Fool's Gold: Why Kevin Durant Is the Next Tracy McGrady

Kwame Fisher-Jones@@joneskwameContributor IIIApril 9, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 17:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder dribbles in front of Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on January 17, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.   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.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

“We’ve got a ways to go here. So put away the anointing oil, okay?” - Bill Parcells

The comparisons between Kevin Durant and Tracy McGrady are eerie and virtually impossible to ignore.

Close your eyes and journey back to the 2002–2003 NBA season. McGrady was the “it” player, averaging 32 PPG and leading the Orlando Magic to the playoffs. There were articles written and ESPN stories published debating who was the better player, Kobe Bryant or Tracy McGrady, despite McGrady having yet to accomplish anything but win a scoring title.

McGrady was awkwardly long and struggled to defend. He was too long and gangly to cover bigger forwards yet too tall to cover smaller forwards. His physical attributes were a gift on the offensive end of the floor but a curse on the defensive side.

Kevin Durant also stands awkwardly tall and looks like he could stand to hit a couple of buffet spots. Aside from their stature the two score exactly the same way.

Before the onslaught of insults commence here is a scouting report for one of the two players:

“Simply dominant, the type of player who can put up big numbers even when his man is playing outstanding defense. Gets a third of his offense from pick and roll situations where he can simply dribble off and pull up, with another quarter coming from isolations.

Impressive jump shot, gets incredible elevation and can shoot off balance with little trouble, particularly from mid-range range. Not very effective from beyond the arc, but still attempts quite a few shots from there.

Operates as a bit of a point forward. Great one-on-one skills. Excellent hesitation moves and use of ball fakes. Plays the game at many different speeds. Effective crossover. Hard to stop off the dribble. Outstanding ball-handler at his size. Prefers to go left and go to the rim where he can finish explosively with either hand.

Can get by his man when he faces up in the post. Great catch and shoot player. Doesn’t get a lot of transition opportunities. Gets to the line at a good rate, but needs to improve his consistency.

Great passer. Does a great job creating shots for others. Has become more unselfish later on in his career. Will turn the ball over periodically.”

Can you guess which player this report is referring to? While you ponder on that for a minute, we will continue on.

Tracy McGrady was a phenomenal scorer, but like George Gervin, Vince Carter, Adrian Dantley and Dominique Wilkins, that talent never translated to postseason success. McGrady fell into the select group of players who captivate and exhilarate but never manage to elevate their games past SportsCenter highlights.

Every few years, a player comes along and forces the world to take notice. Then, just like the shooting stars they are, they disappear, never to attain the bright future they seemed so certain to reach.

This now brings to us Kevin Durant, the new “it” player seemingly destined for short-term success. After three years, Durant has the world at his feet and the NBA nation is beckoning for Durant to take over.

Beginning with this postseason, many experts are picking the Thunder to upset San Antonio and possibly the Lakers. The pundits point to Durant and the acquisition of Kendrick Perkins, who will hurt the Thunder more than help them when the playoffs begin, as justification for their lofty expectations.  

Does this sound at all familiar? The same expectations were bestowed upon McGrady. The return of Grant Hill and McGrady’s development were reason enough to expect the Magic to have postseason glory. However, that success never came to fruition and as time moves on, so do we.

The two present a conundrum for opposing teams, but seem to present further confusion for fans. They are both graceful and deadly from mid-range and off the dribble. There are highlight tapes and YouTube videos filled with facials given to opposing players who dared to step in front of them as they took flight. Yet none of this has led or will lead to a championship.

The argument has shifted from who is better, Kobe or McGrady, to how long will it take for Durant to overtake the Lakers. In three years Durant has SCORED more than most and he has given an identity to a young Oklahoma City Thunder team who so desperately needed one.

In those three years the Thunder have won 50 or more games twice, but have not reached the second round of the playoffs. This year the Thunder look poised to make a strong playoff run, but don't be surprised when the Denver Nuggets win their first round series against the Thunder.

Just like McGrady, Durant struggles in the postseason. Last year Durant shot 35 percent from the field, far below his regular season number of 46 percent. Although KD has only played in one playoff series, this seems to be more of a precursor then a blip on the radar. With another opportunity, this time with lofty expectations, expect history to be victorious once again.

There have always been players who shined bright for a moment before their glow eventually evaporates. It will not be long before Durant’s glow fades to memories, eventually becoming nothing more than afterthought.