As the NBA regular season comes to a close, most of the focus throughout the year has been on the brilliance of LeBron James and the Miami Heat, or the daily drama that is known as the Los Angeles Lakers.
But one of the stories that has not been talked about enough is the excellence of Kevin Durant.
|Photo by: Joe Murphy|
In fact, the former Texas Longhorn has had one of the most efficient seasons in NBA history, averaging 28.4 points per game while shooting over 50% from the field. Durant has Oklahoma City sitting in the 2-spot in the Western Conference with a 57-21 mark, despite losing All-Star James Harden in a trade back in October.
The most amazing thing about Durant's season is that he could lead the league in scoring without even leading his own team in attempted shots. As of Wednesday, Russell Westbrook has taken 1,476 shots, while Durant has only attempted 1,390. And I'm sure as I'm writing this, Westbrook just pulled up and took a 27-footer with two guys in his face while Durant was open on the wing.
One of the more impressive achievements for Durant hasn't shown up on the stat sheet. He hasn't commented when Westbrook has thrown up crazy shots, had immature fits on the sideline, or let the opposing point guard blow by him in transition. The delicate balance between he and Westbrook and the maturity Durant has shown has kept the Thunder one of the top 5 teams in the league.
Durant's durability is another trait that has been appreciated around the NBA. Despite his slender frame, he has only missed 4 games over the last four years, even though many defenders attempt to bully him in the paint. KD has averaged 37 to 39 minutes a game every year since his rookie campaign, and that number actually jumps up to 41.5 in the playoffs. He has also shown more of a willingness to post up and defend in the paint, something he wasn't doing early on in his career.
The 4-time All-Star could also become a member of the exclusive 50/40/90 club this season (shooting 50% from the field, 40% from 3-point range, and 90% from the free throw line). He can join Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Mark Price and Steve Nash as the only players to achieve this amazing feat. As of right now, Durant is shooting 50.6% from the floor, 41.2% from 3-point land, and 90.6% from the line. He could be this first to reach this landmark while leading the league in scoring as well.
While defense has never really been one of Durant's strong suits, he has certainly improved this season. In years past, coach Scott Brooks hid KD against the weakest offensive guy that played one of the wing positions. But this season, Durant has taken on a bigger responsibility in guarding better offensive forwards. He will also finish the year with career-highs in blocks and steals, and average 8 rebounds to boot, showing the versatility in his game.
But as great as Durant has been, if he wants to add a championship to his trophy case, he'll have to be even better in the playoffs.
Let's face it, Russell Westbrook isn't going to stop taking wild shots, Kendrick Perkins won't stop scowling and being a declining defender, and you know what you're going to get from Kevin Martin, so it's up to KD to lead this group to the promised land.
Durant had a line of 28.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game while shooting 51.7% from the field during last year's playoffs. Outstanding stats to say the least. Still, in order for the Thunder to have any shot at dethroning the Miami Heat, KD will have to take his game to another level in the coming months.
Considering how well he's played all season long, expect nothing less.