LeBron James and Klay Thompson have both been offensive forces throughout the playoffs and Finals, though their abilities to get buckets are, of course, born out of opposing styles of basketball.
Thompson is a perfect shooting guard in the modern NBA, able to catch fire from just about anywhere in the half-court. He can get to the hoop and play in the mid-range, yes, but Thompson’s real danger as an offensive player comes from his historically great ability to knock down three after three after three after three. (Playing with Stephen Curry helps, too.)
And then there is James, who is such a physically dominating player that to watch him feels often like watching a different sport than basketball. He’s a near-impossible match-up: big-men defenders are too slow to stay with him if he drives; wings can’t match him physically if he posts up.
So, who would you rather guard?
HBO and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons posed this exact question to the Jimmy Butler on a recent podcast, because who better to ask than someone who is tragically tasked with guarding both?
Butler tried to avoid answering, worried that whichever player he dissed would come at him even harder next season. (And let’s be clear, neither is a fun match-up.) But after some prodding from Simmons, Butler offered a telling hypothetical that put these defensive assignments into perspective.
Simmons: Who would you rather guard, would you rather chase Klay Thompson around those stupid screens for four quarters, or would you rather just take on LeBron and have a bull run into your body fifteen times.
Butler: I’m not answering that! You’re not going to have someone come at me next year and say “ah, you chose him over me?” No, I’m not going to do that! I’ll guard both of them, which I have to anyway.
Simmons: What wears you down more physically? Chasing around screens for four quarters, or taking the LeBron running back body blows eleven times in a game?
Butler: I’m going to give you another scenario. Would you rather run 10 miles, or get hit by a bulldozer?”
Simmons: I’d rather run the 10 miles.
Neither side of the hypothetical sounds great; whatever hypothetical Butler has for guarding Kevin Love is the one we’ll take. But Simmons makes the right call — after watching the Warriors collectively get hit by the bulldozer of James during Games 5 and 6, we’re going running, too.
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