Can Kevin Durant win the 2010-2011 MVP? Will he be a better player this coming year? Can the Thunder progress further in the playoffs?
These are three of the many questions that are facing Kevin Durant as he prepares for this upcoming season. With an uncertain Western Conference minus the Lakers success, the Thunder have a great chance at taking the No. 2 seed in the West this year—assuming that the Jazz, Nuggets, Trailblazers, Mavericks and Spurs are relatively the same teams that they were last year.
With the chance of further success coming to Durant, I pose the question of whether the FIBA tournament in Turkey helped his future?
Durant, who is still 21, has as much growth as any player still to come in his game. I believe that is a certainty almost no one will dispute. What can be argued, however, is if playing in the tournament helped his game.
Durant averaged 22.8 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, and 1.8 assists per game as he led Team USA to the gold medal. This included a 38-point outburst against Lithuania in the semifinal game. He easily could have averaged more the way he was throwing three-pointers in as if they were lay-ups.
He could have spent the offseason with more downtime, resting his body for the upcoming season if he had preferred. He could have trained and scrimmaged with other professional players this offseason as well. Would either one of these been a better choice for Durant?
The competition he was playing against was international, simply meaning that he played against a few NBA players such as Hedo Turkoglu, Leandro Barbosa, and Tiago Splitter. But for the majority, he was playing against guys who were below NBA standards. Did the lesser quality in players hurt his game at all? Probably not.
He still practiced against other Team USA members during the offseason on the way to winning gold, which indicated a strong way of keeping in shape and mind. He also had teammate Russell Westbrook teamed with him. The extra time on the court together can only benefit their knowledge of each other's game when they are back in Oklahoma City.
The style of international play is clearly different than the NBA as the three point line for instance is closer in play to college ball than the NBA. This could be seen as a problem if Durant hadn't been making threes from the NBA length during the tournament and playing his same ball no matter what the circumstances are around him.
Everything seemed to go positive over in Turkey and in preliminary play as well for Durant to keep progressing. With Mike Krzyzewski running things and the knowledge from Chauncey Billups at his side, there were limitless tips for Durant to pick up. Westbrook should benefit as well from the tips, making the Thunder stronger as a whole.
In the end, Durant should be undeterred by the change of play that occurred this summer. Plenty of players in the past have taken on the international play in the summer and it hasn't hurt their game. He should relish his win and the spoils it brings. Durant should be better for it and have as great a chance at MVP as any player in the league this coming fall.
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