In the recently released NBA 2K13 player ratings, one of the strangest choices was lowering the rating of Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant. A 95 overall player in NBA 2K12, he has been dropped to a 94.
It raises an interesting question. Did Durant actually get worse in his fifth year in the league?
The Basic Stats
When comparing Durant's 2011-12 campaign to the one in 2010-11, the basic stats are straight-forward. Durant scored more points, racked up more assists and more rebounds per game. He also got more shot blocks and more steals per game, all while shooting three percent better from the field and playing slightly less minutes.
The fact that Durant won his third consecutive scoring title while shooting only a hair under 50 percent is pretty astounding in itself.
Okay, so Durant does not look worse yet. Maybe advanced stats are hiding something.
The Advanced Stats
One of the most general advanced stats is win shares, which conveys how much a player contributes to victories on both ends of the floor. Durant's win shares per 48 minutes rose dramatically last season, from .189 to .230.
Durant's production numbers were also way up. His total shooting percentage went up two points to an impressive 61 percent. His effective field-goal percentage went up to a career-high 54.7 percent, and his PER went to a career-high and LeBron-esque 26.2.
Is Kevin Durant the best NBA player going forward from today?
So clearly it was the defense, right? That must be what was missing. Yet on closer inspection, Durant's defensive rating improved by six points, while his defensive rebounding percentage went up nearly three percent.
So What Happened?
We may have to chalk this one up to human error. After a year in which Durant improved in essentially every way possible, the folks at NBA 2K13 decided that he got worse.
Fortunately for Durant, the failures of his digital self do not hinder his chase for the real-world MVP award.