Opening night small forward showcase: KD Vs Kawhi & Melo Vs LeBron - who won?

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The 2016-17 NBA season got underway last night with the champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers, doing battle with the newly-formed, Derrick Rose anointed 'super team', the New York Knicks.

Later on in the night, attentions would turn to the west coast where the beaten NBA finalists, the Golden State Warriors, would do battle with a San Antonio Spurs side without Tim Duncan for the first time in an eternity.

All four of those sides possess one of the greatest small forwards in the game today.

In Oakland, Kevin Durant now suits up for the Golden State Warriors. The 2014 MVP left the Oklahoma City Thunder after nine years of service in free agency and has aligned himself with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to create one of the most star-studded units in history.

In New York, Carmelo Anthony has finally got the backup his talent deserves. The nine-time All-Star has wasted away in the Big Apple for the past three years in the postseason wilderness, but the arrivals of Joakim Noah and Rose should provide the calvary he desperately needed.

In San Antonio, they have Kawhi Leonard. The 25-year-old is the current back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year and the new face of the Spurs. It goes without saying he is one of the best defenders in the league, but he originally rose to fame by winning the NBA Finals MVP award back in 2014 after he guarded one of the other all-time greats on this list.

LeBron James is, without a doubt, one of the greatest players to ever play the game at this point. The four-time MVP and three-time NBA champion almost dragged the Cavs to their first-ever NBA title last season as he led all players for points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks during the seven-game series with the Warriors.

Last night, these four talents locked horns and gave the world a small sample of their skills against some of their toughest peers on opening night. So, how did they do?

Kevin Durant Vs Kawhi Leonard

It was far from a poor night for KD as the 28-year-old poured in 27 points off 11-from-18 shooting from the field, in addition to 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals.

To lead the Warriors in scoring is no small feat, but Leonard went one better. The 15th pick in the 2011 draft recorded a career-high 35 points on top of five steals and five rebounds.

The Spurs ran out comfortable 129-100 winners at the Oracle Arena and Leonard played a huge role in bringing the Warriors and their almighty unit back down to reality.

Carmelo Anthony Vs LeBron James

Again, Melo didn't exactly have a terrible night. He led the Knicks in scoring with 19 points and added five boards and three assists to that total.

Unfortunately, compared to LeBron, his efforts were almost non-descript. King James posted the first opening night triple-double since Jason Kidd managed the feat back in 2006 as he put up 19 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds, in addition to a major block.

The Cavs blew away the Knicks 117-88 and the common denominators in the two easy victories lie in the special forwards that the Spurs and Cavaliers possess.

LeBron is the king, for now. But Leonard, six years his junior, is coming for the throne.

LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Golden State Warriors
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Kevin Durant
Oklahoma City Thunder
Northwest Division

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