We covered Serge Ibaka being ranked 29th by Sports Illustrated in their Top 100 on Wednesday. Two days later on Friday, they released their top 10 list. Unsurprisingly, they chose Kevin Durant as their second best player in the NBA.
Though held back a bit under the spotlight of LeBron James, Durant had a historic season offensively. Ben Golliver made sure that fact got across to the reader, compiling an impressive list of Durant's offensive stats from last season.
2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (F, 24)
2012-13 stats: 38.5 MPG, 28.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 51 FG%, 41.6 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 28.3 PER, 18.9 Win Shares, +8 RAPM
This "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" storyline is particularly annoying because Durant's 2012-13 season would have been out-of-this-world absurd in any realm that didn't include LeBron James. At just 24, Durant slapped together one of the most impressive offensive seasons in NBA history. Any time a lead scoring option puts together a 50/40/90 shooting season it's special, but to do it given the volume of Durant's shooting is virtually unprecedented. Only one player besides Durant has managed a 50/40/90 season while taking at least 1,400 field goals: Larry Bird in 1987 and 1988. No other player besides Durant, not even Bird, has managed a 50/40/90 season while taking at least 1,400 field goals and 300 three-pointers.
By all metrics, Durant was off-the-charts incredible last season. His combination of efficiency and volume as a scorer is unrivaled in the league, and it's almost ridiculous to consider. Durant even increased his versatility away from scoring, with his assists per game seeing a notable increase from 3.5 two seasons ago to 4.6 last season. The increased rebounding Durant displayed two seasons ago with an 8.0 per-game average held steady this season with 7.9 boards per game this year. Looking at his percentages, all of them rose for him to reach the 50/40/90 plateau, with none of them meeting that level the season prior.
It's extremely unfortunate that Durant is overshadowed by a truly special player in LeBron James, who's getting close to the G.O.A.T. conversation now. LeBron is the man of the hour in the NBA, only it's been his hour for a lot of hours already and there's no telling how many more hours it's going to last. As incredible as it is to watch LeBron and simply marvel at the things he can do on a basketball court, it's also a bit disappointing to see it cost Durant a spotlight that he's earned to have himself.
On the bright side, Durant's just 24 years old (25 in less than a week!). The idea of Durant possibly getting significantly better is just a really happy idea, and it's very realistic. Reaching LeBron's level is another thing altogether, but if Durant finds his ceiling just as LeBron begins to fade from his, the NBA could be in for something exciting between these two talents.
For now, however, the concern for Durant isn't LeBron but the Heat altogether. "Best player in the NBA" might not be a title in reach, but in the playoffs where anything can happen, Durant has as good a chance as anybody else in knocking off the Heat from their throne. If he can't do it on skill alone, maybe Durant can make a statement with a championship ring.
More from Welcome to Loud City:
- Eurobasket 2013: Talking France-Spain, Lithuania-Croatia, Placement Games
- Zorgon Recaps the Eurobasket on Phil Naessens
- Flash Back: Kevin Durant does pre-draft workout for the Portland Trail Blazers
- Eurobasket 2013: Croatia, Lithuania Punch Tickets to Semis
- Happy Birthday, Serge Ibaka!