It took LeBron James a little while before getting recognized as the best player in the world, but there was little doubt about his ability to carry a team without too much talent around him to playoff success. Kevin Durant, realizing life without Russell Westbrook isn’t a all its cracked up to be, might dream of becoming the best player in the world, but he’s someway off that “title” at the moment.
Because LeBron James took a team with Žydrūnas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Sasha Pavlović and Larry Hughes to the NBA finals, getting by a violent Washington Wizards, veteran and still dangerous New Jersey Nets side and an incredibly strong Detroit Pistons team on his way to a shocking NBA finals appearance, where the Cavs were swept by the Spurs.
Kevin Durant? He’s gotten used to the good life. Playing next to a player who sees himself just as much as a superstar, who thinks he should be taking the same amount of shots. Westbrook averaged 18.7 shots per game this season, compared with Durant’s 17.7. Nowhere in the world is it OK for the best scorer in the league (most of the time) to take less than shots than anyone on his team, but Durant is as good and dangerous also because teams have to focus on someone else.
LeBron James may have not found true success, titles success, before arriving in Miami and teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But after two seasons of growing into his role with the Cavs, he never lost an opening playoff series. He was criticized for fourth quarter performances out of habit, but the only time he truly caved was in the finals against the Mavs. It had nothing to do with being the only good player on his team.
And Kevin Durant is finding life hard without Westbrook. The Thunder to. They can’t run a fast break properly (9 points on fast breaks compared to 22.5 with him in their series against the Rockets), and except for the first game in which the Thunder blew the Rockets out of the water, it seems all that is separating Houston from heading towards a potential clincher at home is one Durant shot, bouncing three times on the rim and luckily sinking in to give them a win.
Kevin Durant is clutch, most of the time, but he failed in delivering during the fourth quarter of a 107-100, game 5 loss. He missed five shots (not making a single one), turned the ball over three times and let frustration get to him. He seems to be quite unsure of what to do more – shoot or pass, as the primary ball handler for the Thunder, which might not be the best thing for him and his team.
Unluckily for him, he has a terrible head coach, but so did LeBron James during his years with the Cavs. Durant is alone out there, with limited players offensively, who don’t have a clue as to what to do except setting screens and hoping Durant makes his shot or finds them off a double team.
He may come out winning in this series, but he won’t make it out of the next. LeBron James would have led the Thunder to a first round victory, at least. His first seven seasons with the Cavs proved that. Kevin Durant might be averaging 33.6 points per game in the series so far, adding 7.8 rebounds and 6 assists, but his inability to do the right thing when it matters the most for two consecutive games, not having another All-Star to share his burden, makes it clear that despite his envy, hunger and desire, being LeBron is still quite a distance for him to cover.