Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Why Kevin Durant – not Carmelo Anthony – is the toughest player to guard in the NBA


Kobe Bryant recently came out and called Carmelo Anthony his greatest personal defensive challenge, even more so than LeBron James.

The conversation became which player is the toughest to guard in the NBA. Quite a few feel Anthony is just that.

Two players obviously getting a slight here are LeBron and the 3-time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant.

The question here isn’t who is harder for a team to stop. That title would belong to LeBron for obvious reasons. It’s about defending someone one-on-one and that’s why Anthony leads the debate along with Durant.

Between Anthony and Durant, who is the tougher cover?

It’s hard to argue with the fact that Durant has led the league in scoring for each of the past three seasons and shoots a much higher percentage from the field than Anthony. But the way Anthony is playing this year, at an MVP-level, he is looking like one of the toughest players to match up with in the NBA.

Anthony’s biggest advantage over Durant is his work inside. He has a much more polished post-up game and gets a lot of buckets on the offensive glass. He is described as a bull in how he goes about scoring at times. Combine this with the way Anthony is shooting the ball from the outside this season and we have pretty complete scorer.

Durant goes about scoring differently mainly because of his frame. He is 3-4 inches taller and much thinner. He will shoot over you, get to the line with awkwardness and finesse his way to 30 points.

If you look at how each player is described, you can see why Kobe would say Anthony is tougher to cover. The perception of how Anthony scores comes with more effort than Durant, who does everything so effortlessly.

But that doesn’t necessarily make Anthony tougher to cover just because of perception.

Durant has been more efficient this season scoring 1.10 points per possession on the year compared to 1.06 PPP for Anthony. Durant is the better isolation scorer at 0.99 PPP compared to 0.90 for Anthony.

Anthony has been lights out in the pick-and-roll this year scoring 1.10 PPP as the pick-and-roll ball handler while Durant has struggled mightily in that depart at 0.60 PPP.

In the post, Anthony does it more but Durant has been more efficient scoring 1.17 PPP compared to 1.03 PPP for Anthony. Anthony has scored much more on putbacks however.

Durant and Anthony have each been great spot-up shooters this season with Durant scoring 1.32 PPP on spot-up plays and Anthony 1.25 PPP.

We see that Durant has been more efficient this season but Anthony takes more shots so that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.

It really comes down to a matter of taste. Is Anthony’s bull-like offensive approach where he is super physical tougher to cover or does Durant getting his so easily make him more unstoppable?

At the end of the day, if someone is dropping 40 on you without sweating, that makes them a tougher cover. Because just imagine what happens when you make them start sweating.

Tags: Carmelo Anthony Kevin Durant New York Knicks Oklahoma City Thunder