(What if the 1996 Sonics and the 2012 Thunder faced off in a playoff series? The next matchup featured on WTLC and Sonics Rising is a battle of small forwards with Kevin Durant going head-to-head with Detlef Schrempf.)
So far, at the PG and SG spots the Sonics have had the upper hand. What about that other spot, the small forward position?
Offense and Defense
Offensively, Durant is one of the best point producers that the league has ever seen. He is as unparalleled today as he would have been at any other time in NBA history, because no player at his size has been able to produce the scoring volume with shooting efficiency that KD has. He is an excellent inside and outside shooter and finishes at the rim. If there's a way to score the basketball, Kevin Durant will find it. He is also a superior athlete over his counterpart Schrempf in terms of speed, ball handling, rebounding, and athleticism. Regarding defense, Durant is also the better defender and his defense was far better in his 2012 playoff run than Schrempf's in 1996. Check the table below for the advanced stats of those respective runs, particularly the defensive rating column.
However, in spite of all of that overwhelming evidence pointing to Durant being able to walk all over Schrempf, there are still a few disadvantages Durant is likely to face when guarding his opponent. Schrempf was a smart, experienced player who could shoot the ball well, especially from behind the arc. Check the percentages from their respective seasons.
This would force Durant to lock him down and pay attention to his movements on the floor at all times, especially since this particular Sonics team was so excellent at moving the ball. Also, in spite of Schrempf's weak defense, he is 6'9" (the same as Durant, at least on paper), and if he can find a way to keep up with KD's speed and ball-handling - which is never easy - his length could go a long way in affecting Durant's shooting consistency. Lastly, Durant's post defense has always been his biggest challenge, and if Schrempf can find a way to take advantage of that flaw and use his size to score points through the post, it will open up a lot more options for this Sonics offense that is already loaded with weapons.
Still, Schrempf was 33 years old at the time, which will surely take its toll when guarding a player who was 23 at the time and was beginning to put a very large fingerprint on the NBA's record books. Assuming fatigue is accounted for in the simulations, it's one more thing that should work in Durant's favor.
Kevin Durant (2011-12): He averaged 28.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks made while shooting 50.1% from the field, 38.3% from behind the arc, and 86.1% from the free throw line in 39.3 minutes.
Detlef Schrempf (1995-96): He averaged 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.1 blocks made while shooting 48.6% from the field, 40.8% from the 3-point line, and 77.6% from the free throw line in 34.9 minutes.
Again, checking the statistics, it's just about all overwhelmingly in Durant's favor. Schrempf has a better 3-point shooting percentage, and more assists than Durant per game, but when it comes down to it, the reliable Durant is the clear favorite in this matchup. That's even before considering Schrempf will be guarding the scoring champion and one of the best players in the NBA in 2012.
Just saying the names is about as far as this debate should go. It's Detlef Schrempf against Kevin Durant... the end.
If you need some visual evidence, here is Schrempf's fine work:
And here is KD's. Please note that these highlights all happened in one meaningless game in February of 2012.