Feb 22, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) handles the ball against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham (33) during the first half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Are the OKC Thunder better off with Kevin Durant as a playmaker rather than scorer?


Kevin Durant recorded his third triple-double of the season last night as the Oklahoma City Thunder demolished the New Orleans Hornets 119-74 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

In just 27 minutes, Durant finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He only took eight shots in the game and made five of them including 2-of-3 from behind the three-point line.

The scoring and rebounding have always been there for Durant and double-doubles were never hard to come by for him. But it’s the assists and passing in general that has been the greatest improvement in his game this season.

Is this a good thing for the Thunder though having Durant play the role of distributor instead of scorer all the time? Is he able to appropriately balance the two vital roles on this team?

He is definitely still learning. The Thunder have won two of the three games in which Durant had a triple-double. In the one loss vs. Houston, James Harden had 46 points against the Thunder while Durant had just 16. The Thunder might have been better off that night if Durant was a little more selfish.

There was also the game back on Jan. 23 when the Thunder played at Golden State. Durant finished with 33 points and nine assists in a 104-99 loss. He had nine assists with six minutes remaining in the game however and proceeded to turn the ball over three times down the stretch trying to make tough passes for assists.

Overall it is a good thing that Durant is getting more assists and getting his teammates involved more. But you don’t want him to forget that he needs to score too.

This isn’t close to happening yet but in that Golden State game it seemed to somewhat be the case. The Thunder needed Durant to do a Kobe impression instead of a LeBron one, and it cost them a win.

Last night Durant connected on multiple passes for assists that were of high difficulty. They were the kind of passes that look flashy and LeBron-like and work against the Hornets.

We haven’t seen Durant really have success with those kinds of passes against stiff competition yet. Against the elite teams in the NBA Durant still turns the ball over frequently and this season he’s been doing so when trying to make plays like he did last night.

So while Durant developing as a playmaker is a good thing overall, it may not be the best thing for the Thunder to win a title this season. If he gets into this playmaking mode and has success with it against the inferior teams in the league, it won’t matter when the Thunder are facing the Heat or Spurs.

We will continue to see Durant work on this aspect of his game this season. The key will be if he is able to flip the switch and start trying to score at all costs late in games even when facing double teams. The Thunder still need that Durant and they definitely will in the playoffs.

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