Bill Simmons posted hist infamous trade value column today, and I'm happy to say that:
- Three Thunder men show up: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka.
- Simmons actually expanded the list to 50 players, which is his way of confirming that the collective talent level in the league continues to increase. That's good for everyone.
"Remember that, by the time he turned 20, he had already survived a violent civil war in the Congo, been separated from his 18 siblings, survived on his own in Spain and Oklahoma City, learned his third and fourth languages and morphed into a playoff contender's key shot-blocker/rebounder despite the fact that he started playing organized basketball only five years ago."
Remember this past September...Why did so many Team USA guys make a leap afterward (Rose, Westbrook, Gay, Love, Chandler, Odom, etc.) and Durant went sideways? Am I picking nits? Were my expectations too high? Are his teammates worse than we realize? Did he already HAVE his leap, and that's as far as we're going? You'd think Westbrook's leap would have facilitated a second mini-leap from Durant, right? And further--
(Oh, that's right … he's 22. I forgot.)
Simmons catches himself getting a little bit impatient, and it is understandable. I think that seeing LeBron James arrive on the scene kind of altered what everyone thinks about the ability of transcendant youth. However, we are only remembering the LeBron James of the past three years; we have already forgotten that James' teams in Cleveland did not even make the playoffs his first two years in the league, and that was in a heavily diluted Eastern Conference. It takes time.
Realistically though, what is the ceiling for Durant? We know he's a top five franchise altering player. What is he going to become in the next five years? I do think he has already made The Leap, and going forward we're going to see incremental jumps in his game. The thing I've enjoyed most about this second half of the season is his willingness to rebound; that is an excellent sign for a young man who is ready and willing to be whatever he needs to be to win. Next year, more strength, better defense. A post-up game. The year after that, a go-to turnaround jumper. Quicker feet. Little jumps. Lots and lots of little jumps. Top top three in a land of King James and Superman isn't too bad at all.
As for next year, you think we might see James Harden on that list? Four guys on the same team making Simmons' top 50? Can you think on that?
Lord, I hope there isn't a lock-out.