The annoying thing about Kevin Durant’s fantastic postseason? The constant comparisons to players from the past, who completely miss the point and the essence of how good Kevin Durant and why the Oklahoma City Thunder are destined for greatness.
Durant finished behind LeBron James in the MVP voting during the regular season. The main ‘complaint?’ Not as good of a defender, not good enough of an all-around player. I made the same claims. And while Durant is a more natural kind of scorer than LeBron James is, it doesn’t mean it’s all he can do. He isn’t Kevin Martin.
Durant averaged 29.5 points per game during the series against the San Antonio Spurs, while shooting a fantastic 53.2% from the field. Except for Game 1, when Stephen Jackson was just in his face all night long, forcing him to a 8-19 night, Durant had no problems getting comfortable shots and making them in high percentage. But it wasn’t just about points. The NBA’s top scorer for the last three seasons has more in his Arsenal.
Durant is still adding to his game. He’s only 23, and the key core around him is around that age. He dished 5.3 assists during the series against the Spurs, never less than 4 in a game. Truth is, the Thunder are simply a better team when he and James Harden run the attack. Russell Westbrook, as it gets more and more evident, is more about finishing than spreading the ball. Realizing this is key to the Thunder’s success.
Durant isn’t throwing those bullet-assists or making impossible passes like Rajon Rondo. He’s finally starting to use his length and usual height advantage over the player that’s guarding him to find other players. Nothing too complicated, but Durant uses his long hands and the extra attention he gets by finding open guys more and more.
Defense? Durant isn’t a DPOY kind of guy, but so wasn’t LeBron James early on. He’s still developing in that field, although it’s pretty clear defense isn’t his favorite subject in the basketball school. He has his advantages – His long arms, and a great feel for the game. It happened quite often in the wins over the Los Angeles Lakers, intercepting passes and reading the passing lanes correctly. He’s not a shut down kind of defender, but the Thunder have enough defensive options without Durant going for an NBA All-Defensive first team membership.
On to the comparisons. Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan. Maybe he has a little bit of both, but he’s not similar to any one of them. Durant is so good he doesn’t need the ‘Next x’ label every young player gets. Just like LeBron James, he’s that special. He’s that unique.
Winning scoring titles obviously draws the Michael Jordan comparisons. But Durant, unlike Jordan, is more of a jump shooter. He gets a screen and doesn’t really drive inside with everything he’s got. He pulls up, from long or mid range, for jumpers it’s pretty much impossible to contest, or hoist up a floater.
He doesn’t have that strength that Michael had. In general, it’s hard comparing anyone to Jordan, who was unlike no one who has ever played basketball, and probably ever will. Dominique Wilkins might be a better suit, just with better shooting than ‘Nique and without the explosiveness and flair in the air.
The Tim Duncan comparison comes from who Durant is and his team. Just like the San Antonio Spurs that won the titles in 2003, 2005 and 2007, there’s the obvious and dominant three player core the Thunder rely on and does most of the offensive damage. Westbrook and Harden even fit the bill of Parker and Ginobili with their position, although there’s plenty of differences in the duos.
About Duncan – The team is built around Durant, that much is true, but here is where the story ends. Tim Duncan is a big man which has rarely appeared over the course of the league’s history. His intelligence and passing ability was probably the foundation for everything good that happened in San Antonio for nine years which brought four titles. A true pivot player. Something we don’t see in the NBA, and won’t see for quite some time.
Durant? He’s himself. A pure shooter who is a better all-around player than people might usually give him credit for, but mainly an offensive juggernaut. Good enough, probably, after a few years, to be called the first Kevin Durant, and not the next somebody else.