);
Toronto Raptors

Heat Check: Is Kawhi Leonard or Paul George the better two-way player?

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are arguably the NBA's best perimeter defenders
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are arguably the NBA's best perimeter defenders (Getty Images)

Who is the NBA's best two-way player?

It's a question that typically lends itself to answers involving versatile wing players like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George or Jimmy Butler.

With the emergence of bigs like Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo, there's really no right or wrong answer.

Honing in on Friday's matchup between the Toronto Raptors and Oklahoma City Thunder, let's keep the spotlight on Leonard and George, two players having the best offensive seasons of their careers while remaining among the very best on the other end.

We put it to our Global NBA.com team to decide which is the better two-way player.

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Paul George is my pick for Defensive Player of the Year. He also might finish second in the NBA in scoring behind James Harden.

I'm still taking Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard has put the screws on marquee players in the biggest spots, something George has yet to do. Positionally, Leonard has also shown a willingness and penchant for punching up a weight class when asked, something that George has not. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year is capable of completely changing the outcome of a game by unleashing sequences of startling play on both ends at a level that I'm not sure George can quite get to.

When it comes to strictly this season, there's certainly an argument to be made for George. But in the grand scheme of things and when the pressure is at its highest, I trust Leonard more to deliver on both ends.

MORE: Inside Kawhi's clutch play this season

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): This debate might be one of the most difficult to pick a side on because it's so close, but I gotta go with Paul George, and the edge comes on the offensive end.

While Kawhi has been one of the best defenders of the league for years now, Paul George will likely earn Defensive Player of the Year - the honour reserved for the best defender in the NBA.

Offensively, PG is more enjoyable to watch as he has the smoother game of the two in my eyes. His elite scoring ability is a product of his textbook jumper and arsenal of moves. Sure, Kawhi gets it done on that end of the floor as well, but some of his moves aren't as aesthetically pleasing. On top of that, George has now scored 40 or more points seven times this season, something Leonard has done just three times in his entire career.

It's close, but right now Paul George gets my vote.

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): It feels weird agreeing with Micah, but I'm taking Kawhi Leonard too.

Paul George, in my opinion, should win Defensive Player of the Year and he's probably playing the best basketball of his career, but Kawhi is on another level.

Load management - the two words that have been probably overused the most this season - has prevented Kawhi from being in the conversation of league MVP. I think it's also prevented the Raptors from grabbing the one seed in the Eastern Conference despite their record without him.

Having the opportunity to watch him game to game now that he's in a Raptors uniform, I've found a new appreciation for a guy who was two years ago being called the second-best player in the league after LeBron James.

Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, his offensive game is so smooth that it sometimes goes unnoticed truly how good he is and his presence brings a certain identity to the Raptors that I don't think George could.

It comes down to this for me, I think Kawhi Leonard is a franchise player - one you build around. I think Paul George with a great second option who you can build with.

Both are great at what they do, but I'll take Kawhi all day long over PG13.

Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): This question has two answers for me.

Right now, I'm picking Paul George.

He's averaging a career-high 2.2 steals (leads the league) and as my colleagues have mentioned, he's a runaway favorite for Defensive Player of the Year.

Having said that, it's his offensive game that has seen the biggest leap this season. It's been the consistency, more so that anything else.

He's averaging career-highs in points (28.2), rebounds (8.2) and assists (4.2) while shooting near career-highs from the field (44.0%) and from beyond the arc (38.9%).

However, from a career standpoint, I'm picking Kawhi Leonard.

Although his play this season hasn't garnered as many eyes as PG's have, he has a track record of delivering in the biggest moments against the best players in the league (like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, just to name a couple).

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

Kevin Durant
Durant initially feared his injury was much worse
Benyam Kidane
Jerry Logo
NBA moves free agent negotiation period up to June 30
NBA.com Staff
kawhi-leonard-giannis-antetokounmpo-052219-ftr-nba-getty
Odds, picks for Raptors-Bucks Game 6
NBA.com Staff
kawhi-giannis-052419-ftr-nba-getty
What to watch for in Raptors-Bucks Game 6
Kyle Irving
kawhi-leonard-042419-ftr-getty.jpg
Kawhi's simple but effective playmaking in one possession
Scott Rafferty
Check out all the stars on NBA League Pass
NBA Playoff broadcast schedule
NBA.com Staff
More News