Kevin Durant's 2014-15 campaign was the worst of his career, and came on the heels of Durant's first MVP. As such, Durant has a ton to prove going into this season. Can Durant get back to being the greatest player in the world?
Early returns say yes. In the pre-season, KD was able to lead the Thunder in scoring while shooting 59% from the field. That's a small step, but it's important to proving his position on the team. Russell Westbrook is a phenomenal athlete and a tremendous scorer, but he simply doesn't have the breadth of abilities that KD does. KD has proven his superior efficiency year after year, and it's important that he remains the #1 option on offense.
However, it's also important that Westbrook has the ball in his hands more than KD does. Durant is a good distributor, but doesn't have the assist to turnover ratio that Westbrook does. Accordingly, when KD got the ball in the pre-season, he didn't dawdle. There was always a purpose to KD's possession, and he was usually in great scoring position. Expect Durant to see a lot of work at the top of the key and on the wings, as usual. When Durant isn't the focus of the offense, he's a great spacer as well.
In terms of KD's skillset, you can tell that he's been developing his footwork for quite some time. The pre-season revealed a very nimble Durant, one able to find his balance very easily. As long as KD is quick enough to give his defender the slightest hesitation, his long frame is going to give him an open shot.
When it comes to minutes, Durant will have his time monitored. Coach Donovan said that a committee would review the issue periodically, and they'd come to a group decision. Obviously, Donovan will want to play KD as much as possible without wearing him out. Accordingly, expect Durant to get anywhere from 30-35 minutes a game. Obviously, Durant will be on the floor for all clutch situations.
To appreciate just how far KD has come to this point, here's a full injury timeline.
Oct 13th, 2014: Durant gets a fracture in his right foot, and will miss at least the first month of the season.
Oct 16th, 2014: Durant gets surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot, and will be re-evaluated in six weeks.
Oct 21st, 2014: Durant insists that he will not rush his first return from surgery.
Dec 2nd, 2014: Durant returns to the lineup, against the New Orleans Pelicans. It's roughly along the original timetable of six weeks. He is given a 30 minute per game restriction.
Dec 18th, 2014: Durant rolls his ankle in a game at the Golden State Warriors. It is ruled a "mild" ankle sprain, and keeps Durant out of action for six straight games.
Dec 25th, 2014: In an interview, Durant describes his ankle situation. "I mean, it hurts. I don't want to throw anybody under the bus. But it's not worse than what's happened before. It's not like I might have surgery or my foot is messed up. It's just I have a bad ankle sprain and it's the same foot that I had surgery on so it's kind of lingering over the top of the foot a little bit. So it's hurt."
Dec 31st, 2014: Durant makes a return against Phoenix, again with a 30 minute a game restriction.
Jan 26th, 2015: During warmups, Durant's toe is more sore than expected. He proceeds to miss two games.
Jan 31st, 2015: Durant returns to the lineup for a single game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Feb 2nd-4th, 2015: Durant doesn't feel comfortable, and sits out two games due to the sprained big toe.
February 6th, 2015: Durant returns to the lineup, against the New Orleans Pelicans. In an interview, Durant calls the injury, "by far the worst he's ever had".
February 15th, 2015: Durant participates in the 2015 All-Star Game. Shows frustration with the media during pre-game interviews.
February 19th, 2015: Durant leaves a game against the Dallas Mavericks in extreme foot pain. He was changing shoes throughout the night.
February 23rd, 2015: Durant has a "minor procedure to reduce pain and discomfort" carried out upon his right foot. Durant is expected to return in a week. However, Durant would not return to the lineup for the entire season.
March 3rd, 2015: Durant is "progressing well" and will be re-evaluated in another week.
March 11th, 2015: Durant is still "progressing" and had a good workout. But Durant will not return for another week to two weeks.
March 19th, 2015: Durant is held out of practice due to soreness.
March 21st, 2015: Durant is "not making the progress" Presti expected. Durant is officially removed from basketball activities.
March 27th, 2015: Durant is declared out for the season, will undergo surgery.
March 31st, 2015: Durant has surgery successfully completed on the third metatarsal of his right foot. Durant is expected to resume basketball activities in 4-6 months.
June 26th, 2015: Durant releases video of himself going through exercises on an anti-gravity treadmill and taking flat-footed three pointers. His projected return date is August 1st.
July 4th, 2015: Durant is now taking jump shots, but still cannot run or cut. Expected to return by August.
July 20th, 2015: Durant takes part in a charity softball game.
July 21st-23rd, 2015: Durant participates in a unofficial Thunder team practice in Los Angeles.
August 11th-12th, 2015: Durant takes part in Team USA practice in Las Vegas, but opts to sit out the public showcase on the 13th.
August 14th, 2015: Durant reveals that the reason for the second procedure was due to a second crack in his right foot, rather than a regression of the originally repaired crack.
September 23rd, 2015: Durant is cleared to play, and takes part in 5 on 5 drills.
With Durant having participated in athletic activities since late July, it appears he's fully healthy and ready for a comeback. KD took a bit of time to build his stamina in the early pre-season, but otherwise didn't look like he was struggling physically. That's only good news for Thunder fans, who are going to expect the world out of Durant.