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The three best NBA forwards in the game today are LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kawhi Leonard. One is the reigning Finals MVP, one of the reigning MVP, and the other is regarded as the greatest player of the past decade. These three men are completely dominant on the court and are leading their respective teams as favorites for the NBA title this year.

But how do they compare in the most important statistical categories? It might be time to settle the dust and determine who is the greatest and most impactful player in the league today.

 

Points

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 29.6 PPG

Kawhi Leonard: 26.9 PPG

LeBron James: 25.7 PPG

Giannis, at the moment, is one of the best scorers of the ball. In fact, he leads the other two dominant forwards in the game in putting the ball in the hoop.

The entire offense runs through Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he is also tasked with scoring the ball more than the other two forwards. Perhaps most importantly, LeBron James plays alongside Anthony Davis – who is the focal point of the Lakers offense, while Kawhi Leonard plays with the likes of Paul George and Lou Williams.

Giannis is forced to be one of the top five scorers in the league and has done so splendidly this year. He beats out LeBron and Kawhi to top the scoring charts so far this season.

Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo

 

Rebounds

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 13.7 RPG

LeBron James: 7.9 RPG

Kawhi Leonard: 7.3 RPG

Giannis is also the board master, averaging whopping rebounds per game. It is clear that everything in Milwaukee runs through Giannis, including the need for his rebounds. The team is set up for Giannis to grab the ball, push the ball up the floor, and score or assist in the possession. It also helps that Giannis stands nearly 7-feet tall with a tremendous wingspan.

Meanwhile, LeBron James plays alongside a trio of trees including Anthony Davis, Javale McGee, and Dwight Howard who are there to eat up rebounds. Kawhi also has two active centers in Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell, who can grab 10 rebounds per game when needed.

Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo

 

Assists

LeBron James: 10.6 APG

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 5.8 APG

Kawhi Leonard: 5.0 APG

Out of these three, it is clear who the best playmaker is. LeBron James is the number one passer in the league right now and is leading the league in assists.

It certainly helps to have Anthony Davis as a teammate, but LeBron has always been an incredible playmaker. For his size and position, the fact he can average the most assists per game at 35 years old is astonishing.

Giannis is second here, and an amazing playmaker. He finds his open guys with ease and attracts so much attention every time he gets in the lane. It is expected that Giannis will consistently be among the top 20 passers in the league throughout the career. The scary part is that he is just getting started.

Winner: LeBron James

 

Steals

Kawhi Leonard: 1.8 SPG

LeBron James: 1.2 SPG

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 1.0 SPG

When it comes to defense, this is clearly Kawhi Leonard’s avenue. He is a two-time DPOY winner, and can legitimately be regarded as one of the best defensive players of all time.

Leonard built his name off defense when he came into the league and was often tasked with defending the best opposing player when he played for the Spurs. Once he developed his offensive game to become a great scorer, many seemed to forget he is arguably the best perimeter defender in the league.

Giannis is also a great defensive player and can guard multiple positions thanks to his versatility. Even if he ranks last among the three in steals, Giannis is a player who defends the paint mostly and prefers to come up with blocks.

LeBron James is also aging and does not need to dominate defensively anymore, as he is surrounded by a defensive specialist who can do the dirty work for him.

Winner: Kawhi Leonard

 

Blocks

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 1.0 BPG

Kawhi Leonard: 0.6 BPG

LeBron James: 0.5 BPG

When it comes to blocks, it is expected that Giannis – who stands at nearly 7 feet tall- is the best among the three. Antetokounmpo doubles the amount of BPG of LeBron James, an indication that Giannis is simply more active in coming up with blocks.

Kawhi is probably the best overall defender, but he is not tall enough to easily average a block per game like Giannis.

Antetokounmpo is simply a force on the defensive end and can come up with blocks when guarding the paint or helping to get a hand to the ball. It might be sooner than later when Giannis decides to pursue the DPOY Award.

Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo

 

FG%

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 54.7%

LeBron James: 49.8%

Kawhi Leonard: 46.9%

Players who thrive closer to the basket generally shoot a higher percentage and that is the case with Giannis Antetokounmpo. He gets the majority of his buckets from inside the paint and shoots nearly 55% from the field as a result. He is simply too long and tall to handle, and pretty much unstoppable when he attacks the rim. Not too bad for a 15th pick in the 2013 draft.

Unsurprisingly, LeBron James is second with 49.8% from the field. LeBron has added a strong jumper to his arsenal but is still a freight train when he attacks the rim. Kawhi prefers to do his damage from the mid-range and from three, so naturally, his percentage is lower than the other two.

Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo

 

3PT%

Kawhi Leonard: 36.6%

LeBron James: 34.9%

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 30.6%

Simply by name, one can predict that Kawhi Leonard will have a higher 3-point FG percentage. Leonard has built his reputation as a bit of a marksman throughout the past few years, and he has continued this with nearly 37% from three this season. Leonard has a career average of 38.1% from three, so it is not surprising to see him first.

LeBron has surprisingly been quite good from three this year, nearing 35%. He averages 34% for his career, so it’s nice to see him above that mark for the year. When LeBron has his rhythm, he is simply too good to watch. Meanwhile, Giannis still struggles from three by shooting a shade above 30%. That number simply doesn’t compare to the other two superstar forwards in the game, and he will aim to get back to the 35% mark he reached in his rookie season albeit with more attempts.

Winner: Kawhi Leonard

 

FT %:

Kawhi Leonard: 88.9%

LeBron James: 69.7%

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 63.3%

It is clear that if there is a weakness in the games of Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James, one can point to their free-throw shooting. Giannis has struggled with his shooting since coming into the league but has improved slightly this year. Similarly, LeBron James has never been known to be an extremely efficient free throw shooter. This has been an attribute that critics have pointed to, but LeBron surely has the belief he can make them when it counts.

Kawhi Leonard is an excellent shooter and is nowhere near being a liability from the perimeter and especially from the free-throw line. Kawhi has a nice stroke, with consistent form, and seems to always nail the target. Nearly 90% from the line means Leonard is automatic, and you cannot afford to put him on the line when it matters most.

Winner: Kawhi Leonard

 

Winning Record

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 53-12

LeBron James: 49-14

Kawhi Leonard: 44-20

Without a doubt, the Bucks have been the best team in the NBA this season. Giannis is almost directly responsible for the team’s success, as the leading scorer and rebounder on the team. The Bucks rank 1st in points per game, 1st in rebounds, 7th in assists, and have a 5th ranked defense. Since Giannis does all of these things on the floor, he has been the top MVP performer since the start of the season. He is simply having a spectacular season yet again.

The Lakers have been the best in the West this year. They rank 7th in scoring and 8th in rebounds, along with 9th in assists. They also have the leagues’ third-ranked defense, a big part of their success. James is the leading playmaker for this team and basically runs the entire show. His performances this season is the reason James is an MVP favorite alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have climbed to the second seed in the West and rank 4th in point and 3rd in rebounds. They can score at will, with the likes of Lou Williams and Paul George on the team, but it is Kawhi Leonard who is the best two way player on the team and thus will take most of the credit for his team’s success.

Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Final Result: Giannis Antetokounmpo 5, Kawhi Leonard 3, LeBron James 2

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