Spencer Dinwiddie: 'Don't See' World Where Kevin Durant's Not Elite After Injury

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2020

FILE- In this March 10, 2020, file photo, Brooklyn Nets' Kevin Durant watches during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles. Durant is among the four Brooklyn Nets who have tested positive for the new coronavirus.  A backlash roiled across social media Wednesday, March 18, as several celebrities and professional athletes revealed that they had been tested for the coronavirus, even when they didn’t have a fever or other tell-tale symptoms. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, file)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie is not worried in the slightest about Kevin Durant's ability to return from his Achilles tear. 

"I look at it like this: At 80 percent, he's Dirk Nowitzki. At 100 percent, he's the best scorer of all time, and anywhere in between, he's still, what, a top-three small forward in the league?" Dinwiddie said Wednesday on First Take (3:32 mark). "So, we're all gonna see. We're all waiting. I know he's working extremely hard, but he's blessed, I think. It's a little bit different than other people that suffered the Achilles. Outside of obviously Dominique Wilkins, who came back better, the other people that kind of struggled, he's probably the best shooter of that group.

"With him being 7-foot and able to shoot over people and the extreme range that he has and proficiency with which he shoots, I don't see a world where he's not one of the elite players in the NBA when he comes back."

Durant has missed all of the 2019-20 NBA season after suffering a torn Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals. He is not expected to return to the floor if the NBA resumes the season this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The history of NBA players returning from Achilles injuries is littered with failure. Kobe Bryant was never the same after his April 2013 injury, DeMarcus Cousins' career has been mired by injuries since he went down in January 2018, and even success stories like Rudy Gay and Wesley Matthews have resulted in them being role players.

Durant returning and doing so at his previous level of performance would be borderline unprecedented. Dominique Wilkins is the only player of Durant's caliber to come back and return to his previous success level; Wilkins made the All-NBA team the next two seasons after his 1992 Achilles injury.

Durant will be 32 by the next time he plays basketball, which puts him right around the period his athleticism would be waning naturally already. A catastrophic injury like this makes it more likely the decline will be more pronounced.

While Dinwiddie is correct that a lesser version of Durant is still a great player, even a 10 percent decline would make it unlikely he's capable of being the best player on a title team.