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Christmas Day performance further evidence Kevin Durant emerging as elite two-way player

From NBA media reports

Kevin Durant’s name was never mentioned among the NBA’s elite two-way players before he joined the Golden State Warriors. A great player? Sure. An elite scorer? Absolutely. Among the top three or four players in the world overall? Certainly. But his defense was never viewed as elite during his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Durant’s on that short list of basketball’s best two-way talents now, after yet another superstar showing on the big stage. Durant did it all for the Warriors (sans Stephen Curry) in their Christmas win over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, prompting Dieter Kurtenbach of the Bay Area News Group to question whether Durant’s challenge to LeBron’s grip on the title of “best player on the planet” is stronger than just a notion, now that Durant the scoring champion/shot-blocking rim protecting demon has emerged:

When Dwyane Wade’s Miami Heat team played Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals, Durant was viewed as a defensive liability, overly prone to fouling and more likely to guard offensive non-threat Mario Chalmers than Wade or James (teammates on that Heat team and now, again, with Cleveland).

“He’s definitely a different defender now,” Wade said Monday. “He’s always been long…[But] He’s definitely grown up and he’s on a team that allows him to showcase all of his talents.”

“He never really cared,” Green, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, said of Durant’s defensive play with the Thunder. “He hadn’t really bought into it. Sometimes you take on the challenge and show you how good [you] can be.”

Indeed, on Monday Durant asked to guard James, who is having one of the best seasons in his incredible Hall of Fame career.

“That’s tiring,” Klay Thompson said after the game. “We had huge respect for him doing that.”