Had it not been for Kevin Durant’s “big-ass foot,” we could have been referring to the previous few months because the Summer season of KD.
The Nets star practically propelled Brooklyn into the 2021 Jap Convention finals with what initially gave the impression to be a game-winning 3-pointer however was appropriately dominated a game-tying 2-pointer in Sport 7 of the Nets’ second-round sequence towards the Bucks. Milwaukee went on to win in time beyond regulation, in fact, and ultimately seize the NBA championship.
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After developing brief in his quest for a 3rd title, Durant shifted his focus to the Olympics. Regardless of getting off on the incorrect, uh, foot with losses in a number of exhibition video games and its Olympic opener, Staff USA did handle to perform its mission largely as a result of Durant lined up the constraints of a flawed roster.
Why add one cherry on high when you may add 198 million of them? After successful gold, Durant returned to the U.S. and signed a four-year, $198 million extension with the Nets. Durant’s deal units the stage for an prolonged championship window in Brooklyn as all indicators level to fellow Nets stars James Harden and Kyrie Irving inking comparable extensions within the coming weeks.
Together with his thirty third birthday and 14th NBA season approaching, Durant seems absolutely engaged and able to ship a signature season. With a lot at stake, listed here are 5 burning questions involving Durant’s previous, current, and future.
Did Kevin Durant’s NBA playoff and Staff USA run change how we view him?
In a current interview with Draymond Inexperienced as a part of Bleacher Report’s “Chips” sequence, Durant mentioned a variety of subjects together with his former Warriors teammate, together with their notorious spat from the 2018-19 season. That a part of the chat grabbed the headlines, however Durant additionally touched on his social media habits and the quantity of on-line vitriol he receives. He believes every little thing goes again to his resolution as a free agent in 2016.
“I simply suppose persons are nonetheless upset that I went to the Warriors, and lots of people who’re Cavs followers, who loved watching the Cavs beat y’all earlier than — which is lots of people. I ain’t understand that until I bought there,” Durant informed Inexperienced. “Lots of people loved seeing y’all lose in 2016, and lots of these individuals have been upset that we have been so good. They usually’re nonetheless upset. …
“That is actually what it’s. So many individuals are nonetheless upset with me that I selected to play basketball for the Golden State Warriors, which is gloomy at this level.”
Durant’s performances within the NBA playoffs and Tokyo Olympics ought to have served as a wake-up name for even essentially the most passionate KD haters.
With Irving sitting out and Harden hobbling round on one leg, Durant virtually beat the Bucks by himself. He posted 49 factors, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and two blocks in a Sport 5 win. Oh, and he did not sit for a single second. He completed with 48 factors, 9 rebounds and 6 assists within the Sport 7 loss, however he did not play all 48 minutes of that contest — as a result of he was on the ground for all 48 minutes, plus the five-minute time beyond regulation interval.
Reasonably than taking it straightforward after elimination — an comprehensible method given he missed the complete 2019-20 marketing campaign whereas recovering from a torn Achilles — Durant dedicated to Staff USA’s basketball program. He capped off an unimaginable stretch with 29 factors on 9-of-18 capturing towards France within the gold-medal sport, ending the match as USA Basketball’s all-time chief in factors, free throws and 3-pointers.
The always-online Durant instantly hopped on Instagram Reside after the victory, calling out the critics who questioned whether or not Staff USA ought to nonetheless be thought-about the world’s most elite basketball pressure.
“Speaking about they’re catching as much as us, like, are you critical? This talent is unmatched, you dig?”
The person wasn’t incorrect. When you could not respect Durant at this second, you by no means would.
Is Kevin Durant one of the best basketball participant on the earth?
Durant is totally a part of this dialog, however ought to he be the usual to which all others are in contrast?
The standard candidates will come up right here with LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo amongst them. James and Curry each performed at MVP ranges in 2020-21, however their seasons ended sooner than anticipated. Curry’s Warriors have been unable to advance previous the play-in spherical, and James’ Lakers fell to the Suns after accidents took their toll.
Antetokounmpo has a robust declare to the throne contemplating he ended the season with the NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP trophy in hand. He closed out the sequence towards the Suns with a 50-point masterpiece, placing himself in rarefied air reserved for under the legends of the game.
But it was Antetkounmpo himself who supported Durant’s case earlier within the postseason. He mentioned not simply throughout but in addition after the Jap Convention semifinals that Durant was “one of the best participant on the earth.”
Durant can rating in each manner offensively. He’s a keen passer and stable rebounder. He can slide throughout a number of positions defensively, guarding alongside the perimeter or defending the rim relying on the lineup. He clearly has the respect of his friends.
There are all the time a number of sides to those debates, however Durant could possess the argument with the fewest holes.
What would a championship with the Nets imply for Kevin Durant’s legacy?
One factor that may re-establish Durant because the undisputed preeminent participant within the NBA: Profitable a title in Brooklyn.
Essentially the most fervent Durant detractors lean on his success with the Warriors like a crutch, mentioning the truth that he jumped on a championship practice that was already rolling down the tracks. Curry, Inexperienced, and Klay Thompson have been the “true” basis of the Warriors, and Durant was solely alongside for the trip. He could have received two NBA Finals MVP awards and outplayed James on the largest stage, however the detrimental chatter nonetheless exists, as foolish because it sounds.
Durant is unquestionably the No. 1 choice on a Nets staff that enters the 2021-22 season because the title favorites. As dominant as Harden and Irving will be, Durant is the engine that drives every little thing in Brooklyn. He managed key parts of the sequence towards the Bucks in a manner that neither Harden nor Irving ever may.
A 3rd championship total would give Durant the identical quantity of rings as these Warriors gamers and quiet the feedback about Durant’s incapacity to construct one thing of his personal. Moreover, it could begin to make some historic discussions actually fascinating (extra on that beneath).
How far can Kevin Durant climb up the all-time scoring checklist?
After he went down throughout the 2019 NBA Finals with an Achilles harm, questions naturally emerged relating to his long-term well being and whether or not Durant may regain his outdated type. Different NBA gamers who had suffered Achilles accidents had usually seen a drop in manufacturing the next season and past.
Properly, Durant is doing simply high quality. He averaged 26.9 factors per sport in 2020-21, capturing 53.7 p.c from the sphere and 45 p.c on 3-pointers. The questions are not about whether or not Durant will be nearly as good as his outdated self — they’re about whether or not he will be even higher.
Durant’s return to full “Slim Reaper” standing means it isn’t unrealistic to think about him climbing up the NBA’s all-time scoring checklist in a rush. Durant has averaged 1,837 whole factors per season in his profession. If he hits that mark in 2021-22, he’ll transfer inside the highest 20 on the league’s all-time leaderboard.
Extrapolate that over 5 seasons, and Durant could be at greater than 33,000 whole factors, giving him the No. 5 spot behind Kobe Bryant. If you wish to be extra conservative and estimate 1,500 whole factors in that stretch, he would land at greater than 31,300 whole factors, good for No. 8 forward of Shaquille O’Neal.
And that is not factoring in what Durant may very well be on the again finish of his profession as soon as he ages out of his prime. He could also be extra restricted athletically in his mid-to-late 30s, however he’ll stay a 7-foot sharpshooter who can reside off post-up and spot-up alternatives. So far as catching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James nonetheless warrants speedy consideration. However because the years goes by, do not low cost KD’s ascent up the scoring ladder. Objects in rear-view mirrors are all the time nearer than they seem.
The place may Kevin Durant finally rank among the many all-time greats?
In Could 2020, ESPN ranked the 74 greatest gamers of all time, and Durant stood at No. 14. Here is what ESPN’s Royce Younger wrote on the time:
Coming off an Achilles harm, Durant’s climb again into the elite of the league is not a given, however even when he retired tomorrow, he has stacked an all-time profession. His eight years in OKC featured his greatest particular person basketball, with 4 scoring titles and an MVP. Irrespective of the way you view his two championships with the Warriors — each of which included Finals MVPs — they are going to without end be excessive on the bullet factors of his total resume. One other title in a much less controversial trend may vault Durant into the highest 10, and if he recovers to be even near his pre-injury self, he may problem some large profession numbers.
That is the place that third title, the scoring checklist and Durant’s standing within the league all come collectively. He has a reputable probability to vault himself into the highest 10.
One other ring would give him the identical variety of championships as Larry Fowl. Two extra, and he is on the identical stage as James. Maybe he may by no means equal them within the eyes of some, however one of the best small ahead of all time debate could be fascinating in that context.
As Younger famous, Durant may retire now and sleep soundly figuring out he walked away as one of many biggest gamers to have ever touched the court docket. He has a safe place in basketball historical past.
However the alternative to raise his identify into one other tier is sitting in entrance of Durant. The Summer season of KD may simply be the beginning of one thing a lot greater.