Sixth overall. Kevin Durant, according to 91 voters for ESPN.com, is the sixth overall best player in the NBA.
I was one of the 91 that voted on a 1-to-10 basis and I gave only one 10. That was to LeBron. I gave four 9s — Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and KD. So even from the biggest KD homer in the land, his sixth ranking makes a good amount of sense, considering the circumstances.
If you look at the actual numbers, Durant’s within a few tenths of everyone in front of him. Who are those in front of him, you ask? (Not in order) Dwight Howard, LeBron, Dirk, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade. Behind KD is Kobe (uh oh), Derrick Rose, Deron Williams and Blake Griffin.
But just like for Russell Westbrook, the question has to be asked: right or wrong?
Like I said, I ranked Durant equal with all the players in front of him except for LeBron (lower) and Dirk (higher). But if I were to just sit down and rank the top 10 NBA players, I’d have Durant third. (That’s what I ranked him in CBSSports.com’s top 100 players thing.)
Admittedly, that feels a bit high, especially considering I seem to be in the minority on that, but I certainly think Durant should rank ahead of Dirk. Now Dirk is fantastic, but let’s face it: He’s living off his Finals bump. Before winning a title, Dirk was a fringe top 10 player. Now he’s a top five guy? I realize that comes along with carrying your team to a title, but Dirk’s career high season average is 26.6 points a game, averages the same amount of assists per game as KD (2.7) and only grabs about a rebound more per game than Durant. Dirk’s efficient, no doubt, but not so much more than Durant. And I’d argue that KD is a better defender too.
But even still, it’s tough to make an ironclad case for Durant to be ahead of Dirk. It’s even harder to do it for the other four players he’s behind.
As for the panel of five that debated it, two said too low, one said too high and two said just right. Chad Ford put it this way: “Too low. The league’s scoring leader last season is just 23 years old and will only continue to get better with age. I understand why Dirk Nowitzki is higher than Durant on this list. He has the ring. But 30 out of 30 GMs would take Durant over Dirk. At the same age, Durant is much better.”
And then, an excellent note from Kevin Arnovitz: “Critics often cite KD’s defense as his Achilles’ heel, but did you know there were only a dozen players in the Association who posted a better defensive plus-minus than Durant?” I keep trying to tell everyone KD’s a better defender than they think. Maybe they’ll start listening now.
So all that said, here’s the reality: Being the sixth best player in the league, at the age of 23, mind you, is pretty darn good. It’s a little easy to rush to judging Durant as a completed product right now. I seriously doubt he’ll be the sixth-best player in the NBA in three more years. It’s just the natural turnover in talent. Wade, CP3 and Dirk will probably be trending down while Durant, Rose and Griffin head up.
Really, it’s just a matter of if KD could take that undisputed top spot from LeBron. You can put me in the camp of saying absolutely on that.