Appreciating Kevin Durant, the Biggest Offensive Freak Show of All Time
Every once in a while, it's important to stop and realize just what we're witnessing. Kevin Durant is causing one of those moments with his incredible offensive performance during the 2012-13 season.
Through his first 45 games for the Oklahoma City Thunder during the team's defense of its Western Conference title, Durant has posted mind-boggling numbers: 29.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.6 steals per game with the second-best PER in the league. If the season ended at this point, the small forward would earn his fourth straight scoring title.
However, it's about so much more than his per-game numbers, impressive as they may be.
What we're witnessing is the biggest offensive freak show of all time. Even though Durant isn't having the No. 1 offensive season of all time, he's still having the one with the biggest combination of novelty, sheer domination and intrigue.
Let's break it down.
The Quest For 50/40/90
Durant's attempt to join this elite fraternity of tremendous shooters has been talked about ad nauseam during the first half of the season, but that's for a pretty solid reason: It's that impressive of an accomplishment.
Only nine times has a player shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from behind the three-point arc and 90 percent from the charity stripe. Larry Bird has recorded two of them, and Steve Nash accounts for four. Mark Price, Reggie Miller and Dirk Nowitzki can take credit for the remaining three.
Nothing that has happened during the 2012-13 campaign has indicated that Durant will fail to make it an even 10 seasons that qualify for the club.
Just take a look at how well the league's leading scorer shoots from everywhere on the court:
Perhaps most impressive is how Durant spreads out his damage, recognizing the spots from which he struggles. You can see a few red spots on the left side of the court, but he manages to minimize the attempts from those locations.
If you compare the left side of the court to the right side, Durant has taken more shots from each right-side location that mirrors over to a left-side spot he shoots more poorly from.
That's knowing your strengths and sticking to them, and it's the only way to make it into such an exclusive club.
Here's the thing, though. The club that Durant is on pace to join is even more exclusive.
After 45 games, Durant is shooting 51.7 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from downtown and 91.2 percent from the free-throw line.
You might see where I'm going with this.
The 50/40/90 club isn't good enough for the "Durantula." He'll only be satisfied if he can join the 51/41/91 club, and there's a solid chance he could make it to 52/42/92. During January, Durant has knocked down shots at 52.4 percent, 40.7 percent and 92.5 percent from the respective locations on the court, and he's done so on 6.1 three-point attempts per game.
That's a deep-shooting rate he's unlikely to maintain, and the efficiency/volume trade-off indicates that his percentage should rise up. Making it to 52/42/92 is not just a pipe dream for Durant.
One more thing makes Durant's quest all the more impressive. And this is the true reason for the 50/40/90 season's inclusion in an article about how he's the biggest offensive freak show of all time.
Durant is putting together these insanely efficient numbers in all aspects of the shooting game while leading the league in scoring. That has never been done before.
Dirk (24.6 points per game in 2006-07) and Bird (28.1 and 29.9 points per game respectively in 1986-87 and 1987-88) are the only members of the club to top 20 points per game, and Bird's top scoring average fell quite short of Michael Jordan's league-leading pace.
Durant has a solid chance to join the the 50/40/90 club, top 30 points per game and lead the league in scoring.
The Abundance of Moves
If you play NBA 2K13 enough, you'll start to hear the announcing team comment on how Durant is the perfect offensive player. According to the game, everything about him is incredible, and he's the prototypical model if you were building a scorer from scratch.
Trust me, I would know. I've had to deal with a friend winning back-to-back MVPs with KD in our Association mode. It kills me.
While the true prototype would have a stronger frame, the point is still valid.
We already know about Durant's shooting abilities, but not too many players are capable of throwing down dunks like this as well:
That type of athleticism in his wiry, nearly 7-foot frame puts him in truly rarified air. The ability to elevate quickly and finish with authority just isn't even fair for a player his size. However, that air is shared with a few other players.
Guys like Wilt Chamberlain were true athletic marvels capable of running track, dominating on a basketball court, jumping to the heavens and more. These feats obviously don't allow Durant to completely separate from the pack.
It's his combination of finesse and physicality that pushes the Texas product toward that "Biggest Offensive Freak Show of All Time" title.
How many players as big as Durant have ever been able to do this?
Or what about this?
Is Kevin Durant the biggest offensive freak show of all time?
While moves like Jamal Crawford's trademarked shake 'n bake and some of Manu Ginobili's Manu-euvers might be off limits to Durant, Durant essentially has every offensive skill in the book. And I wouldn't put learning those signature skills past him in the future.
If you want Durant to drill a three-pointer in the face of a defender, he'll do it. If you need him to cross up someone, leaving them on the ground with their ankles all but broken, he'll do it. If you need him to drive and finish over or around a premier shot-blocker, he'll do it.
Durant isn't just a great offensive player. He's great offense personified, especially given his constantly developing skills as a facilitator.
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