Entering his sixth season in the NBA, Kevin Durant is working on expanding his game to become more than just an elite scorer.
It’s a natural thing to work on for Durant who has already mastered putting the ball in the hoop better than anyone in the league. Why not try and become someone who can make others better too?
We’ve seen Durant emphasize passing and playmaking through the first three games of this season. He is averaging 6.7 assists per game which is almost double his average last season of 3.5 which was a career-high for him.
It’s coming at a cost though. Durant’s turnovers are up too as he is handling the ball a little more and trying to thread the needle with passes that could lead to assists more often. He’s leading the league with 16 turnovers after three games.
Durant is also scoring much less. He’s only averaging 22.7 points per game which would be his lowest average since his rookie season. When you put 22.7 points next to 6.7 assists and 14.3 rebounds per game, it looks nice, but it’s not what the Thunder need from him right now.
The Thunder are in a feeling out period since the James Harden trade. They have some new faces in their rotation and it’s going to take some time getting used to. How often should Kevin Martin shoot with the second unit? Should Eric Maynor play alongside Russell Westbrook for extended minutes? Should the Thunder be going small more?
These are all questions that we’re working on answering early on in the season. It’s more questions than we thought we would have about this team until the Harden trade that shook things up so much.
What you need when you are in a transitional phase with questions that need to be answered is something steady that you can rely on. That was supposed to be the knowledge that Durant was going to give you 30 points every night and maybe even more with Harden gone.
But instead we have Durant working on his own game and is in a transitional phase himself too. As a result, we have the entire Thunder team transitioning and learning on the fly. This isn’t supposed to be the case with a team that is fresh off an NBA Finals appearance last season. They were supposed to already know their identity and be building on it this season.
This is why Durant needs to get back to his scoring ways. The passing is cute but this Thunder team doesn’t need that from him right now. Save it for another time. Kendrick Perkins is never going to start catching those crisp bounce passes you drop him after coming off a down screen. Serge Ibaka may knock down a few jumpers here and there but it will never make up for Durant possibly going for 50 on any given night.
The identity of OKC this season needs to be Durant and Westbrook scoring 30 a night more than ever before. They’re not losing when that happens. Trying to bump Ibaka from nine points per game to 13 while sacrificing games that could be taken over by two of the best players in the league isn’t worth it.
This Thunder team is good enough now to win a title. All the pieces are still there. Martin is fitting in nicely already and that should be the only thing we’re worried about. Instead, we have to think about if Durant can spike up his assists while keeping his turnovers down and still scoring. The same for Westbrook too.
Durant’s the best shooter in the world and he’s not shooting the most on his team (and it’s not Westbrook’s fault). Taking 16.3 shots per game is simply not enough.
It’s time for the old Durant to come back and with that, a Thunder team that can win 60 games and win an NBA title.