What to Expect from Kevin Durant This Season
The highly anticipated 75th NBA season is underway. The most newsworthy storyline of the season is the return of superstar Kevin Durant. Durant tore his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors and missed the entire 2019-20 season rehabbing from the most devastating injury in sports. An Achilles injury can derail and even end careers in sports, but early signs have shown us that Durant has beaten the improbable odds. Now in his next chapter with the Brooklyn Nets, all eyes are on Durant, but what can we expect this season from the two-time Finals MVP?
In five games as a Brooklyn Net, Durant has averaged 28.2 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 4.4 assists per game on an efficient 51.1 percent shooting from the field, 50 percent shooting from three, and 90 percent from the free throw line. While these stats are based on a very small sample size, it is incredibly encouraging to see from a player who missed 18 months while rehabbing.
Now playing alongside a talented star point guard in Kyrie Irving, as well as a talented cast consisting of Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen and others, Durant might take a slight step back in terms of his points production at the end of the season. This doesn’t necessarily mean his shooting will take a step back in terms of efficiency, but how much Durant is asked to do. While Durant is undisputedly the best player on his team, he has reliable options that can create their own offense. During his final year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant did not have the luxury of a strong supporting cast. At this point in his career, Durant is all about winning and this is a good problem for him and the Nets to have. Come playoff time, expect the ball to be in the hands of Durant as much as possible.
While we should not expect Durant to be on a minutes restriction, it makes sense that Nets coach Steve Nash will look to limit the number of regular season games Durant participates in. After all, the postseason is where legends are made and when the Nets will need to rely on a healthy Durant and Irving to lead them to a deep postseason run. Durant rested in the Nets loss to the Grizzlies on Monday and will likely sit during one game of a back to back this season.
In terms of how his game looks, we can expect more of the same from KD. While a very small sample size, we have seen glimpses of the Kevin Durant we saw in Golden State. So far, he looks the same as when we saw him playing last in the 2019 NBA Finals. His athleticism does not seem to have been affected and his shooting stroke is still smooth and impossible to counter.
Durant gets a large sum of credit for his play on the offensive end, rightfully so. However, he does not seem to get his flowers for his work on the defensive side of the ball. Durant’s 7’5” wingspan allows him to contest and block shots much better than most forwards in the league. His mobility and ability to move his feet and stay in front of his defender only helps that cause.
Statistically, Durant will most likely lead the Nets in scoring average. However, it would not be surprising to see Kyrie Irving as the Nets leading scorer this season and not Durant. Both are naturally gifted offensive talents who don’t mind deferring to each other. The highlights that make social media buzz are cool, but will not define the dynamic duo, they realize that their success will be defined by wins and losses, specifically in the playoffs.
For Durant, who received backlash and negativity by some media pundits about the validity of his rings with the Warriors, this postseason journey with Brooklyn will arguably be the most important of his career.
The NBA is simply a better show when Durant is healthy and performing well. His game is a beauty to behold. A seven foot forward with ball handling skills of a point guard, a release point that is hard for even the tallest of centers to block, and every offensive move in the book. That’s the intrigue of Durant, his game has no holes, he has no glaring weakness. He is a great passer, defender, he can rebound, and on the offensive end, he can score at all three levels (close, midrange, and from deep) and can post you up or take you off the dribble.
We can expect a lot from Durant this season. When healthy, he is arguably the greatest player in the NBA today, alongside LeBron James. Durant has always been one to silence the doubters through his play and this season looks no different. If Durant continues this high level of play, we expect from him on a nightly basis, it will be a long and difficult season for whoever is given the task of guarding him.