NBA Scout Says Kevin Durant Isn't his 'Vintage' Self: 'You Can See Some Regression'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 23, 2022

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 17: Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during the third quarter of Round 1 Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs at TD Garden on April 17, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

An anonymous NBA scout questioned whether Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant is starting to struggle with the cumulative toll of his recent injury history.

The Eastern Conference scout discussed KD's play with Sam Amick of The Athletic on Saturday after the 12-time All-Star made just 13 of his 41 shots from the field (30.5 percent) over the first two games of the Nets' first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, both losses:

"To the credit of the referees, they're letting them play. It has looked like '90s NBA playoff basketball. And then the other element of it to me is Durant. For one, this guy missed a big chunk of the year with that [MCL injury]. He's probably not 100 percent. He's not vintage Durant right now. ... You can see some regression. How much of that is the missed time and rust and not being in peak form? How much of that is just the natural decline? We are talking about a guy who just missed a year because of an Achilles. All of these things to me start to become cumulative."

His numbers from the regular season don't necessarily back up that stance, though.

Durant averaged 29.9 points, his highest total since 2013-14 with the Oklahoma City Thunder, while shooting 51.8 percent from the field, 2.2 percentage points higher than his career average.

He returned from the knee injury on March 3 after six weeks on the sideline. From that point to the end of the regular season, he averaged 31.1 points, 7.6 points and 7.4 rebounds. He shot 51.6 percent, including 40 percent on threes.

In turn, talk of the two-time NBA champion's decline based on a two-game sample size seems premature. That's particularly true when you consider the Celtics may feature one of the best defenses of this generation.

Durant credited Boston's defensive approach after the Game 2 loss.

"They're doing a good job of trying to cut off my scoring," he told reporters. "Trying to limit my shot-making. So two or three people contest, or somebody's there in the lane when I'm driving. They might double here and there, so they're doing a good job. It's on me to figure it out."

A Western Conference scout told Amick the Celtics are simply wearing KD down with relentless pressure, even away from the ball:

"You can talk about the switching, but it's the physicality, the length, and they're making him work for every touch. Even when he gets open, he's been switched on, guys are getting under him. It's like a boxer with body blows. They're physically wearing him out before he even gets the ball in his hands. And then he has to be Superman with the ball in his hands because the guy's not getting easy shots."

One thing's for sure: The Nets don't have much chance of coming back in the series if Durant continues to shoot around 30 percent.

A bounce-back showing from KD in a Game 3 win followed by the potential return of Ben Simmons for Brooklyn in Game 4 would make things interesting.

On the flip side, another defensive clinic by the Celtics in Saturday's turning-point game could put the series out of reach.

Game 3 is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. ET start on ESPN.