Let’s Give Kevin Durant His Props
Kevin Durant doesn’t get the hype he deserves. From being drafted second overall in 2007 and getting overshadowed by Greg Oden taken at number one or playing in one of the NBA’s smallest markets, the novice NBA fan still doesn’t appreciate his talent.
Durant became the youngest player in NBA history (21) to lead the league in scoring last season and has followed that up this year by leading the league again. Interesting side note, his average of 27.71 this year would be the lowest single season leader since Allen Iverson led the league in 1998-99 with an average of 26.75. He’s the first player to lead the NBA in scoring in back to back years since Kobe in 05-06 and 06-07.
Durant is a matchup nightmare. At 6-9 and essentially playing small forward he is routinely guarded by guys who just aren’t as long as he is. He really is about as pure a scorer as there is in the NBA. Another reason he is overlooked at times is because he is a great free throw shooter and about 25% of his points come from the line. And since he hits them at an 88% clip you take him for granted and suddenly he’s nine of ten from the line.
Last year Durant led OKC to its first 50 win season since 2004 when they were still called the Supersonics. it was pretty much Durant versus everyone else with him averaging over 30+ ppg and only two other players on the roster (Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook) averaging double figures. This year they’ve already won 50 again with six remaining to play. And he doesn’t have to do it all alone; Westbrook has matured in all facets improving his scoring, assists and steals while shooting a higher percentage from the field. Westbrook and Durant have combined to average 49.5 ppg, which is the second highest total for any pair of teammates in the league, behind D Wade and LeBron who score 52.3 ppg.
I think some of the reason people have yet to give Durant, or the Thunder as a team, more credit is because until they beat someone in the playoffs, they really haven’t accomplished anything. It’s easy now to dismiss Durant as a guy who scores a lot of points for a team that isn’t great. But if they pull off that upset of LA a year ago, it’s a completely different story.
As for this season, if the playoffs started today the fourth seed Thunder would face off against the fifth seed Nuggets. But it’s a funny situation because everyone would expect the Thunder to win this series (which would be their first playoff series win since 04-05)so if they did, would people just regard it as a “ho hum” victory because they are supposed to win and because on paper to the uniformed, the Nuggets don’t look that good?
Either way Durant deserves a ton of credit for anchoring the Thunder and forcing them to evolve into one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison