The NBA’s 2019-20 season kicks off Tuesday night with a battle of epic proportions.
In one corner, you have LeBron James and the recently revamped Lakers. In the other, you have Kawhi Leonard in his first year with the Clippers.
Make no mistake, these two powerhouses are in a league of their own. But which Los Angeles player has the edge over the other?
While determining which player is “best” is entirely subjective, it is interesting to explore who may have the statistical edge when playing against each other. BasketballReference.com gives us a look into the career matchups between James and Leonard, and the results may (or may not) surprise you.
Leonard had defeated James 13 times in 21 meetings, winning six of nine regular-season games and seven of twelve postseason matchups since 2012. But James has a bit of a scoring edge, outscoring Leonard in both the regular and postseason.
James also is more likely to get the assist, averaging nearly four more helpers per game when the two square off. Leonard, meanwhile, is more likely to sink his free throws, making 83 percent of his attempts compared to just 70 percent for James during the regular season.
Otherwise, the two are fairly similar statistically.
Both players, for instance, average just over 36 minutes on the court during the regular season. James does have a slight edge minutes-wise on Leonard in the playoffs, averaging nearly five minutes more on the court.
The pair also has put up similar numbers in the 3-pointer department. Leonard has completed 34 percent of his 3-point attempts during the regular season, while James has made 36.1 percent. During the playoffs, on the other hand, Leonard finished 45.2 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, compared to James’ 42.6 percent. (How drastic.)
What’s more, the two nearly have identical numbers for rebounds, steals and blocks in all games against one another.
It’s worth noting these stats do not illustrate the numbers each player has put up in their careers. But assessing the way James and Leonard compete against one another can certainly be insightful when comparing to two All-Stars.
Who actually has the edge, though? We’ll let you decide.
Thumbnail photo via John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images