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Kevin Durant Changing Definition of Volume Scorer in NBA

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Kevin Durant Changing Definition of Volume Scorer in NBA
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Kevin Durant is a volume scorer.

Admit it, because it's true. The Slim Reaper, while a deft passer and underrated defender, isn't LeBron James. Assists and rebounds tend to pile up, but he's a scorer first and everything else second, sometimes third.

And that's OK. Better than OK. Volume scorers and shooters aren't always looked at fondly. Carmelo Anthony has become a points-producing superstar, but he's often criticized as if he's no better than fellow chuckers such as J.R. Smith, Brandon Jennings and Rudy Gay. 

On Sunday, in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 112-100 victory over the New York Knicks, Durant showed why.

Durant went for 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, finishing one dime shy of a triple-double. Per Daily Thunder's Royce Young, that particular feat hasn't been accomplished in roughly four years:

It was also Durant's seventh 40-point game of the season, more than double what any other player has (three): 

In fact, Durant's recent scoring tear tops the league on its own:

Combined, Durant has just as many 40-point outings as Stephen Curry, Kevin Love and Anthony, three of the league's other premier scorers.

The word you're looking for here is "incredible." Durant is shooting at will, playing like the volume scorer he is while representing everything his kind typically doesn't stand for.

 

Economic Volume

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Volume and efficiency don't go hand-in-hand. At least, they're not supposed to.

Eleven of the 12 players who lead the league in field-goals attempted per game are shooting under 50 percent from the floor. Durant is the lone player connecting on more than half his shots. That's it.

The Durantula's efficiency actually improves when he's scoring more, too. He's shooting 53.7 percent through his first seven 40-point games of the season, exceeding the 51.1 percent clip he maintained heading into Oklahoma City's victory over New York. 

What Durant is doing overall is unprecedented.

If his current marks hold, Durant will become the first player in NBA history to sustain a true shooting percentage above 64 percent while attempting more than 19 shots per game.

Appreciate how hard that is. How incredible that is. See how that separates Durant from Hall of Famers and all-time greats like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and even LeBron.

Infogr.am.

That above graphic is basically a broken record, reiterating Durant is pairing volume with unparalleled efficiency. Jordan never posted a true shooting percentage higher than 61.4 when attempting at least 19 shots for an entire season; LeBron hasn't topped 60.4.

Durant is. He's going to. It will happen. 

Phrases like "on pace to" are politically correct in these situations, hence my use of "if his current marks hold" before. But they're also cop-outs.

This is going to happen for Durant. He will finish the season converting shots at an historically high level. Everything he's done, and what he continues to do, takes "if" out of the equation.

 

For the Win

Scoring accolades are often associated with success, even though that's not always true.

Players sometimes go off sometimes out of necessity alone. Ability doesn't always have anything to do with it. If the rest of the team isn't hitting shots, one player has to step up. And as we know all too well on this side of LeBron's decision, wins and championships aren't amassed by one player. 

But Durant is different.

When he goes off, it's most definitely out of necessity. With Russell Westbrook still riding the sideline, he has no other choice. The difference is, the Thunder are winning when he does. A lot.

Oklahoma City is now 6-1 when Durant goes for at least 40 points. Anthony's, Curry's and Love's teams, meanwhile, are a combined 2-5.

The same trend continues when we're looking at 30-point games, too. Below you'll see the overall winning percentages of either players' teams compared to that percentage when they notch 30 and 40 points:

Infogr.am.

Durant makes his team better when he tops both 30 and 40 points, and it's not even close. The Golden State Warriors are actually worse when Curry goes off for 30 or more, and in the situations where Anthony and Love improve their team's standing, it doesn't compare to how dominant Durant makes the Thunder.

Thirty-point games aren't uncommon, so those especially are a good barometer for how much better off a team is when their primary scorer, well, scores.

Too often we see points without substance. Without wins. That holds true for legends, some of the greatest scorers ever. Just last season, the Los Angeles Lakers were 17-18 when Kobe Bryant eclipsed 30 points, compared to 25-18 when he registered under 30. They won nearly 10 percent more of their games when he scored less. Think about that.

In no way does that diminish Bryant's talent, or the points-totaling prowess Anthony, Love and Curry have shown this season. It simply speaks to the heightened importance and increased value of Durant's.

 

Redefining Volume

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Other players have pushed the boundaries of volume shooting. Plenty have changed what we know. But Durant is impacting perception more. He's changing everything.

There will always be scorers as talented as Durant (Anthony) and those who are even more efficient (LeBron), but there aren't any players right now who have proven they can handle a similar scoring workload with such ease, efficiency and success on a daily basis.

"Oh, spectacular season," Anthony said of Durant following New York's victory over the Denver Nuggets, via the New York Daily News' Mitch Abramson. "Just top to bottom, everything he’s doing, the way guys are actually putting him in position to succeed. He keeps getting better."

For the role Durant plays, there is no one better. This is not to be confused with something it's not. He's not LeBron, and he's not Jordan. But Durant is redefining everything we know and understand about what a volume scorer is capable of doing. 

 

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.


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