Kevin Durant is a man on fire.
He has the Oklahoma City Thunder absolutely rolling through a difficult portion of their schedule, leaving no doubt that he's the best scorer in the NBA. Oh, and he's doing all this without point guard Russell Westbrook.
After torching the Portland Trail Blazers for 46 points on Jan. 21, Durant has topped the 30-point barrier in each of his last eight appearances. KD has clearly established himself the prohibitive MVP favorite, and he's begging us to get wrapped up in historical comparisons.
As SBNation.com's Jason Patt wrote, "The run Durant is on brings back some memories of some other great stretches from some of the best scorers in the post-Jordan era."
Yes it does.
Let's see how the NBA's leading scorer actually stacks up against the top point-producers in modern NBA history.
What Exactly Has Durant Done?
In short, he's gone bonkers.
Since losing Westbrook to yet another knee surgery following OKC's Christmas Day matchup against the New York Knicks, Durant hasn't been stopped. Over the 14-game stretch from Dec. 27 through Jan. 21, KD averaged 36.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists per contest, all while shooting 52.2 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from beyond the arc.
But lately, he's been ever better.
The Thunder are on a four-game winning streak, a stretch which includes impressive victories over the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers. You know, three of the top six teams in the Western Conference.
Durant started off by recording 36 points, seven assists and five rebounds against Houston on Jan. 16. For anyone else not named LeBron James, that would be jaw-droppingly fantastic. But for Durant, it paled in comparison to what came next.
KD exploded against the Dubs the next game, putting up a career-high 54 points on only 28 shots. Just for good measure, he followed that up by notching 30 points, nine assists and six rebounds against the Sacramento Kings and dropped a 46-spot in the victorious outing with Rip City.
Blazers forward Nicolas Batum had this to say about Durant following the game, per NBA.com's Jeff Caplan:
The guy is the best player in the world right now. What can you say about him? When you watch him on TV, like, he is the best. When you guard him in the game, sometimes you have two guys on him and he makes the shot anyway.
If we're only talking about right now, it's hard to argue.
After all, that four-contest stretch saw the prohibitive MVP favorite average 41.5 points per game on 60.7 percent shooting. Over his last three games, he dropped 130 points on 67.6 percent shooting.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the last player to score at least 130 points over a three-game stretch was Carmelo Anthony in April of last season. To make the requirements even more stringent, no one since Michael Jordan had recorded 130 points in three games while shooting at least 65 percent from the field.
Jordan did that in November 1991.
I didn't even think this type of dominance was allowed anymore.
Longer Streaks Scoring Over 30
Durant has now scored 30 points in eight consecutive games, and that's a streak topped by only a handful of players over the last 20 years, per Basketball-Reference's Streak Finder. It's important to note that I'm not counting players who had streaks that extended through the offseason:
- Kobe Bryant, 16 games in 2003
- Tracy McGrady, 14 games in 2003
- Shaquille O'Neal, 11 games in 2001
- Kobe Bryant, 10 games in 2012
- LeBron James, 10 games in 2006
- Amar'e Stoudemire, nine games in 2010
- Kobe Bryant, nine games in 2006
So there have been longer streaks, but that doesn't necessarily mean they've been more impressive. The aforementioned players didn't necessarily mix a 54-point outing in with the rest of the 30-point outings, and there's no guaranteeing they also had the same level of efficiency.
Let's take a look:
|Player||Year||Games||Scoring Average||High Score||FG%||3P%||FT%||APG|
It's tough to argue with that streak that Kobe put up in 2003, especially since he's the only player in the last 20 years to top 40 points per game during such a streak. And he did so over 16 games, which makes Durant's current run pale in comparison.
Ranking these streaks is quite difficult, though it's pretty easy to point to Kobe in 2003 and 2006, T-Mac in 2003, LeBron in 2006 and Durant in 2014 as the five best ones.
Right now, Durant's stretch of incredible games seems like an unsurpassed streak of dominance, but it has been done before. This is especially true when you remember streaks like the eight-game run of 30-point games Kobe posted in 2006, one that was highlighted by the infamous 81-point outing against the Toronto Raptors.
That doesn't make it any less impressive for Durant, mind you.
The point here isn't to take away from the legend that he's creating during the 2013-14 season, but rather to put it in historical perspective. Plus, the Oklahoma City superstar looks like he's only getting better, as he's posted his most impressive outings at the tail end of the current run.
Well, it's not necessarily the tail end. There's no telling how much longer Durant's scoring binge will continue. For all we know, the 54-point outburst and the 46-point game against Rip City could comprise the middle portion of a lengthy stretch.
A few weeks from now, he could have risen all the way to the top of that chart.
Uh Oh...It's MJ Time
Whenever we're putting things into historical perspective and talking about scoring, the name Michael Jordan has to come up.
Throughout his legendary career, the Chicago Bulls shooting guard put together 10 different runs in which he topped 30 points for eight or more consecutive games. Three times, he actually got into double digits.
Jordan's longest streak came in 1986-87, when he topped 30 for 11 games in a row. Over that stretch, he averaged 40.6 points and 4.8 assists per contest, shooting 51 percent from the field and 87.6 percent at the charity stripe. His most impressive outing came during the last game of the streak, when he dropped 61 points in an away game against the Detroit Pistons.
That same season, MJ also had a 10-game streak that qualified for this discussion.
From Nov. 26 through Dec. 12, 1986, Jordan managed to average 41.1 points per game, and he went on a ridiculous tear that included nine contests in a row in which he reached or broke through the 40-point barrier.
Now that is historic.
Below you can see the longest 40-point streaks in the trackable portion of NBA history, per Basketball-Reference:
- Michael Jordan, nine games in 1986
- Kobe Bryant, nine games in 2003
- Wilt Chamberlain, five games in 1964
- Michael Jordan, five games in 1987
- Allen Iverson, five games in 1997
- Kobe Bryant, five games in 2005
- Kobe Bryant, five games in 2007
- Rick Barry, four games in 1966
- Wilt Chamberlain, four games in 1964 (twice)
- Bob McAdoo, four games in 1975
- Kobe Bryant, four games in 2006 (twice)
- Kobe Bryant, four games in 2012
Be impressed by two things here: Kobe is on the list six times, and the top two entries are clear outliers. M.J. and the Mamba are four games ahead of the rest of the field, and, as you can see above, only seven times in NBA history has a player dropped 40 or more points in at least five straight games.
Kevin Durant's longest streak of 40-point games?
He's hit two twice, and neither of those happened during his current run of dominance.
The Thunder small forward is on quite the tear right now, but let's hold our horses before going too far with the hype. If it continues for another few weeks or we start seeing him churn out 40-point outings like he's currently doing with 30-point ones, then it's time to get even more excited.
Enjoy what you're currently seeing. Revel in every ridiculous shot he hits in the face of intense defensive presence.
But don't forget about the past.