The season is nearly upon us. We will be previewing each player who is expected to be part of the opening day roster. We begin with Kevin Durant.
|Year in NBA||6|
|Nicknames||"Slim," "Durantula," "KD"|
|2011-12 Stats||28.0 PPG, 8.0 RPB, 3.5 APG, 1.2 BL, 1.3 ST, 3.8 TO|
|Past Accolades||3x All-Star, 2012 All-Star MVP, 2012 MVP runner up, 3x Scoring champ, 3x NBA All-First Team|
|2011-12 Season||2011-12 Season End Review|
|Injury History||Has not missed a game since Dec. 3, 2010|
|Contract Status||Currently signed through 2016 in a max-level deal, including Rose rights|
The expectations for Durant, as ever, are sky high. Individually, I don't think people are expecting him to do things much differently than he's been doing them already. Because Durant is so quiet and consistent in the way he scores, unless a performance is excellent or terrible, people tend to judge his performance with not a lot of scrutiny. What will really gauge how Durant does is two things: how the team finishes, and how he performs in the clutch. Kevin Durant has pulled the Thunder out of some serious holes before, and if he starts bricking end of game shots, people will take notice and start to criticize. And, of course, if the team falls short in the playoffs, some of the blame will naturally fall on KD. In any case, Kevin Durant is Oklahoma City's hero, and unless his talent is stolen by a kid who fails the half court shot attempt, it would take years of bad play to destroy his reputation.
When you post your first Finals appearance while averaging 31 points per game and shoot almost 55% from the floor and 40% from 3-point land and people still feel like you left something on the table, that's when you know that we're dealing with a player that has historically great standards to meet. Durant is and will be chasing LeBron James for the title of league MVP for the next 6-8 years, and since he's chasing LeBron, that also means he is chasing a statistical level of performance rarely seen. The good thing is, Durant is capable of scaling that mountain. He scores better than anyone on the planet, he has improved his rebounding every single season, he averaged a career high in assists, and he is improving on defense. Perhaps he will never reach the all-around level stratosphere that LeBron alone occupies, but he's not far off, either.
Statistics aside, of course the only thing that Durant is going to be measured by now is playoff success and NBA titles. He did leave something on the court last season, and I believe that the experience, coupled with playing along side LeBron in the Olympics, is going to lead Durant to tap into the next level of elite performance. As Zeb mentioned above, I doubt that we're going to see Durant's levels change that much this season, but what I think we will see is a reduction in turnovers, better physical play on the court, and in the end a more rounded player who is going to lead his team back to the Finals.
|A||Player has exceedingly high expectations attainable only if they play to their fullest ability.|
|B||Player has reasonably high expectations that are attainable.|
||Player has moderate expectations which should be met with little trouble.|
||Player has moderate expectations but will struggle to meet them.|
||Player should not be on the Thunder roster.|