Is Kevin Durant Having the Best Shooting Season of Any NBA Superstar Ever?

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots a free throw during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 27, 2013 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

In case you haven't noticed, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder is in the midst of one of the most impressive shooting seasons in NBA history.

You know that career-high 52-point explosion he had against the Dallas Mavericks back on Jan. 18? Expect him to shatter that record in the not-too-distant future.

Durant's 2012-13 season averages are unreal. He leads the league in scoring with 29.6 points per game, while shooting 51.9 percent from the field, 41.3 percent from three-point range and 91 percent from the free-throw line.

The 50-40-90 club is impressive enough by itself for a player of Durant's caliber. Before the 2012-13 season, there were only 10 instances in which a player finished the season with at least 10 points per game and 50-40-90 shooting percentages, according to Basketball Reference.

Naturally, four of those 10 performances were by Steve Nash. Larry Bird is the only other repeat member of the club.

When narrowing your search to players in the 50-40-90 club who scored at least 20 points per game, look no further than Bird, who did it back-to-back in the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons, and Dirk Nowitzki from his MVP season of 2006-07, according to Basketball Reference.

At this point, Durant appears likely to become the third member of that highly touted group.

Assuming Durant maintains the league lead in scoring and finishes in the 50-40-90 club, he'd be the first player in NBA history to achieve both goals in the same season.

Bird finished fourth in scoring in the 1986-87 season (28.1) behind Michael Jordan (37.1), Dominique Wilkins (29.0) and Alex English (28.6), according to Basketball Reference. The next year, he finished third (29.9) behind Jordan (35.0) and Wilkins (30.7).

Bird wasn't named the league's Most Valuable Player in either season. Magic Johnson took home the award in 1987, and Jordan earned it in 1988 (Jordan was also the Defensive Player of the Year in '88).

Nowitzki did earn the MVP award in 2006-07, but he wasn't even in the league's top five per-game scorers. The big German finished with 24.6 points per game, which tied Tracy McGrady for 13th in the league that season, according to Basketball Reference.

If Durant finishes with 50-40-90 shooting percentages and the league lead in scoring, it'd be virtually impossible not to recognize him as the regular-season MVP.

Does this mean he's having the best shooting season of any player in NBA history?

Let's look more closely at Bird's two seasons with 20-plus points per game and 50-40-90 shooting percentages before making that claim (Nowitzki's MVP season doesn't hold a candle to Durant's performance in 2012-13).

Here's Durant's 2012-13 season matched up with Bird's 1986-87 season, via Basketball Reference:

Player Season FG% 3P% FT% PTS
Larry Bird 1986-87 .525 .400 .910 28.1
Kevin Durant 2012-13 .519 .413 .910 29.6

As you can see, Bird edges Durant in terms of field-goal percentage, but Durant holds the advantage in three-point percentage and points per game.

Bird averaged roughly two more field-goal attempts per game in 1986-87 than Durant has in 2012-13, making his shooting average from the field that much more impressive.

However, Durant is averaging nearly two more three-point attempts per game and over three more free-throw attempts per game in 2012-13 than Bird did in 1986-87.

Durant also holds the edge over Bird in terms of true shooting percentage (.655 vs. .612) and effective field-goal percentage (.571 vs. .555), according to Basketball Reference.ย In terms of shooting, it's tough to argue that Bird's 1986-87 season trumps Durant's 2012-13 season to date (though, to be fair, Bird trumps Durant in assists and rebounds per game).

Next, let's look at Bird's 1987-88 season matched up with Durant's 2012-13 season, via Basketball Reference:

Player Season FG% 3P% FT% PTS
Larry Bird 1987-88 .527 .414 .916 29.9
Kevin Durant 2012-13 .519 .413 .910 29.6

This time, it's a landslide in favor of The Legend.

The Bird of 1987-88 holds the advantage over Durant in 2012-13 in terms of points per game and shooting percentages across the board.

To Durant's credit, he once again trumps Bird in terms of true shooting percentage (.655 vs. .608) and effective field-goal percentage ( .571 vs. .556), according to Basketball Reference.ย 

So, again, is Durant's shooting performance in 2012-13 the best we've ever seen? Bird's 1987-88 season would beg to differ.

With that said, Durant is still having an absolutely historic year in terms of shooting. He's also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and steals (1.6) per game.

Based on what he's done in 2012-13, the rest of the league should be terrified considering Durant just turned 24 in September.

If he maintains his grip on the league lead in scoring and the 50-40-90 club, apologies to the LeBron James fans out there, but Durant will be your 2013 MVP.


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