Who is the better player between Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard? Despite playing the same position and being recognized as two of the best talents we have ever seen at the small forward position, which player is truly better by taking into account all the main attributes?
Durant is a 2-time NBA champion, 2-time Finals MVP, and 4-time scoring champion who is recognized as one of the best scorers ever.
Leonard is a 2-time NBA champion, 2-time Finals MVP, and 2-time Defensive Player of the Year who is one of the best 2-way players ever.
Here is the ultimate player comparison between two all-time great small forwards and Hall of Famers.
Scoring - Kevin Durant
Both players are great scorers who are capable of being the #1 options on their teams. But Kevin Durant is without a doubt the better scorer, and arguably the most dominant offensive player in history. Durant is close to 7-feet tall and can shoot over any defender in his way. Durant averages 27.1 PPG over his career, on 49.3% shooting from the field and 38.2% from three.
Kawhi is a strong player who is efficient in picking his spots and methodically getting buckets. Kawhi has a great mid-range game and his three has improved greatly. Kawhi averages 19.0 PPG on 49.2% shooting from the field and 38.3% from three. Kawhi is a great scorer, but Durant is in a special company and might be the best scorer ever.
Athleticism - Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is a nightmare to prepare for. He might be 7-feet tall, which means he cannot be guarded by anyone in history. The greatest defender ever will struggle with Durant, and his height and athleticism is the reason why. Durant moves like a guard, handles the ball like a guard, and has an incredible wingspan. This also helps him on defense.
Kawhi Leonard is a strong player with massive hands, which cannot be ignored when analyzing his athleticism. But he isn't as tall as Durant, and cannot move as quickly as Durant can either. Leonard is a great athlete, but once again Durant is in a league of his own.
Defense - Kawhi Leonard
Kevin Durant has greatly improved as a defender throughout the years and he deserves a lot of credit for that. Durant has made All-NBA Teams over his career, which means he is not on the level of Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard is without a doubt the better defender. The Claw won 2 Defensive Player of the Year Awards with the San Antonio Spurs and has made 6 All-Defensive Teams as well. Leonard led the NBA in steals in 2015 as well. His massive hands and large frame makes him a dominant defensive player, and he is already one of the best to ever do it on that end of the floor. He has a clear edge over Durant in that regard.
Clutch - Kevin Durant
Both superstars have shown that they have what it takes to get it done in the clutch. Kevin Durant has a massive highlight reel of game-winning plays and he is arguably the most deadly player with the ball in his hands in clutch moments. For that reason, he has to take the edge over Kawhi. Durant can shoot over any defender, has 0 weakness in his game, and has terrific handles. In a nutshell, he's unstoppable.
Leonard has one of the greatest clutch shots in history with his game-winner in the 2019 playoffs, and he is also a game-winner on defense. But he simply cannot nail big shots as consistently as Durant can, because quite frankly, he isn't as great on offense. Durant is a problem in the clutch and he takes the edge.
Leader - Kawhi Leonard
Leadership is a special trait that only a handful of all-time great players truly possess. Kevin Durant is an all-time great player, but leadership isn't his best trait. He was often too meek to control Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, and he had to join arguably the greatest superteam with the Warriors to win championships. Durant is typically a shy guy, and his Twitter burner account is not typical of a leader.
Kawhi Leonard is not a vocal leader at all, but he leads by example. And he managed to be the inspirational leader for both the Spurs and Raptors to win 2 championships. Leonard managed to carry the Raptors to a title in 2019 in only one season, and the way he controls the pace of the game is truly incredible. Durant is a better athlete and scorer, but Leonard is a better leader.
Basketball I.Q. - Even
In terms of basketball IQ, this one has to be even. Durant is a great scorer and all-around offensive threat, while Leonard is a special defensive player. Durant knows how to win games single-handedly and so does Leonard. They impact the game at the highest level and are Ph.D. level ballers.
Durant and Leonard are simply 2 of the smartest and dominant players to have ever played and as a result, this category is even between them. Durant provides an efficient and high octane offense while Leonard dictates the pace of play with methodical offense and defense.
Impact - Even
When looking at impact, both offense and defense must be judged. And it is already mentioned that Kevin Durant has a better offensive game while Leonard is a defensive phenom. So how does one distinguish?
It is just too difficult to do so. Durant is automatic from everywhere on the floor while Leonard is an all-time great 2-way star. Whatever extra Durant brings on offense is close to what Leonard can do on defense. And both players are excellent in other areas as well. Durant is a better playmaker while Leonard can impact the game on the boards and defense thanks to his large hands.
Their impact is too close, and the evidence lies in the fact that both stars are 2-time NBA champions and 2-time Finals MVPs.
1 on 1 Game - Kevin Durant
When looking at one on one ability, defense and scoring have to be taken into account in one on one situations. But without a question, Kevin Durant is one of the greatest one on one players to have ever lived. Durant is more skilled, taller, and a better shooter than every defender he has ever faced. He cannot be defended with one player and sometimes even 2 players. Defensively, he often has an athletic advantage which helps him as well.
Kawhi Leonard is a dominant one on one player as well, and he can do it on both ends at a superstar level. Leonard is often double-teamed in offense and can get stops when he needs to. But he isn't as great as Durant in nailing shots anywhere on the floor and that is the advantage that The Slim Reaper has.
Career - Even
Kevin Durant has had a Hall of Fame career. He is a 10-time All-Star, 4-time scoring champion, 2-time NBA champion, 2-time Finals MVP, and won the 2014 MVP. In 2008, Durant also won the Rookie of the Year. Kevin Durant is also a 9-time All-NBA performer which constitutes an incredible Hall of Fame career.
On the other end, Kawhi Leonard is a 4-time All-Star, 2-time Defensive Player of the Year, 2-time NBA champion, and 2-time Finals MVP. Leonard has also made 4 All-NBA Teams and 6 All-Defensive Teams. Leonard is a star who won 2 titles and Finals MVPs with 2 different teams as well.
In the end, winning is what matters. Durant and Kawhi have 2 titles and 2 Finals MVPs which makes this even. Leonard's rings are more impressive as he didn't have Hall of Fame teammates, but Durant has an MVP and Rookie of the Year along with 4 scoring titles. Leonard's Defensive Player of the Year Awards even this up.
Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard 4-2
Both forwards are all-time great players, but Kevin Durant has the slight edge. He is a special scorer among the best to ever do it, joining the likes of Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the most unstoppable offensive players. Durant is a special athlete as well, standing almost 7-feet tall with the ability to move like a guard. Leonard is close, but Durant is arguably a top-15 player all-time.