Kevin Durant Thinks Perry Jones III Is the Best Athlete in the Entire NBA

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 29, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JANUARY 2:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Perry Jones #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during an NBA game on January 2, 2014 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

Maybe Kevin Durant is just trying to pump up teammate Perry Jones III in case the Oklahoma City Thunder need him at some point against the San Antonio Spurs.

What else could possibly explain KD's outlandish praise for the second-year forward?

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.

Eric Bledsoe, Blake Griffin, Gerald Green, Paul George, LeBron James and, heck, even Durant himself. The list could go on for a while, but you get the idea.

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.

Mar 2, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Perry Jones (3) dunks the ball against the Charlotte Bobcats during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

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.

OKC will need a similar performance if it runs into LBJ again, especially if an NBA title is hanging in the balance.