What else could possibly explain KD's outlandish praise for the second-year forward?
Kevin Durant just said he thinks Perry Jones III is the best athlete in the league.— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) May 29, 2014
I mean...has Durant, at any point since the two paired up in 2008, seen Russell Westbrook play basketball?
He's been working alongside an athlete in Westbrook who is not only the best athlete on the Thunder, but also possibly the best athlete in the league.
It sounds crazy, right? How could KD have missed Westbrook darting up and down the floor at breakneck speed, changing direction with meniscus-shredding violence and elevating for impossible finishes through contact?
And even if Westbrook isn't the NBA's best athlete, there's a half-dozen insanely gifted talents who come to mind immediately as being more physically impressive than Jones.
Now, this isn't to say Jones isn't a fantastic athlete in his own right. And we should all note how his standing vertical of 38.5" in the 2012 draft combine topped the 36.5" figure Westbrook posted in 2008, per DraftExpress.com.
In addition, Jones can run like a deer, has a rangy wingspan of 7' 1.75" and possesses agility no 6'11" player should. But Westbrook is a force of nature, someone who operates at a different speed than even the NBA's most gifted athletes.
If nothing else, Durant's comments prove that with the Thunder, athleticism is always a topic.
"You’ve got to play smarter against such great athletes,” Popovich said after Game 4, per Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. “They’re talented, obviously, but the athleticism and the length gives you a small margin of error, and you’d better be smart the way you play, and you can’t afford to screw that up as many times as we did."
Ultimately, it's safe to assume KD is simply looking ahead. If the Thunder manage to get past the San Antonio Spurs by completing their improbable comeback from an 0-2 hole, they could meet the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
And that's where Jones' confidence will matter.
Remember, he did a fantastic job guarding James when the Thunder and Heat squared off this past January.
Perry Jones III is quietly doing a solid job defending LeBron. HUGE if that can become a consistent thing, saving Durant for offense.— Andrew Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) January 30, 2014
OKC will need a similar performance if it runs into LBJ again, especially if an NBA title is hanging in the balance.