NBA die-hearts and self proclaimed no-it-alls.
Well now you really know.
If it wasn't acceptable to call Jordan better than Larry Bird and Magic Johnson because he had not accomplished anything over his first three seasons, what in the world makes it acceptable for Durant to leap frog Wade? Especially when Wade has a NBA Finals Championship and Finals MVP while having a legendary center on his team that had already achieved the very same distinction on three separate occasions.
Anyway, let’s get to the numbers and abilities of Durant and Wade for this past season.
When viewing the scoring statistics of a player. A person isn’t being honest with themselves if they think that a particular player earns everything he gets solely upon his own merits. There are too many aspects of scoring to just look at a players end result and try to come to a conclusion on if he is better than another player.
There are two specific kinds of methods to score in my estimate.
- Creator: A player that is adapt at putting the ball on the floor and beating a single or multiple grouping of defenders to score.The players that excel at this aspect are Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kobe Bryant...in no particular order
- Off The Ball: A player that uses movement to create space to create a catch and shoot possession. That isn't just limited to jump shots. It also includes movement towards the basket. Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Ray Allen, and Ben Gordon excel at this aspect.
Of course a variety of players have a multitude of ways to create offence. The point that needs to be understood is that players have a specific method to scoring. A method that isn’t always as black and white as it is portrayed.
The Four Comfort Zones
During all NBA games, diligent game charters sit courtside and mark the location of every shot taken on the court down to the square foot. There are four areas on a basketball floor in which player field goals are attempted.
- The Rim-Area: Generally regarded as the area that is within 3 feet of the rim.
- The Mid-Range: Generally regarded as the area that is between 4 and 14 feet from the rim.
- The Long-Range: Generally regarded as the area that is between 15 and 23 feet from the rim.
- Three Point-Range: The area that is 23.9 inches away from the rim.
Though many players can score from mostly all areas on a basketball court, all have their comfort zones. To those who may not be fully aware of what a comfort zone is. It’s simply a particular area on the floor in which a player tries to take a majority of his attempts.
Some players prefer to attack the rim area, others are comfortable in the mid-range, and others are skilled at making the deep shots. Very few excel at achieving a mastery over more than two domains. The truly versatile scorers generally roam in three areas. It is a rare occurrence that a player masters all four. Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, and Dirk Nowitzki are the best examples of this rare breed.
In regards to Dwyane Wade, he is constantly viewed as nothing more but a penetrating player that gets his from the rim area and free throw line. This is a bad misconception of the young man. As it is not a fundamentally sound argument.
Reason why I state this is because it would be a declaration that NBA defenses are so poor that they couldn’t prevent a 6’3” guard from averaging 25 points in 463 career games.
Kevin Durant is viewed as a player that has the total package. His offensive assemble has soared to the top of the NBA hierarchy. These merits do bare cause for compliance in the theory that he’s a great all-around scorer. Although the actual depths of his abilities may be over-exaggerated to some extent.
So is Durant a scoring tyrant regardless of his position on the floor? Or is it an inaccurate depiction of the young man?
Is Wade an effective and efficient mid range, long range and three-point shooter? Or is he every bit the one dimensional scorer people peg him as?
One could easily point a person to YouTube clippings, but I rather chart out the attempts, makes, and percentages for each comfort zone. It’s the only way to get a true understanding of how a player scores.
Overall Field Goal Percentage Augment
Ironically Wade and Durant both finished this pass season yielding the same 47.6 percent shooting rate from the field. So to suggest that either player is a better scorer isn’t a particular sound argument. The percentages suggest that if given an equal amount of attempts they would connect on the same amount of shots as the opposite party.
But don’t take my theory at face value. Have a look at the actual numbers in regards to field goals made and attempted.
Wade attempted 19.6 shots per game and Durant 20.3 per game. That’s a difference of .7 percentage of a point.
Wade connected on 9.3 of his attempts and Durant on 9.7 of his. That’s a difference of .4 percentage points. Not much room to suggest that an argument is warranted.
I’ll return to this aspect of the game shortly. So please keep in mind that they recorded the same field goal percentage.
This slide will address the four areas of scoring previously mentioned in the article. Take your time in reading and trying to conclude your own diagnoses of the stats that will be provided.
Rim Area Scoring
Wade: 405 field goals/ 639 field goal attempts – 63.4 percent shooting
Durant: 334 field goals/ 513 field goal attempts – 65.1 percent shooting
A person not fully aware of how scoring is attained would look at the numbers and just assume that Durant is the more skilled inside scorer based off of percentages. However there is always two sides to a story. Sometimes there are three and four ways to view something if one chooses not to be subjective.
For instance. According to 82games.com, 53 percent of Durant’s points in the rim area were assist from his teammates. In contrast, only 39 percent of the time did this occur with Wade.
Notice how the percentages imply that Wade is more adapt at creating his own offense in regards to the rim-area. A person could take that as he is the more skilled person in this particular aspect of scoring. Or one can just hold to better numbers equal better player.
The choice belongs to the barer of the fruit.
Wade: 99 field goals/ 246 field goal attempts – 40.2 percent shooting
Durant: 180 field goals/ 419 field goal attempts – 43.1 percent shooting
Durant nearly doubles Wade’s production in both aspects. While also holding a 2.9 edge in field goal percentage. The casual fan would look at those numbers and assume Durant is far-out ahead of Wade in this aspect. Where as a more commendable NBA fan understand that the NBA game is a game of averages and likelihoods.
So how big is the difference and how does one get to that conclusion?
First, breakdown the numbers into per game statistics. Doing so would show you how many attempts and makes either player has on a game by game basis.
Durant takes five (5.1) attempts per game and generally converts on two (2.2) of those attempts. Wade took three (3.2) attempts per game while normally converting on one (1.3) of them.
It actually makes since that the two would finish this way. The mid-range of the NBA floor is arguably the most congested area on a NBA floor. With Durant being 6’10” he’s more suited to excel at getting a shot off than a 6’3” Dwyane Wade. Yet still Durant only made one (.9) more baskets per game while taking two (1.9) more attempts.
So is it really enough data established to conclude that Durant is better than Wade in this particular area on the floor? Or does a person take into account the added advantages he has from a stature standpoint that makes him more versatile in the mid-range game?
Or does one take into account that Durant was assisted on 38 percent of his makes (likely due to the penetration of Russell Westbrook) and that Dwyane Wade was assisted on 28 percent of his attempts (likely due to him not playing with as good a setup player)?
Remember, versatile does not mean better skill-set or ability. It simply means a player has more options in doing something.
For clarity, Hakeem Olajuwon is regarded as having a more versatile low-post game than Shaquille O’Neal. But from a production stand point O’Neal trumps him.
Wade: 139 field goals/ 338 field goal attempts – 36.2 percent shooting
Durant: 148 field goals/ 387 field goal attempts – 38.2 percent shooting
Right now most are viewing these numbers and scratching their heads. I’m sure many will wonder how Wade can be constantly referred to as nothing more than a slasher or penetrator when his numbers bare a striking resemblance to a player who’s regarded as a pure shooter.
This is one of those cases where the Media has taken an unwarranted stance on labeling a players ability. Until more of these so-called analyst makes it their business to proclaim Wade a respectable shooter, fans of the game will continue to be misguided.
So who’s better, Durant or Wade?
From a numbers perspective, the two are basically one in the same. Durant attempted five (4.7) per game and Wade four (4.4). Yet they both attained the same amount of makes per game, two (1.8).
Only thing that one can go off of is a personal opinion on how both players achieved those numbers. Being that Durant was assisted on 53 percent of his attempts and Wade was assisted on 23 percent of his. A person might be inclined to go with Wade being the better shooter just because he had to create his own shot more than half the time that Durant did. Or one could just stick too their biases and see things as they choose.
Three Point Range
Wade: 73 field goals/243 field goal attempts – 30.0 percent shooting
Durant: 128 field goals/ 351 field goal attempts – 36.5 percent shooting
In most fans NBA fans eyes this argument doesn’t even warrant a debate. Durant is the better long range shooter, period.
From a numbers perspective, the two are closer than many think.
Durant attempted four (4.3) per game and Wade three (3.2). That’s a difference of Durant attempting one (1.1) per game more. Durant made nearly two per game (1.6) and Wade nearly one (.9) per game. That’s a difference of one (.7) per game.
Keep in mind that 64 percent of Durant’s three pointers came on assist from teammates. That implies a lot of open looks were afforded to him. Dwyane Wade was assisted on 33 percent of his three point attempts. That implies that he rarely got to shoot with his feet set and with open looks already.
Durant was the more accomplished shooter during the season, but it was by a very slim margin. So in being fair, it’s only right that it be noted that Wade out performed Durant in these past playoffs.
Wade went 15 for 37 and finished with a 41 percent connection rate. Durant was 10 for 35 and finished with a 29 percent connection rate. Both players went up against top notch defenses (Boston and Los Angeles).
Wade also has a career playoff percentage of 34.7 for his career (52/ 147).
It’s important to understand that a bulk of both players’ points came in transitional and opportunistic situations. This is evident by both scoring above 40 percent of their points between 0-10 seconds of an established shot clock. Durant scored 9.5 of his points in this fashion and Wade finished at 8.8 in the same situation.
In regards to the rest of their scoring from the 11-plus seconds remaining on the shot clock . Durant scored 11 (11.4) points and Wade scored 11 (10.8) points. Total these numbers with the previous numbers and you get the true scoring capacity of both players.
Durant has a scoring rate of 20.9 points per game and Wade is at 19.6 points per game.
Now take note that Kevin Durant averaged 40 (39.5) minutes per game and Dwyane Wade 36 (36.3) per game. That’s a four minute advantage for Durant to amass more points than Wade. Yet all he could net was a one (1.3) point differential.
When considering that Wade and Durant ended the season with the same field goal percentage of 47.6, isn’t it a logical assumption that he would have more than likely added the additional 1.3 points needed if he played the additional three minutes that Durant played?
The grounds on which I base my theory is that they both averaged point-seven (.7) points per minute.
So it’s easy to see why Durant isn’t a better scorer than Wade and vice versa. They both excel at being productive in different areas of scoring.
The only thing that separates the two players distinctively is free throw shooting. Durant is a great free throw shooter and Wade is average.
Durant made nine (9.2) of his ten (10.2) attempts from the charity stripe. Wade made seven (6.9) of his nine (9.1) attempts.
Durant makes 90 percent of his attempts and Wade is slightly under 80 percent. This factored in with playing three more minutes per game is how Durant averaged three (3.5) more points than Wade.
So in conclusion…there is no better scorer if we base it on the numbers. They both averaged the same amount of points per minute of play and they both shot the same field goal percentage.
To name the better scorer is to rely solely upon ones’ own biases.
When thinking about playmaking ability. The spectrum on which one can formulate an opinion is extremely broad. Some see it as an ability to generate offense for one’s team and others view it solely as the ability to pass or generate assist.
I personally view it as the ability to generate offense. Solely relying on assist isn’t an intelligent method to base ones’ assumptions. Too many factor aren’t taken into consideration. The two biggest that comes to mind are the abilities of a player’s teammates and the system a player plays in.
So for the sake of including everyone’s opinion, this portion of the article will focus on assist, turnovers and offensive rebounds.
As previously mentioned. Most people view assist as a parameter to gauge a player’s ability to pass. This isn’t an efficient or reasonable assumption.
There mathematically isn’t any way to determine who is a better passer than Wade and Durant. And that’s just the truth of the matter. Only thing assist totals depict is who has a proficiency to pass more and somewhat who’s more aware of their offensive surroundings.
So rather than asking who’s the better passer. Isn’t it more reasonable to ask who’s more likely too pass the ball? I personally believe it’s this idiotic need most of us have too validate a player being better than the next that prevents such things being asked.
So who’s more likely to pass the ball between Wade and Durant?
Again, you can’t just rely upon the assist totals of the two players. Not without taking into account three very key components.
Those three components are:
- How often a team runs its’ offense through a player: This is often referred to as the usage percentage.
- How often do the teammates score off a players passes: This is often referred to as the assist percentage.
- The overall percentage of a team: Team FG percentage.
Wade finished last season with a usage percentage of 35 (34.9) and posted an impressive assist percentage of 36 (36.4).
Durant recorded a usage percentage of 32 (32.0) and an non-impressive assist percentage of 14 (13.5).
In regards to the two players’ team field goal percentages: The Heat finished at 46 (45.8) percent and the Thunder finished at 46 (46.2) also…both teams also finished at 34 percent from deep.
With both players’ teammates connecting on a similar rate, one can make a feasible assumption that Wade is more likely to incorporate his teammates in the flow of a game. But it wasn’t done just on looking at his assist totals. It was done as all assertions should be, by looking at as many deciding factors as possible.
One can’t look at the end total of an offensive rebounder’s numbers to factor just what player is more productive at it. Too many things get factored in too just callously determine an opinion based on the individual numbers alone.
Things like the overall size and athletic gifts need to be considered. Another factor is the proximity in which a player chooses to predominately operate. One more angle to consider would be how effective does that particular player’s teammates draw a defenses attention.
Only after considering these views can a valid point be made. Just keep in mind that the point still would be an opinion and never an actual fact.
So who would common logic view as the most productive offensive rebounder, Durant or Wade? Looking at the numbers would incline a person to side with Wade. Wade averaged one (1.4) per game. This was the same as the one (1.3) Durant averaged.
Not much to go on most would suggest.
Well consider the numbers I charted in the “Areas of Scoring” portion of the article.
Durant amassed 931 attempts in the rim and mid range areas. That’s 11.4 of his field goal attempts per game.
Wade was slightly under him with a total of 885 attempts in the same areas. That was 11.5 of his field goal attempts per game.
So with both players attempting a similar amount of their in the same area. With both teams of the players’ teammates connecting on similar rates. Just how in the world does Wade rebound at a similar rate than a player who is more than five-inches taller, played 3 more minutes per game and is arguably a better athlete than he?
Is it because Wade is more skilled at it? I’m sure Wade fans would like to think so.
Or is it simply because Wade makes more of a conscious effort to pursue them? That would be my assertion.
The final average doesn’t make Wade better than Durant. But it should raise the awareness of the casual fan at how productive Wade is and how productive Durant could be.
It should be noted that Durant averaged 1.3 in the playoffs and Wade averaged 1.2 per contest.
Ball Handling Ability
Ball handling is often referred to as dribbling. That’s just a small part of the total equation. Ball handling has three aspect basically. Those three aspects are dribbling, passing and receiving (catching the ball).
Ball handling is often judged by most fans by assessing the turnover average of a player. To be frank, that isn’t a reasonably sound method to go on.
For example: Steve Nash is regarded as being great in all three aspects but he is often among the league leaders in turnovers per game.
So it’s easy to understand why you can’t base a player’s ball handling abilities on the merits of how many turnovers he attains in a game.
Another factor that is unable to be mathematically calculated is the abilities and awareness of ones’ teammates. Just because the passer is aware of a situation doesn’t mean that his teammates will be equally alert.
However if one takes into account a player’s usage and assist percentage and place them up against that player’s turnover average. It can give a better understanding of how well a player handles the ball.
Wade handled the ball more than and assisted at an extremely higher rate than Durant, based on the statistics recorded by basketball-reference.com of course.
Wade averaged three (3.3) turnovers last season and Durant averaged three (3.3) also.
Now there are two ways this will and can be interpreted.
The first would be an argument that favors Durant. A point could be noted that because he played three more minutes and still averaged the same amount per game as Wade, that he is a better ball handler. The flaw in that argument is that Durant isn’t a primary ball handler for his team although he’s clearly his team number one option. Durant gets the majority of his field goal attempts in a secondary role.
This implies that he often plays off the playmaking abilities of his teammates, Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor in particular. Then there’s his assist to shot attempt ratio…1 assist every seven attempts. In contrast, Wade averages an assist every three shot attempts.
Based on those estimates, a reasonable argument that Wade takes more chances with the ball but still finished the same amount of turnovers. Never mind the fact that Wade often has to play the role of facilitator because it’s in his team best interest.
The other is to just say Wade is the better ball handler because it is clearly visible that he can do things with the ball that Durant can’t. That’s not an opinion shrouded in biases…it’s as factual as an opinion can get.
After looking at a variety of aspects. One can reasonably make the assumption that Wade is the better playmaker. This isn’t too slight Durant in anyway, nor does it take away from what he brings to the table as a player. His presence alone is enough to open up the floor for his teammates and create opportunities that generally wouldn’t be there if he’s on the bench.
However, since the same holds true for Dwyane Wade, one can’t simply say Durant is better because of his presence. The production of each player has to be accounted for and the statistical difference of his teammates in regards to positive and negative plays also should be factored in.
There are no statistical equations that can accurately depict the true abilities of a player’s defensive abilities. So too argue that one player is better than the next is basically useless because everything bought up will probably be subjective.
There isn’t a 100 percent method to remain objective in any situation. My statement holds true because no two individuals interpret things in the same manner…it’s the foundation on which individuality stands.
Then there’s the aspect of how a player’s teammates and team-system can make a player look better or less of what he may truly be.
So rather than argue who’s better at defending an individual during a team sport, it’s probably more beneficial to argue which player’s play attributes more to his team winning.
I propose this suggestion because things like defensive rebounds, steals and blocks are considered to be positive defensive plays. The reason their considered positive plays are because they negate an offense’s scoring opportunity.
I want go into defensive win shares and defensive ratings because they are completely misleading.
Take the defensive win share rating of a player. It rewards' a player’s effort in wins only. It does not take into account the effort of a player that’s on a team that loses.So basically a player is awarded an individual accolade for an team's accomplishments.
This is proved by the fact that Wade has four ratings of 4.2 or higher in the four seasons he has played 75 or more games (playoff teams). In the three seasons he hasn’t, he’s recorded a percentage of 2.9 or lower.
So rather then deal with assumptions, I’ll just focus on the factual recordings.
But for those who want to know the numbers. Wade had a defensive rating of 103 and Durant 104. In regards to the defensive win share statistic. Wade recorded a 4.6 rating and Durant was at 5 even.
When evaluating a players rebounding ability. Most only view the actual stat and then make their decisions. It’s a rather lazy and ignorant approach. There’s more to a player grabbing a rebound than just his final numbers.
Several things need to be understood before assessing a players rebounding capabilities. They are as followed.
- Floor Positioning: Rebounding is a statistic that generally is determined by a player’s position on the floor. There’s a reason why perimeter players don’t lead the league in rebounding, ever. Being that most defensive rebounds are attained in the rim area, it’s makes since that a player closer to that area is generally going to pull down more rebounds.Effort also plays a major role.
- Size and Athleticism: Being taller, stronger or a better athlete is not a declaration to being a better player. Though those added advantages can make a player more productive and versatile, they aren’t grounds to discount the skill level of another player.
- Teammates Capabilities: A players teammates can affect the rebounding of a player. Some teammates detract from a player's totals and others enhance them.
- Minutes played per game: The minutes a player plays per game can greatly misshape the popular opinion on how well he rebounds. A better way to view it would be to go by a players rebounds per minute.
Once these things have been accounted for, a respectable opinion can be given. With that said, let us look at the averages of Durant and Wade.
Wade averaged three (3.5) defensive rebounds per game and Durant was at six (6.3). That’s a three (2.8) rebound advantage for Durant in four more minutes per game.
When broken down into a per minute basis. Wade averaged (.09) and Durant averaged (.15) per minute. That three rebound advantage doesn’t look like much of an advantage now. If anything, it paints a picture of Wade being the more determined/skilled player based on his lack of size and how often he is in the painted area on defense, being that he’s a perimeter defender.
Most regard steals as the stat that reflects how accurately a player generates turnovers. That’s partly true. However, the stat doesn’t account for a player forcing a player into throwing or dribbling out of bounds and it doesn’t calculate when a player forces a player into a shot clock violation.
Then there’s how steals coincide with the position a player plays. There’s a reason that guards generally attain higher totals than any other position in basketball. They are in the proximity of the ball more than other positions.
And finally we have the defensive assignment situations. Neither Wade nor Durant spent a ton of time defending the top offensive assignments their teams faced. Last season Wade had those duties attended too by Quentin Richardson and Dorrel Wright. And in Oklahoma, Thabo Sefelosha and Jeff Green handled those duties for the most part.
Wade and Durant were basically off the ball defenders that were allowed to roam passing lanes all season long.
This isn’t an attempt to knock the abilities of either player. Just wanted to clarify for those who may not have been aware.
It’s hard to say who is better at creating turnovers while being lined up on the ball, but history would suggest it’s Wade because he has countless video-clips on the internet displaying his abilities.
In addressing the numbers. Wade averaged two (1.8) per game and Durant one (1.4). Wade fans would likely argue how he leads even though he plays four less minutes per game.
Makes since right?
Not if you refer back to what I stated earlier in this particular section of the article. Remember, even though Wade is often the off the ball defender due to his teammates handling the bulk load of defending the top perimeter options. He does play a position that features a lot of ball handling players, more so than that of Durant.
So in fairness. To suggest he is better than Durant is totally subjective. Only way the opinion can reasonably be argued as a fact, is if a statistic is created to record how often a player is in close proximity of the ball.
So it shouldn’t be argued that Wade is better, only that he is more productive at creating turnovers.
Ability to Alter Shots
Most fans probably don’t pay much attention to the shot attempts that aren’t recorded as blocks. They often reference only shots blocked per game. This too isn’t an accurate way to gauge the true abilities of altering a shot.
Some guys alter a ton of attempts based on a variety of things. Normally height, length, and athleticism are the things that come into fray most. So it’s safe to assume that due to Durant’s size and athletic ability, players are going to be more prone to looking over their shoulder for him than they would the shorter Wade.
With that said, there’s no way to mathematically prove that any player is better than the next. Situations differ and so do physical abilities.
Only thing that can be determined is who’s more productive. So let’s address the numbers for both players.
Wade had a per game average of one (1.1) and Durant netted the same (1.0).
The fact that Wade is smaller and less athletic than Durant should have a person inclined to argue in favor of him. There is honestly no reason that Durant should ever allow Wade to block more shots than him.
To me, it validates the argument that Wade is more aware, and gives a greater and more consistent effort.
Fan or not. It probably shouldn't be argued that Durant is a more productive defensive player than Wade. The argument has no foundation upon which it can stand.
Never mind the fact that the 4-year advantage of experience favors Wade.
Durant has certain physical attributes that allow him a chance to do things that the typical player can’t do. But a person still shouldn’t ignore the fact that he doesn’t display those abilities as much as he could and should.
Some would argue that he’s cheating his team by not playing up to his potential. It would be one thing if he didn’t display those abilities, but that isn’t the case. He’s shown them often enough for them to be a habit at this point.
With that said, Wade was statistically a more productive defensive player last season.
The foundation has been laid for you as a fan of the game too decide whom the better player is. I won’t tell you who you should select, nor will I influence you by stating my preference. Just remember these two very important things when you debate on what player is better than the next.
They are as followed.
Statistics are not a basis on which a player’s skills can be assessed. They are only a grounds to gauge production.
When thinking about whether a player is better than next. Only thing that matters is a player’s ability and how he uses it to propel himself and his team. Unfortunately, there isn’t a statistic that proves which player achieves this better than the next.
So argue till your face turns blue about how your opinion bares more weight than the next guy. I’ve personally had enough of wasting my time on trying to sell opinions off as facts.
All I’ll say is this. Everyone argues how there’s nothing better than a proven commodity. It’s why Kobe Bryant reigns supreme over most of his peers.
Wade is has proved himself for seven years now. He’s established his abilities and greatness in the playoff setting.
Yet some how the same rule of thumb that’s often applied in referencing Bryant isn’t being applied in the case of Wade.
But that’s an argument for another day.
Anyway, thanks for reading. Hope the article gives you some clarification on which player is more productive.