The player you become in the NBA has a great deal to do with great players that come before you.
We saw it when Michael Jordan was in the league, everyone tried to imitate him after. Now, with LeBron James as the best player, younger players are trying to do the same imitating him, most notably Kevin Durant.
I’ve been somewhat torn with how to feel about KD imitating LeBron. I get that in general it makes sense to try and be like the best player in the league. But there’s a part of me that also feels like LeBron and KD are very different players and maybe it’s not the best thing for Durant to try imitate LeBron’s game.
LeBron has become this super-efficient player over the past few seasons, basically since joining the Miami Heat. His ridiculously calculated shot selection allowed him to shoot 56.5 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from three last season.
Durant seems to be doing the same thing and has said recently that taking good shots and eliminating bad shots from his game is something he wants to really work on. It showed last season with KD posting a 50-40-90 season and nearly leading the league in scoring on just 18 shots per game.
Those are ridiculous numbers for Durant, who is still labeled as a scorer more than anything else. But is it the best thing for Durant to do on this Thunder team? Would he and the Thunder be better off if he tried to score more?
There’s no formula that will spit out an answer for this because so many factors would change. When you see LeBron being a distributor, it of course makes sense because he’s surrounded by Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and a ton of shooters. Durant doesn’t have the same cast around him.
When Durant is in distributor mode, a good defense will give him open passing lanes to Kendrick Perkins or Thabo Sefolosha or Derek Fisher. Of course it’s great that Durant is willing to get his teammates going but if he showed more of that Kobe instinct shooting over double teams instead of relying on Perkins to do something with the ball (which will most likely be turn it over), the Thunder could be in better shape.
I can’t be too mad at Durant for trying to develop other parts of his game besides scoring. I just think that players in general think to themselves that an open shot is always better than a contested one. That is usually true but when the contested shot is being taken by the best scorer in the world, and the open shot by some of the worst, I doubt it’s always true in the Thunder’s case.
I expect Durant to continue to imitate LeBron. I think his assists will continue to rise, his shooting will remain crazy efficient and he’ll still be at the top of the league in scoring year after year.
But I can’t help but think what could be if it was Jordan in the league right now instead of LeBron. Imagine if Durant’s drive was to score as much as possible. What would he be capable of? Getting 35 a night seems possible. Maybe even a little more.
I’d take my chances with a Thunder team led by a Durant who is trying to score 50 every night. Given his current teammates, I can’t imagine a better outcome than OKC games when KD goes off scoring. I feel that makes them as unbeatable as ever.