As the NBA All-Star game is underway, the starting five for each conference has to be determined. For the East, it looks as if it is going to be a tough race for the frontcourt. There are Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo who have once again been MVP-caliber players for their teams. However, the question is who has been the best small forward in the East this season? As of today, it continues to be a friendly competition between two superstars who are leading the way for their teams.
The race for the small forward position is between both Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics. While both are deserving of the spot, one of them will be snubbed out of a starting spot in the Eastern Conference. Both Durant and Tatum have been leading the way for their teams which is an indication of why both are two of the best teams in the conference. With that being said, let’s take a deep dive into both players’ seasons thus far.
Tatum This Season
Jayson Tatum has only elevated since the beginning of his career. After struggling in last year’s NBA Finals series, the situation has only made Tatum return this season a better scorer, playmaker, and defender. As Tatum continues to lead the Celtics as one of the best teams in the NBA, he’s continued to be one of the leading candidates for the MVP Award this season.
As of January 18, Tatum is averaging 31.1 points per game along with 8.3 rebounds on 47 percent shooting. With his size and frame, Tatum continues to show his elite offense with his unguardable mid-range and efficient three-point shooting. Plus, Tatum’s playmaking continues to play a big role in the Celtics’ success. As he continues to gain attention by the defense, his passing continues to play a pivotal role for his team.
This season, Tatum has continued to deliver top-notch performances. His most recent performance is his 51-point game against the Charlotte Hornets. Another impressive performance was his 49-point outing against the Miami Heat earlier this season. Tatum continues to show the world that he is on the level of superstardom with no signs of slowing down. At 24 years old, he will only elevate moving forward.
Kevin Durant has overcome a lot to be in the position that he’s in. First, there’s the Achilles tear that took place in game five of the 2019 NBA Finals. Also, the Nets have had their share of chemistry and locker room issues within the team. Despite the Nets’ dealing with adversity to begin the season, the one thing that hasn’t changed is Durant’s performance. Durant brings 100 percent every time he steps out on the floor and puts on a show with his scoring ability.
Before being sidelined due to a knee injury, Durant was averaging 29.7 points on 56 percent shooting. At this point in his career, scoring is an art that Durant has mastered. There isn’t a player in the NBA who can guard him one on one. However, what has been a key feature in Durant’s season has been his terrific defense. Durant is averaging 1.5 blocks this season, which is the third most he’s averaged in his career.
As Durant has continued his terrific season, the Nets have turned things around. The team had a 13-1 record in the month of December and had won 14 of 15 games before he was injured. A few games that stand out for Durant is a 45-point outing in a win against the Orlando Magic followed by 44 points against the Chicago Bulls a month later. While he has continued his stellar play, it has elevated the play of his teammates like Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Nic Claxton, and others.
Durant and Tatum are two phenomenal scorers to watch. It’s uncertain whether Durant will return before the All-Star game. If he does, the race for the starting small forward position will be a difficult one. Despite which one is better than the other, the two superstars deserve their respect for a remarkable season so far.