Thursday, December 2

Five burning questions for Kevin Durant

Had it not been for Kevin Durant’s “big foot”, we might have referred to the past few months as the Summer of KD.

The Nets star nearly propelled Brooklyn into the 2021 Eastern Conference finals with what initially appeared to be a triple winner, but was correctly ruled as a game-tying 2-point in Game 7 of the second-round series. of the Nets against the Bucks. . Milwaukee went on to win in overtime, of course, and eventually captured the NBA championship.

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After falling short in his quest for a third title, Durant switched his focus to the Olympics. Despite starting off on the wrong foot, uh, with losses in multiple exhibition games and their first Olympic game, Team USA managed to accomplish its mission in large part because Durant covered the limitations of a flawed roster.

Why add a cherry on top when you can add 198 million? After winning gold, Durant returned to the US and signed a four-year, $ 198 million extension with the Nets. Durant’s deal sets the stage for an extended championship window in Brooklyn, as all signs point to Nets stars James Harden and Kyrie Irving signing similar extensions in the coming weeks.

With his 33rd birthday and the NBA’s fourteenth season approaching, Durant seems fully committed and ready to deliver an iconic season. With so much at stake, here are five burning questions involving Durant’s past, present, and future.

Did Kevin Durant’s NBA postseason and Team USA’s career change the way we look at it?

In a recent interview with Draymond Green as part of Bleacher Report Series “Chips”Durant discussed a wide range of topics with his former Warriors teammate, including their infamous 2018-19 season feud. That part of the chat made headlines, but Durant also mentioned his social media habits and the amount of vitriol he receives online. He thinks it all goes back to his decision as a free agent in 2016.

“I think people are still upset that I went to the Warriors, and a lot of people who are Cavs fans, who enjoyed watching the Cavs beat all of you before, which is a lot of people. I didn’t realize that until I got there. there, “Durant told Green. “A lot of people enjoyed watching them lose in 2016, and a lot of those people were upset that we were so good. And they’re still upset …

“That’s really what it is. A lot of people are still mad at me that I chose to play basketball for the Golden State Warriors, which is sad at this point.”

Durant’s performances in the NBA playoffs and the Tokyo Olympics should have served as a wake-up call for even the most passionate KD haters.

With Irving sitting up and Harden limping on one leg, Durant nearly beat the Bucks alone. He posted 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and two blocks in a Game 5 win. Oh, and he didn’t sit down for a single second. He finished with 48 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the Game 7 loss, but did not play all 48 minutes of that game because he was on the court for 48 minutes, plus five minutes of overtime.

Rather than take it easy after elimination, an understandable approach given he missed the entire 2019-20 season while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, Durant committed to the USA team’s basketball program. an incredible 29-point streak on 9-of-18 shots against France in the gold medal game, finishing the tournament as USA Basketball’s all-time leader in points, free throws and 3s.

Durant, always online, immediately took to Instagram Live after the win, calling out critics who questioned whether Team USA should be considered the world’s elite basketball force.

“Speaking of catching up to us, like, are you serious? This ability is unmatched, you understand?”

The man was not wrong. If you couldn’t appreciate Durant right now, you never would.

Is Kevin Durant the best basketball player in the world?

Durant is absolutely part of this conversation, but should he be the standard that everyone else compares to?

The usual candidates will come here with LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo among them. James and Curry played at MVP levels in 2020-21, but their seasons ended earlier than planned. Curry’s Warriors couldn’t advance past the inning round, and James’s Lakers fell to the Suns after injuries took their toll.

Antetokounmpo has a strong claim to the throne considering he finished the season with the NBA championship and the NBA Finals MVP trophy in hand. He closed the series against the Suns with a 50-point masterpiece, putting himself in a rarefied air reserved only for sports legends.

However, it was Antetkounmpo himself who supported Durant’s case early in the postseason. He said not only during the Eastern Conference semifinals, but also after them, that Durant was “the best player in the world.”

Durant can score in every way offensively. He’s a volunteer passer and a solid rebounder. He can slide through multiple positions on defense, guarding along the perimeter or guarding the rim depending on the lineup. He clearly has the respect of his peers.

There are always multiple sides to these debates, but Durant can own the argument with the fewest holes.

What would a championship with the Nets mean to Kevin Durant’s legacy?

One thing that would reestablish Durant as the undisputed preeminent player in the NBA: winning a title in Brooklyn.

Durant’s most ardent detractors lean on his success with the Warriors as a crutch, bringing up the fact that he jumped on a championship train already rolling down the tracks. Curry, Green and Klay Thompson were the Warriors’ “real” point guard, and Durant was only present. He may have won two NBA Finals MVP awards and outlasted James on the biggest stage, but the negative talk still exists, silly as it may sound.

Durant is undoubtedly the number one option on a Nets team entering the 2021-22 season. as the title favorites. As dominant as Harden and Irving can be, Durant is the driving force behind everything in Brooklyn. He controlled key parts of the series against the Bucks in a way that neither Harden nor Irving could.

A third championship overall would give Durant the same number of rings as Warriors players and muffle comments about Durant’s inability to build something of his own. Also, it would start to make some historical discussions really interesting (more on that below).

How high can Kevin Durant climb on the all-time goalscorer list?

After he fell during the 2019 NBA Finals with an Achilles tendon injury, questions naturally arose about his long-term health and whether Durant could regain his former form. Other NBA players who had suffered Achilles tendon injuries had typically seen a drop in production the following season and beyond.

Well, Durant is fine. He averaged 26.9 points per game in 2020-21, shooting 53.7 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3s. The questions are no longer about whether Durant can be as good as his old self, but whether he can be even better.

Durant’s return to full “Slim Reaper” status means it’s not unrealistic to imagine him rushing up the NBA’s all-time hitting list. Durant has averaged 1,837 total points per season in his career. If he reaches that mark in 2021-22, he will rank in the top 20 in the league’s all-time standings.

Rank Player Race points
twenty. Alex English 25,613
twenty-one. Reggie miller 25,728
22. Jerry west 25,192
2. 3. Patrick Ewing 24,815
24. Ray allen 24,505
25. Allen Iverson 24,268
26. Kevin Durant 23,883

Extrapolating that over five seasons, Durant would be at more than 33,000 total points, giving him the No. 5 spot behind Kobe Bryant. If you want to be more conservative and estimate 1,500 total points in that stretch, you’d land at more than 31,300 total points, good for No. 8 ahead of Shaquille O’Neal.

And that doesn’t take into account what Durant could be at the end of his career once he gets past his prime. He may be more athletically limited in his 30s and 30s, but he’ll still be a 7-foot sniper who can live off post-up and spot-up opportunities. As for catching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James still deserves immediate attention. But as the years go by, don’t discount KD’s rise up the scoring scale. Objects in the rear view mirrors are always closer than they appear.

Where could Kevin Durant finally rank among the all-time greats?

In May 2020, ESPN ranked top 74 players of all time, and Durant was ranked No. 14. Here’s what ESPN’s Royce Young wrote at the time:

After an Achilles tendon injury, Durant’s rise to the league’s elite is not a given, but even if he retires tomorrow, he has built an all-time career. His eight years at OKC featured his best individual basketball, with four scoring titles and an MVP. No matter how you view his two championships with the Warriors, both of which included Finals MVPs, they will always be at the top of his overall resume. Another title in a less controversial way could take Durant into the top 10, and if he recovers to even close to where he was before injury, he could challenge some massive numbers from his career.

This is where that third title, the goalscorer list and Durant’s status in the league come together. You have a legitimate chance to jump into the top 10.

Another ring would give him the same number of championships as Larry Bird. Two more and he’s on the same level as James. He might never be able to match them in the eyes of some, but the debate over the greatest forward of all time would be fascinating in that context.

As Young pointed out, Durant could retire now and sleep soundly knowing he left as one of the best players to ever touch the court. It has a safe place in basketball history.

But the opportunity to elevate his name to another level is in front of Durant. The summer of KD could be the start of something much bigger.

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