Ranking the NBA’s 30 Go-To Guys (#7: Kevin Durant)

12.07.10 7 years ago 7 Comments

Kevin Durant (photo. Dorothy Hong)

Who do you want your offense to run through with the game on the line? Counting down from 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…

KEVIN DURANT, Oklahoma City Thunder
To be honest, had I stuck to my plan of completing this go-to guy countdown before the beginning of the season, Durant would have fallen into the 4th-5th place range. Which even then, considering KD had more hype surrounding him this summer than Inception, would have been seen as too low by a lot of people. Thankfully, a little patience, perspective and simply getting too busy got in the way.

Six weeks into the season, Durant is right where he left off last season as the NBA’s leading scorer (27.4 ppg). And his OKC Thunder are in a higher position in the West right now (7th) than they were when he made his postseason debut. But the meteor that was threatening to shoot Durant to the top of the list as maybe the NBA’s best player, period, has lost some energy. His 42.1 percent field-goal shooting is a career-low as a pro, as is the 26.6 percent number from three-point range. His 3.3 turnovers per game are a career-high. And it hasn’t helped that Durant has missed a handful of games with injuries. It’s not to say KD has slipped or that he was being overrated — he can still give any team in the League a bunch of problems in a seven-game series — but it’s a reminder that the 22-year-old still has a lot to learn and a long way to go before he’s crowned King.

Durant remains of the top pressure performers in the game. Last season he was 14th in the League in “clutch time” scoring, according to 82games.com, and in his second career playoff game — a baptism which included being guarded regularly by Ron Artest — Durant dropped 32 points on the eventual champion Lakers. In Game 3, he posted 29 points and 19 rebounds (as a small forward). He hit a game-winner against the Knicks, got into a crunch-time shootout with Deron Williams that may have went KD’s way were it not for a blown no-call at the end, and scored 10 points in the final 2:20 of a game against Minnesota. He also secured several OKC wins with clutch free throws in the final seconds. This year, he’s already carried the Thunder down the stretch to a win against Portland, Indiana and Golden State.

But it hasn’t been all hero moments for Durant. Adding credibility to those who say he still needs to get his wiry frame stronger, KD has had crunch-time shots blocked at the rim and remains perhaps overly reliant on his outside jumper. He’s missed some big free throws in big moments. He’s been frustrated by physical defenses and had to depend on his ability to get to the free-throw line. Last season, Durant shot just 35 percent from the field in clutch time, the lowest among the League’s top 20 clutch time scorers. And now there’s a growing camp pitching the theory that Russell Westbrook — who has put up some monster stat lines in games KD missed — is just as valuable to OKC in pressure situations than Durant.

Again, it’s all about perspective. A slower than expected to this season doesn’t mean Kevin Durant isn’t a premier go-to player in the League. It doesn’t mean he won’t be the best in the near future. But he’s just a notch below automatic today.

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8. Steve Nash (Suns)
9. Chris Paul (Hornets)
10. Tim Duncan (Spurs)
11. Brandon Roy (Trail Blazers)
12. Joe Johnson (Hawks)
13. Derrick Rose (Bulls)
14. Tyreke Evans (Kings)
15. Vince Carter (Magic)
16. Gilbert Arenas (Wizards)
17. Amar’e Stoudemire (Knicks)
18. Monta Ellis (Warriors)
19. Danny Granger (Pacers)
20. John Salmons (Bucks)
21. Rudy Gay (Grizzlies)
22. Stephen Jackson (Bobcats)
23. Baron Davis (Clippers)
24. Ben Gordon (Pistons)
25. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
26. Yao Ming (Rockets)
27. Mo Williams (Cavaliers)
28. Brook Lopez (Nets)
29. Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)
30. Michael Beasley (Timberwolves)

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