Five Active Kevin Durant Stoppers In the NBA
Despite an early playoff exit last year, Kevin Durant still proved to everyone that he makes a case to be the best player in the world. After missing an entire season due to a torn achilles’ tendon injury, he displayed one of the best injury comebacks in history.
Unfortunately with injuries hitting the Nets, KD couldn’t do it all against a determined Bucks squad. However at an individual level, KD was next to unstoppable.
With the upcoming season looming near, Kevin Durant and the Nets look to be as formidable as ever. However, given KD’s greatness, opposing teams will be trying to stop him as part of their gameplan. Realistically, it’s almost impossible to stop him. However, slowing him down will be the key. For this piece, let’s take a look at five players who can limit Kevin Durant.
Kevin Durant Stoppers
Given that he will be missing most, if not, the entire season next year due to a torn ACL, Kawhi Leonard will be on the special mention of this list. Kawhi is one of the best defenders you can throw at KD due to his wingspan and ability to lockdown elite wings. But with his injury, we might not see Kawhi go against the Slim Reaper until the Finals, if their teams make it there.
Although a lot of people expected Giannis Antetokounmpo to defend KD in the playoffs, that wouldn’t be the case. Instead of the Bucks’ eventual Finals MVP, it was PJ Tucker who was tasked to slow down KD.
Known as a pesky defender in the league, Tucker did just enough to make life difficult for KD. Although Durant still went off in that series, Tucker’s defense made him work for his points. According to NBA.com, Kevin Durant only managed to shoot 45.5% overall and 30.7% from rainbow country with Tucker guarding him. Furthermore, the Bucks defender forced KD into 11 turnovers when they were matched up throughout the series.
Kevin Durant and PJ Tucker got right into each other's faces. pic.twitter.com/wB4IvtAUxv
— ESPN (@espn) June 11, 2021
With Tucker’s phenomenal defense on Durant, the Bucks turned up their physicality. Because of this, the Bucks were able to pull-off an upset series win over the heavily favored Nets in seven games.
Although Tucker is no longer with the Bucks, after signing with the Heat, another clash with KD next year could still be on the horizon. With the Heat and the Nets looking to be the best team out of the East, Tucker will try to make basketball difficult for Kevin Durant once again.
When it came to Sixers’ defense last year, people often talk about Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid. However, Matisse Thybulle emerged as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league today. Despite playing only limited minutes, Thybulle averaged 1.6 steals and 0.5 rejections per game. In fact, he achieved a rare feat by making the All-Defensive Second Team to make history.
Matisse Thybulle is the 26th player in NBA history to make an All-Defensive team within his first two seasons.
Thybulle averaged a career-high 1.6 steals and a career-high 1.1 blocks per game this season in just 20 minutes per game (!). pic.twitter.com/GSMeBiuytj
— Lauren Rosen (@LaurenMRosen) June 14, 2021
Although Thybulle has yet to cross paths with KD in the NBA, the Australian guard showed us a preview earlier this year. Thybulle blocked KD’s signature fadeaway shot in an exhibition game for the Tokyo Olympics, which saw Australia pull-off the 91-83 upset against Team USA.
Matisse Thybulle blocks KD!
12 PTS, 3 STL, 2 BLK, 71% FG
15 PTS, 4 STL, 3 BLK, 3/3 3PTpic.twitter.com/zmL7C95lY5
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 13, 2021
With Ben Simmons burning bridges with Philadelphia, Thybulle has become the next best perimeter defender for the Sixers. And with the Sixers probably crossing paths with the Nets, Thybulle will be your best bet to throw at Kevin Durant.
Speaking of Ben Simmons, although he had arguably the worst postseason-run of his career, Simmons is still an elite defender. While his hesitancy to score and free-throw shooting are questionable, Simmons’ defense has been.
The Australian star averaged 1.6 steals and 0.6 blocks per outing. Simmons also managed to make life miserable for opposing stars like Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. Furthermore, he was also named to All-Defensive First Team last season.
STATEMENT game from Ben Simmons going against James Harden: pic.twitter.com/0zsvcW3Fns
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) February 7, 2021
Although Simmons didn’t play against Kevin Durant last season, he believes he can matchup well with the Slim Reaper.
In an interview with GQ, Simmons said “I was supposed to guard [Kevin Durant]. We match up well size-wise. KD’s out. The next person I’m guarding is Kyrie [Irving]. Like who’s doing that? It’s not many players who are doing that. And to be doing it at a high level like that? I don’t think there’s anybody else really doing that…”
While Simmons’ defense is unquestionable, it is still unknown for which team he will suit up for in the upcoming season. Despite Simmons being a potential thorn to KD as opponents, Durant reportedly blocked a potential Irving-Simmons trade that would’ve landed the latter in Brooklyn. But nevertheless, if Simmons doesn’t end up in Brooklyn, it will be interesting to see whether or not Simmons’ elite defense can contain the Slim Reaper.
Andre Iguodala is one of the best wing defenders in the league. The 2015 Finals MVP has made a living out of the most elite scorers in the league. From the likes of LeBron James, Damien Lillard, and Kevin Durant, Iggy’s defense has been instrumental in the recent years’ postseason.
Before Kevin Durant joined Iggy and the Warriors, Iggy has been an effective defender against the Slim Reaper. In Game Six of the 2016 Western Conference Finals, Iggy would limit KD to only four points, on one of seven shootings in the fourth quarter. With KD locked down, the Thunder couldn’t close out the Warriors despite having a 3-2 lead. KD and the Thunder would go on to lose that series in seven games.
Although these two players have been teammates in Golden State, they will meet again next season on opposite sides. With Iguodala choosing to return to the Warriors, his veteran leadership and suffocating defense will be a threat to KD’s pursuit of a third NBA title.
With Iggy’s defense and familiarity with KD, there’s no question that the former Finals MVP is capable of giving KD a miserable outing. In fact, Iggy revealed how he and Draymond Green frustrated KD in a Warriors practice.
In JJ Redick’s podcast, Iggy said “Me and Draymond are competitors. Like we’re trying to win and the only way we’re going to win is if we double team KD. KD was so mad. I’m like bro, do you not understand what we’re trying to tell you? You’re that good. You’ve got two guys who are elite. All-time on defense and we have to double team you. Don’t be mad at us bro, like you’re that good!”
Given that LeBron James is part of the best player in the world conversation, he’s also capable of defending KD. These two players are arguably the best players of today. If there is anyone who can match up well with KD, it’d be LeBron James.
While KD has established himself as a lethal scorer, LBJ on the other hand is an elite all-around player. Although LBJ isn’t getting any younger, he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down when healthy. Defensively, LBJ still logged in 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game last year.
LeBron on defense to secure the Lakers W 🔒 pic.twitter.com/NENwsDFeKG
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 11, 2021
LBJ and KD’s rivalry can be dated back since 2012. As we all know LBJ, who was with Miami, denied KD of a championship in the latter’s Finals debut with OKC. However years later, KD would avenge that loss by defeating LBJ’s Cavaliers teams for two straight years in 2017 and 2018 while playing for the Warriors.
Fast forward to today, both of these players are leading two teams who are favorites to win a championship. But if there is a player who can match the star power of Kevin Durant, LBJ is one of the few players who can slow him down.