Mar, 23, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) looks to pass the ball during the third quarter against Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Anthony Tolliver (44) at Chesapeake Energy Arena Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Kevin Durant's improvement as a passer will position him nicely in MVP race

Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Kevin Durant is the best scorer on the planet. We all know that. But he has struggled somewhat as a passer in his NBA career.

Durant has yet to have a season in which he had more assists than turnovers. Last year, he averaged a career-high 3.5 assists per game. That is not terribly high for a small forward with the ball in his hands all the time.

“I’m just trying to make the right play and slow down a little bit,” Durant told The Oklahoman. “I think I’m playing with a good pace, playing slow to fast and just being able to see the floor. I’m just taking my time. Last year I maybe was rushing and I might get a turnover. In the post, I might go too quickly and I don’t have anything to do.

“So I’m just slowing down. Mark Bryant has been really good at helping me in the post, and Rex (Kalamian) has been really good in pick-and-rolls, just telling me to slow down and try to make the right plays.”

Durant has noticeably upped his assist totals in the preseason already. Sure, the preseason is a different animal but Durant is also playing less minutes and getting more assists. He just looks more comfortable, exactly the way he describes he is being coached.

The Thunder are an experienced bunch that has played together for a long time now. Durant and Russell Westbrook are entering their fifth season together. James Harden and Serge Ibaka will now be here for the fourth year in a row. That kind of experience adds up and it helps things like Durant’s assists.

“I’m going on my sixth year so the game is starting to slow down for me a little bit,” Durant said. “We practice every single day so I know where the passes are going to be. I just got to make them. It’s as simple as that. It’s just a matter of me coming off patient and waiting for the play to develop and either finding my teammate or finding a shot for myself.”

Durant is widely considered the second best player in the league behind LeBron James. The biggest area where Durant falls short of LeBron is as a passer. But is Durant can start to shrink that gap, start averaging closer to five assists per game while turning the ball over less, he could challenge LeBron for the MVP this season.

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