When we hear the name Kevin Durant, we immediately think about one of the greatest scorers of a generation. His colleagues have raved about how scoring seems to come so naturally to him. Though nearing the tail end of his career, the Brooklyn Nets forward has not slowed down one bit. In fact, he may be unveiling another aspect of his game: his playmaking. And he may have the potential to be one of the elites.
Elite scoring, elite playmaking
Durant dropped a career-high 16 assists on the Pacers on Sunday. His averages this season reveal that he’s logging in 6.2 assists per game — personal best in his 15-year career.
After his career night, Durant offered a somewhat simple explanation for his exploits. As one of the most lethal scorers in the game, the two-time NBA champion has experienced all types of defenses thrown at him. So the proper counter to this is to remain patient and make the correct reads. Durant is so used to getting all the attention. Little does the other team know that the former league MVP has been polishing his playmaking mind.
“I feel like there’s between like shadowing somebody or just being in the area of someone, and full out doubling, and straight-up selling out to stop somebody. And I feel like I’ve been playing amongst those three things throughout the whole season. Each coach is gonna through something different at me each game. … Sometimes I come down court and I see the whole [other] team just staring in my eyes,” Durant said.
“That’s a tough position to be in, [when the defenders are all staring at you] I just gotta make the right reads. I had some wild turnovers this year. But for the most part, I thought I did a good job of finding guys and playing the game a little slower and seeing things develop before they actually do, so I think it was good for me to get that type of coverage early in the season,” Durant elaborated.
The early signs
“Seeing things before they actually develop” is a phrase usually uttered by one of the best playmakers of today. Names that come to mind are LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Magic Johnson, and Steve Nash — who happens to be Durant’s head coach. It would be foolish to discount Nash’s efforts in honing Durant’s vision and passing.
The Durant and Nash connection started in Golden State when the latter was a part-time consultant. A look at Durant’s stats with the Warriors reveals that he had been ramping up his assist numbers ever since. This was somewhat expected, given he had Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with him. But this indicates that Durant and Nash may have been secretly putting the work in right from the beginning.
Durant will turn 34 in the offseason. According to modern NBA standards, this is still a player's prime, so we may see Durant put up more scoring bonanzas in the coming seasons. But, at the same time, we should also keep an eye on Durant’s playmaking abilities. We may be witnessing a master playmaker in the making.