Billy Donovan Must Manage Kevin Durant’s Minutes

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Dec 2, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (center) with teammates on the bench during the second half of a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Thunder 112-104. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In his first season as a NBA head coach, Billy Donovan will be faced with a lot of challenges. Perhaps the most important of these will be how he manages playing time for Kevin Durant.

Sure, there are a lot of other things that make for interesting conversation: Who will be the starting shooting guard and center? Can the Thunder become an elite defensive team again? How will the offense look with Donovan in charge?

But if Durant isn’t around, all of those story lines are irrelevant. Coming off three foot surgeries, it will be extremely important for Donovan to limit Durant’s minutes somewhere in between 30 – 34 minutes per game to keep him healthy throughout the season and fresh for the playoffs.

Prior to last season (and excluding his rookie year), Durant was always among the top five players in minutes per game. During his MVP season, he played 3,122 minutes (38.5 MPG), which was nearly 100 more minutes than Monta Ellis (3,023 total minutes but at just 36.5 MPG).

Durant has never admitted to being tired, but he looked fatigued at times in the 2014 playoffs. When he came up short on a game-tying 3-pointer against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 after going scoreless in overtime of Game 5, he didn’t use fatigue as an excuse although it was clear that was a problem.

Predictably, he drew some (perhaps unwarranted) criticism following his sub-par performance:

Next: Did Fatigue Finally Take Its Toll?