Small forwards are vital positions in a basketball team because they are known to be versatile and all-rounders. Two of the most promising small forwards of this generation are Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard.
The debate about Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard has been going around lately since both boast impressive resumes for the position. Durant is a sharpshooter, while Leonard is known as the most dominant two-way player.
In this blog, we will look closer at these two small forwards and decide which is better: KD or Kawhi. Buckle up and enjoy reading!
Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard: NBA Career Overview
In this generation, small forwards enjoy the spotlight because they are known to be excellent at offense and defensive strategies. Two of today’s most promising small forwards are Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant.
Kawhi Leonard’s prolific ability to take on offensive and defensive roles makes him unique. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant is an agile player known for being an all-rounder. Hence, people often compare these two legends since they share common traits necessary to become a victorious small forward.
Before thoroughly analyzing Kawhi Leonard vs. KD, check out their career background below first.
Kevin Durant’s NBA Career
- Seattle SuperSonics / Oklahoma City Thunder (2007-2016)
Kevin Durant made his NBA debut in 2007 with the Seattle SuperSonics as their second overall pick. The franchise then moved to Oklahoma City and was renamed Thunder.
Not long after, Kevin Durant became one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history. During his rookie season, he showed good skills and significantly contributed to the Thunder. True enough, he won the Rookie of the Year in 2007.
During his nine-year stint with the Thunder, Durant won back-to-back awards for his remarkable performance throughout his first nine years in the league. He won the MVP award in 2014 with an average of 32.0 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game, and 5.5 assists per game.
Durant became a key player during the NBA Finals in 2012. Although they lost to the Miami Heat, Durant became the Finals MVP. Aside from that, he made it to All-NBA First Team six times and the All-Star Game 11 times.
- Golden State Warriors (2016-2019)
Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2016, ending his nine-year stay with the Thunders. His move drew discussions among NBA fans as GSW recently earned the most wins in a regular season.
Nonetheless, Durant proved everyone wrong—that he did not need a successful team to shine. In his three-year stay with the GSW, Durant made valuable contributions in two championships and two Finals MVP awards in 2017 and 2018.
Durant joined the rare 50-40-90 shooting split circle in the 2018-2019 NBA season, extending his legendary shooter status. He averaged 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game.
- Brooklyn Nets (2019-present)
Despite his monumental years with the Warriors, Durant signed with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019. His addition to the team gave birth to a superstar trio consisting of Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
NBA enthusiasts anticipated his dynamics with the Nets, but Durant missed the entire 2019-20 season because of an Achilles injury. Durant made a robust comeback in the following season and averaged 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season.
Durant has become a powerful small forward due to his shooting expertise. During the playoffs of the same season, Durant averaged 34.3 points per game—the highest in a single postseason in NBA history.
Kawhi Leonard’s NBA Career
- San Antonio Spurs (2011-2018)
The Indiana Pacers initially drafted Kawhi in the 2011 NBA Draft as their 15th pick. However, he was immediately traded to the San Antonio Spurs the same night. It may be sad, but Leonard benefited from it.
Leonard had a successful seven-year run with the Spurs, as he cemented his name in the league for being one of the greatest two-way players in NBA history. In the 2014 NBA Championships, Leonard carried the spurs to victory and was named the Finals MVP.
Leonard averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game in the championships alone. Also, he became a 5X All-Defensive First Team and played in the All-Star Games thrice as a player for the Spurs.
- Toronto Raptors (2018-2019)
After a few years of success with the Spurs, Leonard moved to the Toronto Raptors in 2018. He brings success wherever he goes as he led the Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship in 2018.
Not to downplay other layers in the team, but Leonard was a crucial factor in their victory, and his Finals MVP award at the end of this season can vouch for this claim. He is indeed an all-rounder who is never afraid to take every role.
In the playoffs alone, he recorded an average of 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. His Finals MVP with the Raptors made him the first player in NBA to have won a Finals MVP in both conferences.
- Los Angeles Clippers (2019-present)
He shocked everyone with his bold move to the Los Angeles Clippers after winning a ring with the Raptors. This may not be a wrong move since he got to join the legend Paul George, making excellent duo dynamics.
Although they were a great duo, Leonard made a disappointing result, as the Clippers got eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. Nonetheless, he made a fruitful season run with an average of 27.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game.
After his failed attempt to bring home the trophy, everyone looked forward to seeing another stellar performance from Leonard. Unfortunately, he missed the last eight games of the playoffs because of a knee injury.
Leonard has made it to the All-Defensive First Team five times and the All-NBA First Team three times. He will surely be kicking back for more in the coming seasons!
How Does KD Compare to Kawhi?
Choosing the best small forwards NBA all-time is a tough call, especially if the choice is between Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard. They are almost on the same level when it comes to skills.
Therefore, this section will look at Durant vs. Kawhi championship and stats to see who is worthy of being called the best small forward. Check out the rest of the section to know more!
Kevin Durant earned the title “The Scoring Machine” because of his exemplary shooting skills as a small forward. The four scoring titles to his name can vouch for his greatness, not to mention that he has led the league in points per game four times.
Aside from that, he has managed to make a break in the NBA Finals several times and successfully snatched the championship trophy twice. Most of all, he has received the Finals MVP recognition for his powerful all-rounder abilities.
Below is a detailed explanation of KD’s accomplishments.
Kevin Durant has won two championships so far in his career, both during his stints with the Golden States Warriors. It is important to note that he was a key player in their successful attempt to bring home the glory.
Right after Durant joined the Warriors, he carried them to the championship. He had a monumental debut season with the GSW by averaging 35.2 points per game in the Finals—this superb record made him the Finals MVP.
Durant replicated the same formula in the following year and won another championship. Despite recording a slightly lower average than the previous Finals, with 28.8 average points per game, he was still named the Finals MVP.
NBA MVP Awards
Kevin Durant has won two Finals MVP awards so far (one in 2017 and one in 2018), and he also won the NBA MVP award once in 2014. He had his first MVP award in 2014 as a player for the Thunder. He led in scoring throughout the season by averaging 32 points per game.
Aside from his season’s MVP award in 2014, he made consecutive MVP records in 2017 and 2018. It proves that he was not just an auxiliary player in every game he took but also utilized his minor forward abilities to their advantage.
Since debuting in 2007, Kevin Durant has made 11 all-star game appearances. He became an all-star player every year from 2010 to 2019, except the time he suffered a foot injury in the 2014-2015 NBA season.
Kawhi Leonard’s Accomplishments
Kawhi Leonard is a promising small forward in the NBA scene with his potent combination of offensive and defensive prowess. Leonard’s clutch performance, known to have shut down opposing players, helped him secure numerous accomplishments in his career.
Kawhi has won two NBA championships and two Finals MVP awards. He has also made it to the all-star games, validating his practical contributions to every team he has played for.
Below is a detailed explanation of Kahwi Leonard’s accomplishments.
Kawhi Leonard has won two NBA championships so far because of his individual perseverance and effective team dynamics. The first time he won a championship was in 2014 with the San Antion Spurs.
After his monumental performance in 2014, everyone had their eyes on him. However, he could not replicate the same success in the next few years. Finally, he won his second championship in 2019 with the Toronto Raptors.
NBA MVP Awards
Kawhi Leonard has received MVP awards twice so far (once in 2014 and once in 2019). During their victorious championship round in 2014, he averaged 17.8 points in the Finals, thus making him the Finals MVP.
The second time he became a Finals MVP was in 2019 as a player for the Raptors. He averaged 28.5 points per game in the finals, making an apparent average point improvement. Hence, he was worthy of being called the Finals MVP then.
Kawhi Leonard has made it to the NBA All-Star games five times in his career. He earned the accolade for the first time in 2016 as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, then for four consecutive years from 2018 to 2021 as a member of the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers, respectively.
Durant’s Stats Compared to Leonard
Choosing the better small forward between Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard is like picking a side between a circle and a sphere. They are almost the same equally, but Kevin Durant has slightly better stats and awards to back them up.
When we compare Durant vs. Kawhi’s stats, it is clear that Durant is slightly better. Throughout his career, Durant has recorded an average of 29.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 56.6 field goal percentage per game.
Meanwhile, Kawhi’s record did not lag so much behind. Again, they are almost on the same level. Kawhi averaged 23.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 51.0 field goal attempt percentage per game.
Another thing is that Durant has better points average in his championship matches compared to Kawhi. Durant averaged 35.2 and 28.8 points in his two NBA championships. Meanwhile, Leonard averaged 17.8 and 28.5 points per game in his two NBA championships.
It may seem that Durant is slightly better, but there is a chance that the tide will turn in the coming seasons since both of them are still active. So, only time can tell the fortune of these two legendary players.
KD’s Impact on the NBA
Kevin Durant impacted the next generation of small forwards in the NBA. Durant normalized seven-footers doing all-rounder positions while keeping their moves huge yet flawless.
He demonstrated how big players can make enormous contributions by shooting three points, running the fastbreak, rebounding, and even handling the ball. Hence, he has inspired big starlets to hone their shooting skills.
Also, he is one of the most famous NBA players today. He was already poised to become a star when he claimed the Rookie of the Year award. There is a reason why players and coaches love his style of play!
Kawhi’s Impact on the NBA
Kawhi Leonard recently took center stage in the early to late 2010s because of his defensive and offensive prowess. His legacy in the NBA was leading the Toronto Raptors to their long-coveted NBA championships.
Hence, he is famous for his iconic defensive and offensive combination on the court. He is also a player who can take any role without a problem, constantly inspiring players to follow suit. He also proved to everyone that joining an underdog does not mean you are bound to lose the game.
Kawhi Leonard is the epitome of success and defines how a small forward should perform. This is why coaches love to cite him as an example of the best small forward who dares it all with the proper decision-making and timing.
Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard Debate
The debate on this matter cannot be answered with KD vs. Kawhi playoffs and championships since they have almost matching records on these aspects. However, these players slightly vary in their career stats, with Durant taking the lead.
The reason behind this debate is that both players have the same position, not to mention that their careers overlap. Most of all, they have similar play styles, such as being an all-rounder of the team.
Nonetheless, Kevin Durant is famous for his killing three-point shots. Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard is a jack-of-all-trades in defense and offense. Hence, there is no clear winner in this debate round.
First, their stats are almost the same. Even though Kevin Durant has a slightly better stat, they have the same number of championships even though Durant debuted first. Also, they both have the same number of Finals MVPs in their bag.
Wrapping Things Up: Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard: Who is the Better Small Forward?
If you ask who the clear winner is in the Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard debate, Kevin Durant may take the win because of his slightly better stats. Nonetheless, it is essential to note that he is only ahead by a few points.
Kevin Durant may lead now, but Kawhi is waiting to take his place in the corner. Who knows? To set the record straight, they are great players equally! It would be great to observe their careers since both are still active.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.
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