Kevin Durant is the best player in the NBA.
No disrespect to Kobe, LeBron, Dwyane, Dwight, CP3, D-Will, or anyone else.
First the counterargument:
- He hasn't won anything yet in the league
- His defense is suspect
- He needs to bulk up
Now the case for KD:
- He's the best pure scorer in the NBA. He may be the best pure scorer we've seen in 20 years.
- He's got that same "killer instinct" that Jordan and Kobe have (something LeBron is lacking).
- He's constantly working to get better. He wants to be the best.
- He proved his greatness at the World Championships in Turkey.
- Statistically he's equal to the other best players in the game: Kobe, LeBron, Wade.
- He won 50 games last year with what basically amounts to an expansion team.
In order to make my case for KD, I used the player season finder at the excellent Basketball-Reference.com. I compared KD with the 3 other best perimeter players in the game: Kobe, LeBron, and Wade. Keep in mind before I reveal the numbers that KD is only in his 3rd season, while Kobe is in his 14th, and LeBron and Dwyane are both in their 7th. Also bear in mind that KD has the worst supporting cast out of the 3. Here are the results:
- Win Shares - measures the number of wins a player contributed to the team. KD added 16.1 wins. That's the second highest behind LeBron's 18.5. Both Wade (13.0) and Kobe (9.4) were far behind. The low numbers for Kobe can be attributed to a better supporting cast. Bear in mind that LeBron's win share number was based on a usage rate of 33.5%. That means he used 33.5% of Cleveland's possessions. KD used 32.0% which was the lowest usage rate of any of these players.
- Defensive Win Shares - KD contributed 5.0 wins to OKC based on his defense, posting an individual defensive rating of 104. This means that he gave up 104 points for every 100 possessions. LeBron put up a very similar 5.2 wins on an individual defensive rating of 102. Wade at 4.6 defensive win shares and Kobe at 4.0 did not contribute as much defensively.
- Turnovers - KD and Kobe had the lowest turnover rate of the group at 11.7% for KD and 11.2% for Kobe. LeBron was higher at 12.3% and Wade about the same at 12.2%. Turnover % is a measure of the percentage of a player's possessions that end in a turnover.
- True Shooting % - this takes into account all of a player's shots (free throws, 2 pointers, and 3 pointers). KD had the highest true shooting % in the group at 60.7%. LeBron was close behind at 60.4%. Kobe was at 54.5% and Wade was at 56.2%.
- FTM/FGA - This is the ratio of free throws made to field goals attempted. It's a ratio that seeks to determine how aggressive a player is at getting to the line. It's basically the % of free throws relative to how many shots a player takes. KD's 45.3% means that based on the number of shots he takes during a game, he gets to the line about 45% of the time. He also shot 90% from the free throw line. Kobe was at 27.9%, LeBron at 38.8% and Wade at 35.2%. Kobe shoots 81% from the line. Both LeBron and Wade are around 76%.
But you may ask, how did KD fair when he played these guys in the head-to-head matchups? We'll look at LeBron first since he's the biggest competition statistically. The matchup is dead even at 5 wins and 5 losses. LeBron has done slightly better statistically, averaging 29.6 vs. KD's 25.2 though that was likely with Thabo Sefalosha guarding him. He's faired much worse against Kobe going 1-10, though to be fair OKC has little chance of beating the Lakers. They just don't have enough talent. He's 3 and 3 vs. Dwyane Wade in a dead heat statistically.
At the very least KD has elevated himself into the conversation. He took a giant stride last year which he capped off by some scintillating play in Turkey. The bottom line: he's hungry. I like the fact that he quietly re-signed with OKC and made a commitment to such a small market. He could have chosen his destination if he chose to leave. Instead, he's building his own legacy. Barring injury, I predict that KD will win the MVP this year and OKC will be one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Be on notice world: KD's got next.