Thus wraps it up. Apologies to Kyle Weaver, Kevin Ollie and Etan Thomas. I just didn’t feel it that necessary to do it for them.
Uh, defense. Defensedefensedefensedefense. If there’s one thing Durant isn’t elite in, it’s defense. There were flahses last year. Really good flashes. When he switched on Kobe and blocked of his two shots. When he manned up Paul Pierce and defended him well in Boston. The thing about Durant is that he’s made to be an incredible defender. He’s long, he’s athletic and he’s willing to work. It’s just about putting it all together. And when you’re just 20 years old and defense was never a big part of your basketball life previous to two years ago, it takes a little bit to learn it. This year is a big step in his defensive maturation. He needs to be better than last year. He doesn’t have to be Shane Battier or anything, but at least not be a liability when he’s on the floor. Durant’s defensive issues aren’t about effort. It’s about maturity and understanding. He’ll get there.
Five 40-point games. He did it twice last year, or three times if you count the Rookie/Sophomore game. Dwyane Wade had 10 40-point efforts last year. Kobe four, LeBron eight. The thing about KD’s two 40-point outings is that OKC lost both those games. But he’s the star of this team and sometimes stars have to carry their squad. There will be nights Russell Westbrook goes 3-13 from the floor and turns it over six times. There will be nights Jeff Green disappears. There will be nights where it’s left entirely up to KD to keep his group in it. He’s a scoring machine so this actually may be a little low. But if he’s to be a 30-point scorer or lead the league like some are saying, he’s going to have to put up a few big nights because there will be games where foul trouble happens and you’re lucky to score 18. Those outbursts pad the numbers.
Be an All-Star. I covered that here.
At some point, maybe get mentioned in the MVP talk. Granted, that’s going to take OKC winning, but at some point it would be pretty great if Durant was playing well and the Thunder were surprising a little and KD got thrown into the MVP mix. Probably wishful thinking, but hey, that’s what I’m kind of doing here.
Bump that PER up again. He went from 15.87 to 20.85 last season. That’s a pretty good spike. He did the most damage in true shooting percentage, rebounding and field goal percentage. I don’t expect him to rocket up five points again to 25 because he’s not a big assist guy, but getting into the 22-24 range would be nice. He could improve some in assists and a lot in turnovers.
Turn the ball over under 2.5 times a game. His rookie year he turned it over 2.9 times a game. Last year, 3.0. He’s not a great ball handler and a lot of the time a turnover would come because he was bumped off the ball and didn’t get a call. But he was also prone to bad decisions at times. Be smarter, make better decisions with the ball and hopefully with the added strength, some of those no-calls where he lost it are now just a bump en route to scoring. Let Russell Westbrook will take care of the turnovers. You take care of the ball.
Be a 180 shooter. He was close last year and at one point was a 179.5. He finished at 176.1, which is an excellent number regardless. But I think he can be a 180 guy. He shot 47.6 percent from the floor last year. I think he could get that to potentiall 49 or even 50 this year, but I’m not planning on that number jumping that much because 47.6 percent is pretty good. He hit 42.2 percent of his 3s. I think he could be at 44 percent there. And he hit 86.3 percent from the line. That could easily go up to 88-90 percent. The 180 is within reach for KD. If he lands at 175 or above, that’s still pretty darn good, but a 180 would be amazing, especially for such a high usage guy and a small forward.
Cut down on the minutes per game. Last year KD averaged 39 minutes per game, which was fifth in the league. It’s not necessarily a bad thing he played so many minutes because he’s young and he can handle it, but hopefully with some added depth, he can get down to playing 36-37 minutes a game. It’s not a lot, but over the course of a season, saving two minutes is like playing over three fewer games.
Score 400 points in a game. Well, how about 50 at least once? His career high is 47. Fifty isn’t crazy to hope for. Heck, 60 is probably going to happen at some point in the next few years. It’s selfish, but there’s nothing like watching KD get hot and just take everything over. He pulls up time after time and he knows he’s hitting it. I want to see scoring outbursts because they’re awesome and really for that reason only.
Be awesome and score and dunk and do all that great stuff, but most importantly, help your team win. Nobody wants to see KD score 75 points every night more than me. But if that doesn’t result in wins, then forget it. He could average 16 and five for the season but if that means OKC is a winner, I’m fine with it. Improve where you have to. If winning means Durant shoots less and scores 20 a game, then so be it. If it takes 35 a game from him to win, then that would be great as well. But whatever happens, just be the guy that leads your team to wins. KD is ultra competitive and he would die to win games. It didn’t happen a ton last year, but he wants to fix that this year. So if it’s by defense, by rebounding, by scoring or by shooting less, just do whatever it takes to make your team better.
Ideal stats: 29.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.0 apg; 48 percent from the field, 44 percent from 3. A lot of people think Durant is a 30 point per game guy this year. That could definitely happen, but I think with the addition of James Harden and with Westbrook hopefully evolving a bit, that he doesn’t have to dominate the ball that much. I do think his numbers will go up because that’s natural for a guy of his caliber to improve statisically. He took 18.1 shots a game last year and I think that number will be similar, but he’ll pick up a few points by shooting a touch better and by getting to the line more.
Let me hear you Thunderheads. What say you about Kevin Wayne Durant?