Jun 17, 2012; Miam, FL, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) against the Miami Heat during the first quarter in game three in the 2012 NBA Finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Projections: Kevin Durant

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Kevin Durant had the best season of his career last year for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He led the league in scoring for the third straight season, finished second in the MVP voting and led the Thunder to an NBA Finals appearance.

Durant then capped off the year winning a gold medal in London for Team USA. Durant is really coming into his own as a player. He will be 24 years old next season and is about to be in his prime.

For all Durant has done, he has a lot of areas of his game where he can evolve and improve. He’s not the complete player that someone like LeBron James is and when he came into the league was nothing more than a scorer.

To take the next step, Durant has to become more well-rounded and that is exactly what he is working on. We saw improvements in his defense last season and that’s definitely a spot where he can improve still. He also posted a career-high in assists per game last season although still has yet to have a year in which he had more assists than turnovers.

2007-08 34.6 15.8 28.1 .519 12.0 12.9 6.9 20.3
2008-09 39.0 20.8 28.3 .577 13.5 12.2 9.6 25.3
2009-10 39.5 26.2 32.0 .607 13.5 11.7 11.0 30.1
2010-11 38.9 23.6 30.6 .589 13.2 10.6 10.3 27.7
2011-12 38.6 26.2 31.3 .610 17.5 14.0 11.8 28.0

Durant’s most important improvement will be in his post-up game. To become truly dominant he must develop a go-to post game where he can be unstoppable. Durant has been working on this and the Thunder try to feature Durant in the post in their offense but he still has a long way to go.

Last season, Durant posted up more often than any other year in his career. He was decently efficient but by his standards, he was still better off doing his work on the perimeter.

The obvious weakness for Durant inside is his build and lack of strength. He can get banged around pretty good and sent off balance easily. Durant’s good enough to still score this way but he is definitely far from comfortable with his back to the basket.

Dirk Nowitzki is the perfect player to model after for Durant. Durant has already tried to implement Dirk’s one-legged step back jumper and a lot of his touches are in similar areas to where Dirk touches. Dirk became one of the craftiest and efficient post-up players in the league as his career went on. For Durant to truly become great, his post game will have to mirror Dirk’s.

Durant and Dirk have had the same issue early in their careers. Against tough, physical defense, they don’t get the ball close enough to the basket and are forced to do their work way out on the perimeter. This was a problem for both even as they both lost to the Miami Heat in their first trips to the NBA Finals.

Durant had a very tough time getting the ball in the post vs. the Heat in the Finals. All of his post-up plays were very predictable and LeBron or Shane Battier were always ready to deny him position. Not playing alongside a true point guard didn’t help matter for Durant either in terms of getting good entry passes.

The key for Durant is doing more work before he gets the ball. That means fighting for position more and at the right time. This applies to when Durant is used coming off screens as well. Durant often does not come off a screen open and instead will settle for a catch and then isolation play. He’s either too eager or too lazy to set up his man and use a screen properly.

These are known areas of improvement for Durant and things he has been working on. Like just about every other member of the Thunder, Durant has shown improvement season to season and next year should be no different.

Durant came back a new player after the World Championships in 2010 when he dominated for Team USA. Many are expecting a similar jump after an NBA Finals and Olympic experience this past summer.

In terms of numbers, Durant is right on pace to continue leading the league in scoring. Last year, it was Kobe Bryant who he beat for the scoring title. Kobe should decline next season while there is no other clear challenger for Durant’s scoring throne.

Durant was as efficient as ever last year too with a career-high true shooting percentage. The goal for Durant will be to get his field goal percentage above 50 percent for the first time in his career while continuing to be aggressive and getting to the free throw line.

It is entirely plausible for Durant to score more than ever next season and have more assists than ever. More touches in the post will help with this and help put Durant in the best position to challenge LeBron for the MVP.

Tags: Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder

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