Charles Barkley On Why Kawhi Leonard Is The Best Player On The Planet
Jake ODonnell 01:51 pm, December 24th, 2015
In case you've been living under a rock that's buried underneath another, larger rock, Stephen Curry's 2015-16 season has been excellent. He's leading the league in scoring (31.2), player efficiency rating (32.5) true shooting percentage (.684), offensive rating (125.8) and offensive win shares (5.6). He is the best player on what could be the best team in NBA history, the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player, and in all likelihood, he will win his second consecutive title this June.
“In my mind, yes," he told Time Magazine when asked if he thought of himself as the best basketball player in the world. "That’s how I have confidence out there that I can play at a high level every night. I don’t get into debates, arguing with people about why I am versus somebody else. I feel like anybody who’s at the level I’m trying to be at, if you don’t think that when you’re on the floor, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.”
Don't knock the kid for being confident, but certainly don't knock the kid for being right. At the moment, Curry is playing the sport of basketball better than anyone in the visible universe.
"Steph is not a great defender," Barkley said on ESPN's "Mike and Mike" Thursday morning. "He is a great, great offensive player, but he is not a great defender. Kawhi Leonard is probably the best two-way player in the NBA. He's ahead of Jimmy Butler and Paul George."
For the record, Leonard leads the NBA in defensive win shares, so Barkley's eye test isn't exactly without a nuanced statistical corollary (ew, numbers!). Leonard also comes in second (behind Steph) in win shares, third in value over replacement (Steph is first) and fourth in player efficiency rating -- which proves Barkley's point that he's better while simultaneously disproving his stance that advanced stats are misleading. Chuck is more of an anecdotal evidence guy.
Here's how he proves that Steph -- who has four more steals than Kawhi through the same number of games -- isn't a great defender.
"Steph is not a great defender. He gave up 41 a couple weeks ago to Kyle Lowry and 18 in the first quarter to Avery Bradley against the Celtics last week. He is a great player but he is not a great defender."
So does Kawhi's combination of impressive defensive and offensive metrics (he's shooting threes at a higher percentage than Steph) offset the fact that the reigning MVP isn't a shutdown defender? Would anyone in their right mind prefer to have Kawhi Leonard on their team over Stephen Curry? Those are legitimate, difficult questions to answer, but the takeaway from this debate is clear: when someone asks you to name the best basketball player on Earth, just say LeBron James.
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