There's no doubting Kevin Durant's prowess as one of the NBA's most prolific scorers, but he'll be trying to add another feather to his cap without his sidekick Russell Westbrook. The talented point guard is expected to miss the first four-to-six weeks of the regular season for the Oklahoma City Thunder after undergoing knee surgery, meaning Durant could be thrust into more of a distributor role.
From the sounds of it, the young superstar is ready to alter his playing style, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:
Obviously we got to change some things up with how we play. And I think coach is putting in some great offense for us. Everybody's touching the ball. We're moving it a little bit more. We're finding the open shot. And we're just trusting our offense.
Mayberry also spoke to Thunder head coach Scott Brooks about the possibility of Durant becoming more of a playmaker while Westbrook recovers. Brooks pointed at last week's preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Manchester, England, as an example of what Durant is capable of, telling Mayberry, "I thought he made as many good reads as he ever has in that game.”
In that contest, Durant finished with 21 points and 12 assists, one more than his career high for a single game in the regular season. Sixers beat writer Tom Moore of the Buck County Courier Times was also left impressed by Durant's passing ability:
Durant is really passing well. Could have quite a few more assists if teammates had knocked down their jumpers. #Sixers— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) October 8, 2013
Against the 76ers, Durant showed how his ability to score opens up the floor for his teammates. Check out this highlight of him driving into the paint and attracting three defenders, leaving Perry Jones wide open for a three-pointer:
As much as it hurts to have Westbrook on the sideline, this change of playing style could be a big benefit for Durant in the long run. He's led the NBA in total points scored each of the last four seasons, and in 2012 he set a career high with 4.6 assists per game.
What separates LeBron James from players like Durant is his ability to distribute on top of his scoring. If Durant can add another element to his arsenal, it will make him and the Thunder much more dangerous and difficult to defend.