With Kevin Durant pulling himself out of contention for a spot on the Team USA roster, citing fatigue as the main reason, it’s only logical to think that he’s going to start needing to see more rest during the regular season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite the numbers recommending it, it’s hard to believe that it’ll happen anytime soon.
Here’s the deal, and it can’t be any simpler: The Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t a team that can rely on great coaching or team unity to pull through when one of its stars isn’t playing well. Scott Brooks knows how to coach defense, maybe, and that’s it. There’s no offensive system to make up for when Durant and Westbrook are having bad days. Resting Kevin Durant just doesn’t work well within the scheme because there’s nothing even remotely close to making up for it.
Let us not forget that Russell Westbrook missed a big chunk of last season, playing only 46 games. He was shut down midway through the season because of swelling in his knee. While in terms of ability it doesn’t seem like his ligament tear from the 2013 playoffs affected him in any way, it won’t be surprising to learn that it still comes with a note of caution when Westbrook gets overworked during the long NBA regular season.
Two interesting stats: The last time a player played 3000 minutes during a regular season and ended up being part of a championship team was back in 2004, when Ben Wallace helped the Detroit Pistons to the title. Norm Nixon is the last player (1980) to lead the league in minutes and win a championship with his team. Regular season workload matters, and Durant has played more basketball, regular season and playoff, than any other NBA player over the last three years, logging in 10,924 minutes over that time.
Kevin Durant has led the league in minutes played three out of the last five seasons. He has played more than 3000 minutes in four of the last five seasons, and was on that pace during the shortened 66-game campaign in 2011-2012, when the Thunder reached the final. There isn’t a drop off in his numbers overall during playoff time, but his per minute numbers (playing a lot more minutes in the postseason) show an obvious decline, even if he’s still well ahead of the rest of the league, or almost everyone.
Conclusion? It’s a good thing for him to rest. For him and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Reality dictates something else, as actually giving Durant more than 10 minutes a night on the bench could be a problem for the Thunder. He left Team USA to prepare for the regular season, but for someone who cares so much about stats and is a fierce competitor, staying out is going to be difficult, and at his age (25) it’s unlikely we’ll see serious resting time in the near future.