Rivalry of Lebron James and Kevin Durant

When the two best teams boast their two best players you have the making of a rivalry and that’s exactly what the NBA has going right now.

LeBron got his momentum going in 2012 but will need to continue that success in order to join the class of all-time greats. In the other corner is Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Can they slow down the freight train that is Lebron James and the Miami Heat? Can Durant and his Thunder end up being even better?

Both teams enjoy cap flexibility, though the Thunder in particular have lined themselves up for the future quite nicely. The controversial James Harden trade and Sam Presti’s patience are to credit for this. It’s tough to turn a cold shoulder to the older, more expensive free agents who could have propelled th em into playoff competition two years earlier.

Via the Harden trade OKC received Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and draft picks headlined by the Raptors first-round pick. Martin is fulfilling what’s expected of him and as their third scoring option. His contributions are pivotal for a Thunder team whose supporting cast’s strong suit is defense. The easy shots for Martin have led to a career high 43 percent from the three-point line.

A foolproof way keep yourself under the cap is to invest in draft picks. With cheap set salaries for each draft slot, a savvy pick becomes a cost-effective contributor on the court. Last year’s first overall pick Anthony Davis will earn roughly 24 million in four years before hitting restricted free agency well below his worth on the open market.

While you certainly haven’t seen much of Jeremy Lamb this year, he’s quietly averaging 21 points 5 rebounds and 3 assists in the D-League. With a similar repertoire as Kevin Martin the veteran will likely be asked to take a paycut if he wants to stay with the team. Along with Lamb the Thunder have stockpiled a blossoming Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones and a full arsenal of draft picks next season.

While the Thunder have done a good job not pulling an Orlando Magic, their success rises and sets with Kevin Durant, who has embraced a bigger playmaking role with Harden’s departure. He averages a whole assist more a game while cutting down on turnovers.

He’s also on the verge of joining the exclusive 50/40/90 club. If he increases his scoring output from 28.5 to 30 points per contest he’ll be the first player to average 30 points and make 50 percent of his shots from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent from the line. Only Larry Bird has averaged 28 points with those percentages. Short story long, he’s distanced himself from everybody besides LeBron.

The Heat are further into their prime than OKC but will remain intact through at least this season and next. Knock on wood but the current NBA landscape could sport one of the great NBA rivalries. Russell vs. Wilt, Magic and Bird, MJ vs. all the hall-of-famers whose ring fingers remain barren. Lebron and Durant could be the players we ramble about while bouncing grandkids on our lap.

So to whoever arranged Mama and Papa LeBrons and Mama and Papa Durant’s pleasantries within a half decade, we thank you. A heated battle for this years MVP and NBA Championship awaits, something I hope we can get used to seeing.