Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Both L.A. teams have made big moves this offseason.
The Lakers kicked things off by trading for Anthony Davis to pair with LeBron James in the twilight of his career. The Clippers, meanwhile, won free agency by signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George in a deal nobody saw coming.
It's safe to say that the two best duos in the league are now in Los Angeles. But of the two, which one do you think is better?
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): It's tough, but give me LeBron and AD. I think both guys are coming with something to prove this upcoming season and we're going to see them at peak-level play … which is top-five in the league.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): Deciphering which is the better of these two duos really is as tough as it gets. My heart is telling me it's Kawhi and PG, but my gut is telling me it's LeBron and AD, so I'm with Gil on this one.
Rafferty: I feel the same way - this is about as tough as it gets - but my gut is leaning towards Leonard and George. I think their ceiling on both ends of the court is higher than LeBron and AD's.
Irving: I think the transition of Kawhi and PG playing together will be smoother from the get-go than LeBron and AD. But as Gil said, LeBron and AD both have a chip on their shoulder going into this season. LeBron still has a lot to prove to the Kobe-loving Lakers fan base and AD is trying to prove he can win.
It's scary to think about that duo playing with that type of motivation.
McGregor: That's exactly what I was thinking, too. We all know last year was FAR from what LeBron wanted in Year 16 and he definitely hears the chatter of his falling off. I think the drama surrounding Davis' final season as a Pelican has caused some people to forget just how good he is.
They probably wouldn't admit this, either, but I think the notion that they aren't the best duo in their own building will even be extra motivation.
On the flip side, I have some concerns about the durability of the Clippers duo.
MORE: How do Davis and LeBron fit together?
Rafferty: Do you not have some concerns about the durability of LeBron and AD, though? LeBron has a ton of mileage - he's going to climb into the top 10 all-time in minutes played next season - and Davis has suffered a number of injuries in his career.
McGregor: On the LeBron front, I'm not too worried.
The amount of time and money he invests in his health leads me to believe that last year was an anomaly and more of a product of his having essentially played 10 seasons in eight years. His body finally gave in, but he essentially rested/recovered for a third of last season and is coming off of his longest offseason since he was 20-years-old.
AD is a bit more of a question mark, but I believe a change of scenery can have a number of positive effects, including for his health. He didn't add too much mileage on his body last season, either, and that was more a product of the trade saga rather than durability.
Irving: I think we're going to be able to call them the LM Clippers and LM Lakers instead of LA ... it's going to be load management city in Los Angeles next season, which makes me think that their durability may not factor into this as much as it once would have.
After seeing how much that paid off for Kawhi and the Raptors this past season, I don't see why both the Lakers and Clippers wouldn't take a similar approach with their stars this season. I think when Kawhi, PG, AD and LeBron are all on the floor, we're going to see the most refreshed and rested versions of themselves.
Even though injuries, of course, are unpredictable.
Rafferty: That's fair.
I will say this - my gut leans towards Leonard and George, but it's more because I don't know for certain what version of LeBron we're going to get next season. He was still one of the best players in the league when he was healthy, but he wasn't quite the same player as the season before.
I just don't know if we can expect him to be an MVP type player in the regular season at his age anymore.
The playoffs are a different story...
McGregor: Is it definitely because of age? Or do you think that insane eight-year run had a hand in it, to the point where he could bounce back this upcoming year?
Rafferty: I think it's a bit of both. It's just tough for players to keep playing at this high of a level this late into their careers. There's basically no precedent. LeBron is different, but I'm just not sure what quite to expect.
MORE: Why Leonard and George make Clippers title favourites
Irving: I think - if he plays enough games - LeBron is going to have a statement season and win MVP. The "change" to being labeled a point guard is an intriguing storyline. After making 11 straight All-NBA First Teams, he made the All-NBA Third Team last season. He missed the playoffs for the first time since Year 2 in the league.
All these things are stacking up for a ridiculous bounce-back season for The King. Maybe I'm giving him too much benefit of the doubt, but I'm also just paying the respect he's earned over the course of his career.
McGregor: I don't think there's such a thing as giving Bron too much benefit of the doubt - he's definitely earned it.
Rafferty: To be clear, I could totally see that happening as well. I guess I'm just lowering my expectations because of what happened last season and where he's at in his career.
Here's another question: is LeBron still the best player out of the four of them? Or is it Kawhi?
Irving: 2K tells us they're equal at a 97 overall ... but if we're talking about paying our respects, I think it's Kawhi after this past year.
Rafferty: So if Kawhi is the best player, why aren't the Clippers the better duo? Is Davis that much better than George?
But seriously, at his peak, yes. I think AD has a higher ceiling and floor.
Honestly, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say it: I'm not sure how sustainable what we saw from Leonard and George last year really is.
Kawhi absolutely went out of his mind to have an insane run this past postseason. It's by far one of the most impressive things I've ever seen. What PG did during the regular season, is pretty similar in my eyes - he put forth career-best numbers, even though he tailed off towards the end due to his injuries.
I liken it to a guy getting hot in a game. You can't expect him to do it all the time. We saw things out of the ordinary from Kawhi and PG which speaks volumes of what they're capable of, but I'm not comfortable just saying that will be the norm.
You've also got to take their situations into account and how that allowed them to be who they were last season.
Irving: I think AD is that much better than PG just based off of what we've seen consistency-wise over the course of their careers so far. But I'm not counting out George putting together another season just like last year.
There's going to be less attention on him on the offensive end than there ever has been in his career. But until I definitively see him doing it again, I'm saying AD is that much better.
MORE: Where AD and LeBron rank among all-time Laker duos
Rafferty: One thing that I don't think we're paying enough attention to is that Leonard and George might be the best defensive tandem we've seen since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
That's something else that tips the scales in their direction because LeBron certainly isn't the defender he once was.
The Lakers as a whole will be interesting defensively. Like how do they match up with the Houston Rockets, a team built around two perimeter players in Russell Westbrook and James Harden?
McGregor: While they're older, the Lakers have brought in Avery Bradley and Danny Green - two guys who have been known for their perimeter defence. Let's not forget AD is on the backend to protect the rim.
Factor in a defensive-minded coach in Frank Vogel and they could schematically cover up any deficiencies.
Irving: I think it's safe to say defensively the edge goes to the Clippers. Even though AD is a top-tier defender in the league, like Scott said, this duo of Kawhi and PG has the chance to be historic on that end of the floor.
Rafferty: So now that we've talked this out, has your opinion changed since we started this discussion?
McGregor: I haven't changed my stance at all, I'm still giving LeBron and AD a slight edge … but ask me on a different day and my answer could change. It's that close and there are a couple of unknowns still.
Irving: I'm still sticking to my gut with LeBron and AD too. I don't know how this got more difficult to decide because it was nearly impossible not to ride the fence on this from the start, but after this chat, it's made me realize it's even closer than I already had thought.
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