As the saying goes, real recognize real.
The real that’s being referred to here is the respect and praise given to conference ‘rival’ Kevin Durant as Doc Rivers speaks on the forward, calling him the hardest players to defend in today’s NBA.
“I’ve said that for three years,” Rivers said Tuesday, on the eve of his team’s showdown with the Thunder in a game that could determine the top three seeds in the Western Conference playoffs. “I think he is the single most difficult guy to defend, and even when you defend him well, in most cases, he just missed the shot.
“He’s unique. I guess if you gave George Gervin 5 more inches, he’d be similar. But I don’t think we’ve ever seen a Durant. He’s Kevin Durant.”
via Doc Rivers praises Kevin Durant | ESPN Los Angeles
While I am still in the group that believes Lebron James is the best player in the NBA, I have to agree with Rivers here. What Kevin Durant is doing this season on the offensive side of the ball is unprecedented. He’s averaging 32.1 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent shooting from behind the arc and 87 percent shooting from the free-throw line, all done with a usage percentage of 32.9, something that has never been done in a season.
What sets Durant apart from James (besides the coasting) in terms of being the most difficult player in the league is the jump shot, something James has never been elite in. That’s Durant’s biggest strength, being his crutch since he entered the NBA. He’s lethal from behind the arc, can hit the mid-range jump shot and can finish at the rim. Combine that skill with his ball-handling and size, some like to call him a legit seven-footer, and you have the prototype for a player who has a chance to become the greatest scorer in the NBA’s history.
With less than give games left in the NBA seasons, the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder will be on a crash course to meet if they both take care of business in the opening round of the playoffs as they hold the second and third seed in the Western Conference. In three games this season, Durant has averaged 34.3 points on 49 percent shooting. The only thing the Clippers have going for them in terms of defending the soon-to-be league MVP is that he’s shot below his season mark from three, shooting 35 percent versus Los Angeles, a five percent drop from the 40 percent.
The Clippers have a plethora of players they can throw at Durant: Matt Barnes, Danny Granger, Jared Dudley, and Reggie Bullock, but the only true player than can attempt to pose a threat to KD is Barnes, but even then, Durant is just too much for this core. This season when Barnes is on the floor, Kevin Durant posts an offensive rating of 103.3, down from his season average of 109.2. Basically, you just have to hope to contain those around Durant if it comes to defeating the Thunder in four games out of seven.
After being second place his entire career (according to him at least), Durant is beginning to show us his peak. Years down the road, this season could be looked at as the year he became the alpha dog in the NBA. Some will look to his lack of rings as reasons why he can’t be better than Lebron James, but unfortunately that isn’t the way things work around here.
Stats say he’s un-guardable. The eye says he’s un-guardable. So I’m going to have to agree with Doc River’s sentiment: this man is basically un-guardable.