Why Kevin Durant, Not LeBron James, Will Own the NBA Next Year
The 2011-12 season unequivocally belonged to LeBron James.
However, just as the prior season belonged to James, the 2012-13 season will be owned by Kevin Durant.
The reigning three-time scoring champion, Durant carried his Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA forefront (and NBA Finals) in his fifth season in the league.
But last year's media darlings have quickly become yesterday's news.
The Thunder have watched as the league's fans and media members have turned their collective eye away from the rising Western Conference powers, thanks to a bevy of offseason blockbuster deals.
The Los Angeles Lakers added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. The Philadelphia 76ers acquired Andrew Bynum. The Boston Celtics signed Jason Terry. The Brooklyn Nets dealt for Joe Johnson. Even James' Heat added marksmen Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
Durant's Thunder, meanwhile, largely remained quiet.
Their biggest offseason move was granting a four-year, $48 million extension to power forward Serge Ibaka. They drafted Baylor's Perry Jones III and signed former first-round picks Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton. In other words, Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti thought that his team has all of the pieces in place to win an NBA title.
For Presti's plan to succeed, though, he'll need Durant to dominate this season as James did last season.
No one is worried about the offensive production from the scoring savant. The 6'9" forward can get his shot from anywhere on the floor, and with his quick, high release point, few players can even bother the look. With shooting numbers like the ones he posted last season (49.6 FG%, 38.7 3P%) it goes without saying that he's converting his looks.
It's part of the reason that Durant has emerged as perhaps the game's greatest closer. Opposing coaches can game-plan to hound him or even force him away from the areas he'd like to be, but coaches can't draw up longer, more athletic defenders to challenge his looks.
But Presti and Thunder coach Scott Brooks will need improvement from Durant in other areas of his game.
Given the defensive attention that Durant commands, he needs to become a better, more willing passer. His 3.5 assists per game last season marked the first time in his career that he's averaged better than three per game, but last season also marked the fifth consecutive season where he's averaged more turnovers (3.76) than assists.
He also needs to improve his post game on the offensive end. His size and length would give him an advantage over most defenders, one that he could exploit out of the post. Not to mention, this could help open passing lanes to give him easier looks to his teammates and improve his offensive rebounding (0.6 last season).
One of the biggest keys for Durant, though, will be getting the long-time gym rat to focus more of his workouts away from the basketball court.
That's a nicer way of saying that he needs to get stronger.
His strength has been a concern since his days at Texas, but any thoughts that these concerns had faded ceased during the NBA Finals, when the bigger, more physical James dominated Durant on the block.
An increase in weight room workouts would also help improve Durant's quickness, something that he'll need to improve on if he hopes to become a great defender.
Coach Brooks was forced to decide who he would rather keep on the floor throughout the playoffs: defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha or scorer James Harden. If Durant can play with the same intensity on defense, Brooks could keep Harden on the floor for longer stretches.
With so many areas to improve, why then is Durant set to own the 2012-13 NBA season?
Because he has the talent, desire and new motivation to push himself to that level.
Durant will use that fuel from the NBA Finals loss to push himself through grueling workouts, much in the same way that James found his motivation last season.
Fellow Olympian Kevin Love resented the fact that his teammates had an incredible 700 playoff games among them, while he has yet to reach the postseason with his Minnesota Timberwolves.
But imagine the fuel that was lit as Durant listened to stories about the seven NBA championships that those same teammates had.
He has been to the sport's pinnacle and his team came up short.
His effort to make sure that history won't repeat itself likely started minutes after that Game 5 defeat.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?