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LeBron James: Kevin Durant ‘right up there’ among best defensive small forwards

LeBron James on Christmas Day witnessed firsthand Kevin Durant’s continued evolution into a formidable force on the defensive end of the floor. And the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar believes that Kevin Durant now could very well be the best defensive small forward in the NBA.

“He’s right up there, if not the best,” James said of Durant following the Cavs’ 99-92 loss to the Golden State Warriors, via NBCS Bay Area. “Kawhi (Leonard) is up there.”

High praise, indeed.

Durant’s performance on James during the Christmas victory was not without controversy, as the NBA admitted Durant fouled James three times in the waning minutes of the game in its “NBA Officiating Last Two Minute Report.” That significant factor aside, Durant did limit James to 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting along with seven turnovers.

Durant addressed his rapidly improving defensive acumen as it relates to his performance against James after the win.

“I’m still learning, still growing, figuring things out, and (James) is who he is at this point,” Durant said. “He’s experienced so much more than I have at this point. He’s looking at it from a different vantage point, and that’s the beauty of basketball. You get guys who have different paths, different journeys, and they meet up on the court and it’s magical. It’s fun. As competitors, that’s what we both want.

“I know exactly how I play, but I feel like I could get better at the small stuff. I was always taught to be curious, to keep growing, and not be satisfied where I am individually in my game. I continue to say that. I’m getting close to where I want to be, but I’m not there.”

The notion that Durant is steadily improving his defense to go along with his considerable offensive prowess should be viewed as a terrifying prospect for the rest of the NBA, to put it mildly.