Exactly three months ago, as part of our ’08-09 NBA season preview from Dime #45, I re-posted one of my entries from the mag onto the website:
The reaction I got at the time was, let’s just say, not encouraging: “Fuck this ignorance,” “Can’t you write anything sensible?” “Seriously, this article is plain stupid,” “How freaking stupid is Austin?” were some of the comments.
Well, turns out I might not be that stupid.
Going into All-Star break, Durant is currently fifth in the League in scoring at 25.6 points per game. That’s one-tenth of a point behind Dirk Nowitzki for fourth place, and within three whole points of League leader LeBron James. Yeah, it would be a big stretch for KD to catch ‘Bron or D-Wade at this stage, but Top-5 isn’t a bad place to be. It’d be like someone predicting Carmelo would lead the NBA in scoring in ’07-08, and calling it a blatant misfire when ‘Melo finished fourth. I’d imagine those who called me out for my preseason prediction on Durant were thinking he’d fall more into the 15-20 range, not within a few buckets of LBJ, Wade and Kobe.
After an inconsistent first month that included a few too many under-20 nights to threaten anybody’s scoring crown, KD has since developed into the buckets machine I expected him to be this season. Twice he’s cracked 40 points in a game, and in each of Oklahoma City’s five games in February he’s topped 30, including last night’s 31-point effort against the Lakers on the road.
And the most impressive part is that he’s not just jacking. Durant is hitting 43 percent of his shots beyond the arc, 12th in the League and the highest three-point percentage of any of the of the League’s Top-50 scorers. His field goal shooting (48 percent) is higher than Kobe, Dirk, Danny Granger, Brandon Roy and Devin Harris, all who rank in the NBA’s Top-10 in scoring. Throw in that fact that Durant is averaging 6.7 boards as a skinny two-guard and a respectable 2.8 assists for a team that doesn’t score a lot of points (21st in the League) — and an increasingly competitive team at that — and it’s clear Durant isn’t just playing Pop-A-Shot with a bunch of bums. He hasn’t just become one of the most lethal scorers in the League; he’s become one of the most lethal players in the League.
So maybe he won’t catch the handful of guys in front of him to become the League’s youngest single-season scoring leader of all-time. But the fact that he’s even within striking distance says a whole lot.