Kevin Durant's All-Around Game Will Keep OKC Thunder on Top
With just under five minutes left in their game against the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant unleashed a pass to Kevin Martin on the wing for an easy three-pointer. A normally uneventful thing for a player as good as Durant, but that assist, his 10th, marked the first time in his career that Durant recorded a triple-double.
Not only that, it was the first time in his career that he was able to notch double-digit assists in any game so far in his career.
It was an incredibly uneventful game in the middle of November that is just another win for the Thunder and just another loss for the Warriors. Nothing surprising, no upset, no collapse—just a game.
However, that game is a microcosm of what Durant's short season has been. In the past, Durant was looked at as a kind of a one-trick pony, as far as greatness goes. He's never been viewed as a great defender, an amazing rebounder or any kind of miraculous floor general, but that's the track he's taking.
Durant is averaging just 24.5 points per game, which would be his lowest since his rookie year, only he's scoring at a 51 percent clip, a rate that would be a career high. To go along with a more efficient scoring season, Durant's 10.5 rebounds per game give him more than any other season, as do his 4.6 assists.
In fact, if Durant keeps this type of play up, this will be the first season of his career in which he averages more assists than turnovers, which is a bit surprising.
The thing is, this is exactly what the Oklahoma City Thunder need from Durant now that James Harden isn't coming off the bench, and it might even be better for Russell Westbrook.
Durant has always had the ability to pass the ball, he was just never put in the position where the Thunder needed him to. Usually he would be on the floor alongside Westbrook, who can be a very good point guard at times, or James Harden, who might be one of the best passing two-guards in the league.
If Durant has the green-light to run the offense, it frees Westbrook up to move off the ball, shake away from his man and get some more open shots, or get hit on a cut to the rim from the perimeter. It adds another dimension to their offense.
Instead of seeing their best player being used in a Kobe Bryant situation where he is mostly facing isolation and pick-and-pop plays, Durant is capable as the de facto point guard of getting the most out of his size and athletic advantage.
It has been more than Durant's offensive game that has turned Durant into an extremely impressive player so far. He's attacking the glass with fervor, and with Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison playing fewer minutes, Oklahoma City needs a guy to take up the Windex bottle.
His defense seems to be continuing to improve, as he's started to be more physical when he's needed in the post, and more intense when he's playing on the ball on the perimeter. Amazingly enough, Durant is actually leading the league in defensive win shares so far with 0.8 estimated wins added.
It's hard to measure defense with a straight-metrics approach, but that's definitely not a negative toward his game.
Back in September, Durant took part in what he and LeBron James have called "Hell Week" in which he and LeBron worked out together in Akron, a move that was increasingly criticized by none other than Skip Bayless (just a warning, that's just typical Bayless ranting, click if you care to).
Bayless criticized Durant for getting too close to LeBron, being too friendly with him and falling into LeBron's "trap" whatever that may have been.
It seems that Skip doesn't realize that you can actually learn something from the best player in the league, and from the look of his play so far this season, Durant has definitely taken a page out of LeBron's book. In the end, that's only going to help the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Stats used in this article were accurate as of November 19, 2012.
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