Kevin Durant won’t stop improving, and now that he’s the possible favorite for NBA MVP, his development likely won’t end here. How much better can Durant get? That seems more like a rhetorical question than it does a headline.
KD is in the midst of what may be his best season, averaging a career-high 31.6 points per game on 51-40-88 shooting. His 5.6 assists a night are his best ever. His 7.7 boards are on pace with the finest rebounding figures of his career.
There’s a chance the main-stream numbers won’t ever get much better. Heck, that may not even be possible, considering few players have ever put up the stats Durant throws out there on a nightly basis. But there are more subtle areas of basketball in which any player can improve.
Durant has dominated in virtually every facet of the game. And it doesn’t seem like that’s going to change anytime soon.
But maybe even the greatest can improve. Maybe someone as imposing as Durant can still manage to take another understated leap at some point in the future.
So Durant plays almost all his minutes at small forward and dominates the game from there. Brooks, meanwhile, ends up getting slapped with a “Scotty Hates Durant at the 4″ label, which is partially true. But that doesn’t mean Durant can’t put the conventional Brooks in an even more awkward position by adjusting his own game.
Opposing players have posted an 11.8 player efficiency rating when Durant guards them as a power forward, according to 82games.com. That’s a superb number for KD, but it’s still down from the 10.0 PER he allows against 3s.
James is the best player in the NBA, one who keeps winning MVP after MVP. But somehow, he continues to improve every year. And considering that Durant has developed at a similarly rapid rate, there’s little reason to believe he won’t hone his game even more as he hits his late 20s and develops into his 30s.
Kevin Durant is pretty good at basketball, we can be sure about that. Incase there were any previous doubts about his abilities, Durant has reinforced his talent with an incredible season of scoring so far. But where else does he excel? Well, he hopes making music could eventually fall into that category.
Durant is of the latter persuasion, and has hopes of working in the music industry to manage and improve artists, with his passion in the production rather than performing side of the industry.
The Oklahoma City Thunder tops the NBA charts with the best points-per-game total this season and, while he still has plenty of gas left in the tank at the top-level, is starting to think of a life beyond basketball.
While some players go down media or business route, think the likes of Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal, others prefer to have a crack at a career they may have chased had they not gone into pro sport.
“I have a recording studio, and I’m really interested in how music is made,” Durant told Vanity Fair. “[Eventually], when I’m done playing, I can see getting involved with developing artists and helping them elevate themselves to a higher level.”
Superstars often pace themselves against inferior opponents, but Durant allows for no breathers at Staples, remembering too clearly when the Lakers were the envy of the league. He was fresh, after an off-day, and eager, with the All-Star break to follow. Since the game was nationally televised, he knew his peers were watching on big screens in New Orleans, enjoying what promised to be the first event of the weekend: a three-point shoot-out and dunk contest blended into one. The L.A. crowd came for Durant, but not just a glimpse of his long limbs. They came for carnage. This was like Clayton Kershaw pitching against the Astros at Chavez Ravine with the wind blowing in. There’s no guarantee of a perfect game, but there’s a chance.
I figured the only way Durant wouldn’t score 60 points is if the Thunder had to pull him because they were up by 30. Turns out I was being conservative. A reporter asked D’Antoni before the game if Durant could match Bryant’s 81. “He could, theoretically,” D’Antoni said. It was uncertain whether they were talking about this very night.
After a warm ovation, and a quick prayer, the Kevin Durant Experience commenced. He sliced inside Kaman for a lay-up. He sank one jumper on the right baseline and pulled up for another. He cherry-picked two dunks. He scored 10 points in the first quarter. Durant was active, but off-kilter, missing eight shots in the first half and all three of his three-pointers. He drew contact but couldn’t get whistles. He blew lay-ups. He covered his face in frustration. Early in the third quarter, he was 5 for 15 and stuck on 12 points. He wasn’t touching 60.
“I was terrible the whole game,” Durant said afterward in the locker room, studying the box score. In his alternate universe, 43 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists and a 107-103 win constitutes “terrible.” By Durant standards, this was indeed a ragged outing. Yet it illustrated why, when he comes to town, the experience must not be missed. No, Durant didn’t score 60. But he so easily could have. He so obviously will.
It’s true what the Nike ad says. Kevin Durant is not nice.
Nope. Nice isn’t the right word. Kevin Durant is kind, he’s genuine, he’s just a good human being.
Off the floor, strictly speaking here. Which is where example number two thousand of Durant’s nice escapades took place.
Following the Thunder’s disappointing 114-104 loss to the Cavaliers at home, their third such loss on their own floor, something that hasn’t happened since their inaugural season in OKC, Durant went through the standard postgame obligations. Answering questions about what went wrong, about why they played poorly, about what needs to change. It’s necessary to stress this part: The Thunder’s loss against the Cavs might be the worst home defeat they’ve had in four years, and there’s no other way to describe Durant’s demeanor after it than anything but pissed.
Voyles said Durant walked him back to find the team’s doctor, while making some smalltalk about a new vehicle Durant had evidently recently purchased.
“He called me ‘Sir’ the whole time, but I told him I’m no sir,” Voyles said.
Durant dropped Voyles off with the Thunder’s team doctor, Donnie Strack, and let him have a look. Strack put a splint on Voyles finger and sent him on his way. He went ahead and had an X-ray done today, and Durant’s diagnosis proved true: A broken ring finger on his right hand, right at the knuckle.
Scoring and facilitating aren’t mutually exclusive actions. Over the course of the 2013-14 NBA season, Kevin Durant has proven just that.
The Western Conference’s premier superstar may be scorching hot, and he may be putting the ball in the basket in bunches, but that’s not all he’s doing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant took his already dominant game and added a new, playmaking wrinkle to it.
KD is in the middle of the most sizzling hot streak of his career, and it seemed like it all started when Russell Westbrook went down with a right knee injury back on Christmas. In 28 games played since that date, Durant has averaged 35.0 points per game and shot 52.4 percent from the floor, 38.9 percent from three and 87.0 percent from the line.
But the numbers don’t only center around the scoring columns.
We’ve seen two months of Durant as a facilitator, adding onto his brilliant scoring, defending and capable rebounding. Two months of complete and utter dominance. And with Westbrook back, it doesn’t seem like anything is changing.
Maybe Durant’s passing is here to stay for good. Maybe Westbrook’s further integration into the rotation won’t change KD’s newly developed style.
Maybe we’re witnessing the “LeBronification” of the best player in the Western Conference. And as Durant expands his game to move closer to that LeBron-like status, the Thunder don’t look like they’re planning on doing anything to stifle his prowess.
LeBron James better grab his pitchfork, there are some nonbelievers he must tend to.
Considered the unchallenged greatest player on the planet, James has found himself in someone else’s company of late. That “someone” is Kevin Durant, who has frequently garnered recognition as an incredibly distant second to James’ continued dominance
Props to Jennings for telling it like it is—especially when it’s blatantly obvious to everyone that Durant is playing like the NBA’s best player right now.
Although Jennings is liable to create a stir with his assertion, it’s not really too bold. This wasn’t him saying Durant trounces James, it’s him acknowledging Durant is the best player right now.
The “right now” is important. Super important. It implies that he’s heavily weighting recent performance, and recently, Durant has been unstoppable.
Denying Kevin Durant’s status as the best scorer in basketball is akin to admitting you don’t bother watching the Oklahoma City Thunder and fail to check box scores to see what’s been happening when you aren’t tuned in.
Before we delve into this exercise, let’s make the parameters clear. I’m only interested in this season, for a couple of reasons. Not only is the present inherently more relevant than the past, but Durant has taken further strides as a scorer this year.
During 2012-13 and seasons earlier in his career, Durant was less of a facilitator. He failed to involve teammates as much unless he was passing out of double-teams, and the development of those passing chops have done wonders for his overall game.
This season more so than ever before, Durant has been the very definition of an unstoppable force in the scoring column. He’s averaged 31.4 points per game, and it’s not like he’s been taking plenty of ill-advised shots to get there. After all, K.D. is shooting 50.9 percent from the field, 40.5 percent from beyond the arc and 87.9 percent at the charity stripe.
People weren’t just discussing Durant as another MVP candidate because they were bored of voting for James. It really looked like this might be Durant’s year.
Many thought it would be a repeat of the last time Oklahoma City and Miami met. In that game, a thrilling Thunder victory, Kevin Durant outplayed James and appeared to stake his claim for 2014′s Most Valuable Player. Throughout the month of January, Durant kept it up too, putting the Thunder on his back as his partner-in-crime Russell Westbrook sat with an injury.
Then James came in to Oklahoma City and reminded everyone who the NBA’s alpha dog is. You could tell right from the start of the game that it was going to be One of Those Nights, as LeBron dropped a quick 14 in the first quarter on shots from just about everywhere. He was driving. He was hitting threes. Oklahoma tried different defenders on him, but it didn’t work. Durant looked rattled, too, lost, and even the energy from a returned Westbrook wasn’t enough to keep it close. The Heat won 103-81, and they looked mighty fine doing it.
So why am I here, again? Other than the chance to try out Kevin Durant’s new Southern Cuisine restaurant, of course (pork ribs highly recommended).
Nothing to see here, it seems. Except for everything.
By the sound of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Durant, the front-runner for the NBA MVP, Thursday’s rematch against reigning MVP LeBron James and his two-time defending champion Miami Heat is overhyped and unimportant. And by the way Thunder coach Scott Brooks talked about the expected return of his All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, who hasn’t played since Christmas Day because of knee surgery, he may not play at all and perhaps spend his time ordering said ribs from the locker room to pass the time.
LeBron James won’t assume the eventual date with Indiana that so many others expect.He definitely has another one with Kevin Durant — in just a few days.
Durant is the NBA’s leading scorer and has a good chance to end James’ reign as the league’s MVP. The Thunder could get even stronger when Westbrook returns from knee surgery, perhaps even Thursday in their first game after the break.
Durant scored 38 points in the All-Star game and has been unstoppable even in games where there is defense, averaging 31.5 points. He had 33 in the Thunder’s 112-95 victory in Miami last month, but scoring is only part of what he’s done to help Oklahoma City to a league-best 43-12 record even with only 25 games from Westbrook.
The NBA’s two best players went their separate ways after the East’s 163-155 victory over the West in Sunday’s NBA All-Star game, but only temporarily. They will be back on the same floor Thursday in Oklahoma City, perhaps even joined by Russell Westbrook.
Less than two months will remain in the regular season when play resumes Tuesday, with so much still to sort out in the loaded Western Conference.