Coming into the 2012-13 NBA season, Kevin Durant was looking to evolve his game. He just lost to the best player in the NBA Finals who played the same position as he did and did so with more balance.
Durant and LeBron James are thought of as the two best players in the league right now. Durant is a better scorer but that’s about it. LeBron is a better passer, defender and post-up player, which he displayed to the fullest in the NBA Finals.
LeBron killed the Thunder from the post in that series, drawing fouls and finding wide-open teammates for 3-pointers at an incredible rate.
Durant is making it no secret that he wants to emulate his game after LeBron’s to an extent. And that’s what we’re seeing this season.
Durant is trying to make those same passes LeBron makes. He’s holding the ball on one wing, letting the defense settle in, then firing a skip pass to a teammate for a three. He’s handling the ball in the pick-and-roll and is more concerned finding a spot-up shooter or cutting Serge Ibaka than scoring. When he’s in the post, he also has his eyes open searching for a shooter on the other end of the floor.
The last part is the most important one. We hear it all the time how a team needs to be able to score from the post before they can win a title. We saw it with Miami two years ago and then last season they corrected that hole and won the title because of their post play.
Durant talked about going into the post more this season. He’s doing it too and doing it better than anyone else in the league.
He still only posts up 12.2 percent of the time (LeBron does it 14 percent of the time) but he’s the best in the league scoring 1.16 points per possession down there. Last season, he posted up 10.5 percent of the time and scored 0.89 PPP. He’s shooting 54 percent from the post this year up from just 42.5 percent a season ago.
Durant shot from the post nine times last night against the Indiana Pacers. He made just three of those shots but he was struggling to score all game long and the important part is that he decided to take his game inside to start scoring. He ended up with 10 points in the fourth quarter doing most of his work in the post to close out the Pacers.
The biggest obstacle for Durant in the post is still the same. His slender frame makes it more difficult than most to get banged up down low and still make shots. It’s simply impossible for him to get lower than most defenders.
But he’s learning and getting better at this. Just look at the 12 percent jump in shooting percentage from last season.
It’s just what the Thunder need too. Durant is becoming a better all-around player while maintain the scoring and shooting better percentages than ever in his career. The players around him are rising to the occasion as the Thunder are now one of the best spot-up shooting teams in the league and one of the best passing teams.
The playoffs are a long way away but these early signs are showing that OKC will be more prepared to win it all when the time comes.