Both Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard have taken their games to a whole other level in the 2019 Playoffs.
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has marveled about how this is the best Durant has ever played - incredible praise given Durant's the reigning two-time Finals MVP and a four-time scoring champ.
MORE: "It's pretty obvious" that Durant is NBA's best player
Leonard, the 2014 Finals MVP, has simply carried the Raptors who have been lifeless against the Philadelphia 76ers whenever he's needed a break.
Which one has been better this postseason? We posed that question to our Global NBA.com staff who went down to the wire in making the close call.
Kevin Durant 0, Kawhi Leonard 0
What a difficult question, almost as difficult as asking a kid to pick between mom and dad...
We are talking about two players that have shown their full potential on the most competitive stage of the season. Two players with unbelievable skill sets that are dominating at will and keeping their teams alive.
Kawhi is doing it with one of the most efficients runs in NBA history... not just 2019, not just recent memory, the complete history of the playoffs. In an age where the game has evolved in so many ways that makes it hard to be voluminous and efficient, Leonard is laughing about those difficulties while throwing the Raptors franchise on his back.
And for Durant's case... Well, we only needed a little trash talk from Patrick Beverley for KD to bring out his killer instinct. After that "I'm Kevin Durant, you know who I am" quote, he took over for the Warriors. And yes, Golden State has a lot of weapons and ways to win games. But if they solved Clippers' problems and if they go on to dispatch Houston, it's (in a huge part) because of this "ultimate weapon" version of KD.
So, what's my answer for the original question? I'm going with Kevin Durant for one simple reason: he is the only player that make you feel that you can put it over LeBron James. And it might be official: KD is, right now, the best player in the world.
- Leandro Fernandez, NBA.com Argentina (@FernandezLea)
Kevin Durant 1, Kawhi Leonard 0
At the beginning of the season not many expected that Kawhi Leonard would fully came back at his 2017 level. But with performances like what we saw in Game 4 against the 76ers becoming routine, it's safe to say that version of Kawhi is back.
It is not just that he scored 39 points, it's how he scored it, with that efficiency and efficacy in the shot. He did it while blanketed by Ben Simmons and he did it in the face of double teams.
For Kevin Durant, there's really not much left to prove short of winning on his own and away from the star-studded cast in Golden State. He has won everything: MVP, Finals MVP, championships, scoring titles... But when we're talking about Leonard, he's proving that he can be the face of not only a franchise, but an entire country. An often-time stoic face that leads by example, setting the tone defensively and controlling everything that happens on the court.
Often times, a series boils down to whether one team can stop the other's best player. In this case, Toronto has for long stretches limited Joel Embiid while Philadelphia has yet to figure out how to stop Kawhi.
With the roll he's on, it might simply be impossible.
- Sergio Rabinal, NBA.com Spain (@S_Rabinal)
Kevin Durant 1, Kawhi Leonard 1
It's nearly impossible to choose just one, because you could immediately counter with a valid point for why you should have chosen the other. But there's no fun in riding the fence, so I'm going with Kawhi.
Without Kawhi playing at this level, the Raptors would likely find themselves a game away from elimination. Think about that - without a player posting historic numbers his team would be on the brink of being knocked out of the playoffs. Anything less than what he's doing would not suffice.
As unstoppable as Durant has been, he doesn't carry that burden. That's why I'm taking Kawhi.
He's been incredibly efficient with shooting splits (58.7/50.0/85.7) that are almost too good to be true for anyone carrying his type of load offensively.
He's continued to bring it on the defensive end and he's been clutch, just as he has all season long for Toronto.
Leonard is dominating games offensively in the same way KD is too, but on fewer shot attempts. His assist numbers are slightly lower than KD's, but even with how inconsistent Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been, they've still been far better than what the Raptors' supporting cast has given Leonard.
I'm not so sure we'll get the matchup we want to see with Leonard and Durant battling this out in the NBA Finals, but if we do, it'll be because Kawhi has been the best player in the playoffs.
- Kyle Irving, NBA.com Canada (@KyleIrv_)
Kevin Durant 1, Kawhi Leonard 2
In no way can you underestimate what both players have done. It would be a sin.
While it is true that Durant is surrounded by stars who have his back when he's not at his best, there is no player in the world with a larger offensive repertoire than him. It's for that very reason that earlier this year on the podcast "Posted Up with Chris Haynes", Jimmy Butler - one of the NBA's best perimeter defenders players - said that Durant is the hardest player he's ever had to cover.
Although it's been a rollercoaster of a season with ups and downs and the Warriors not quite reaching their full potential, this postseason has confimed that it is Durant who when push comes to shove, carries that team.
There's no doubt that Leonard has been great and doing it with far less help. It's no knock on what Leonard has been able to accomplish this postseason, I just think that Durant is a better player.
- Carlos Herrera Luyando, NBA.com Mexico (@carhluy43)
Kevin Durant 2, Kawhi Leonard 2
I want to quickly flashback to Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals. Durant was making his first postseason run with the Warriors who entered that series unbeaten after dominant sweeps of the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz.
They looked unbeatable. That was until Kawhi Leonard started doing Kawhi Leonard things.
For just over one half, it was Leonard who was the best player on the floor. San Antonio was headed towards an easy Game 1 win until Zaza Pachulia landed on Leonard's foot, ending his series and with it, any momentum Leonard had begun to establish as the league's best player.
What we've seen from him so far this postseason is a continuation of that Game 1 against the Warriors. He's picking up where he left off against Durant and as was the case then, is doing so on a team with no other superstars. This is Iron Man in the desert clawing his way through the rubble, not the Avengers coming together in a dynastic display of all-world talent.
They've both been sensational and for all of the reasons outlined above. It's so close that it's impossible to split hairs without taking into the context surrounding their efforts.
Durant has Captain America, Hawkeye and the Hulk.
In my books, that's the ultimate tiebreaker.
- Micah Adams, Global NBA (@MicahAdams13)
Final scorecard: Kevin Durant 2, Kawhi Leonard 3
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