Commentary

Better athlete: Durant or Anthony?

When comparing Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, Durant has the edge

Originally Published: November 14, 2011
By Chris Palmer | ESPN The Magazine
Kevin DurantJoe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesWho's the better athlete? Kevin Durant wins over Carmelo Anthony.

This week's matchup pits a pair of players who don't exactly fit the traditional definition of pure athletes but whose athleticism nonetheless shapes their style of play. Despite being two of the most natural scorers in the game, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony use entirely different physical skill sets to put up huge numbers. Their bodies are completely different, and as a result so are the ways they are defended.

Based on my rating of 1-10 (10 being the best) let's see which one of these sweet-shooting forwards is the best athlete.

Leaping ability

Neither Durant nor Anthony is perceived as a tremendous leaper, but each player's hops are an integral part of his game. Durant actually needs to jump very high. With a standing reach of 9-foot-6, his fingertips are just inches from the rim without ever having to leave the ground, allowing him to power home dunks with minimal effort. For Durant, it's not as much about elevation as the ability to glide over a long distance. Combined with mile-long arms and great ball control, he can use that leaping ability to swoop around a defender in the air.

Durant's most useful trait is his ability to explode quickly off the ground. His body is so gangly it's often tough to tell when he's primed for a leap. Flying in from the wing on the break and driving down the right side of the lane to finish for a one-handed jam is often when he uses his rise to the fullest. See his Western Conference finals Game 2 finish over Brendan Haywood as evidence.

Despite an excellent vertical that measures at about 33 inches, the 6-8 Anthony is highly susceptible to getting his shot blocked. When he plants with two feet, his mechanics can be a little slow and telegraphed. He also is not the quickest leaper. He led all small forwards in getting his shot rejected last season. But Melo is at his most effective with a running start from outside the lane -- as opposed to a traditional drop step -- and can power down highlight-worthy dunks in traffic after baiting a defender to think he's going to lay it up.

Durant 8.5, Anthony 8

Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine