It’s well known that Kevin Durant is an all-world talent. He adds to the Phoenix Suns an all-time-level basketball player, in general.
And the players know it. Just his presence around the team the last few days rivals only one other’s arrival in this generation of the Suns.
“It is pretty cool to have a guy on your team that pretty much everyone on the team looks up to,” head coach Monty Williams said of Durant. “You know what I mean? We basically have two of them, Chris (Paul) and KD (Kevin Durant). I think it creates something and I can’t even explain it. It is just pretty cool to watch. When you have high-character, high-level basketball players in your gym that love the game, want to get better every day, and want to see guys around them get better. I don’t have a word for it, but when I am in the gym, I can feel it. These guys look up to Chris and KD. They also understand that we are all on the same team trying to do something pretty cool here.”
On the court, he’s an MVP-level player.
In terms of scoring, Durant is maybe the purest of all time, with a 50/40/90 season under his belt (where he averaged 28.1 PPG, mind you). He also has multiple other seasons where his numbers have been well within the range of that golden standard of efficiency.
He’s also the most well-rounded offensive weapon in the NBA when factoring in the three-level scoring, and variety of scoring (isolation, pick-and-roll, post, off-screens, off-movement, spot-up, off-ball cutting).
In pick-and-roll, he places 97.8th percentile in effectiveness as the handler (1.19 PPP) shooting 59% in this scenario. He’s also 84.7th percentile in effectiveness off handoffs (1.19 PPP) which is also a staple in the Suns offense via their pick-and-roll-adjacent action.
They use them in empty corners with Deandre Ayton, but also love their pistol “21 Nash” action in secondary breaks (or their flow offense) in addition to their litany of “Chicago/Zoom” and “Miami” actions that they run from all three-thirds of the floor, at nauseam, keeping defenses in compromising situations.
We saw the effect Bridges’ growth and ascension had on the offense. Add the increased all-around and all-time level skill and bigger frame of Durant to the mix, as well as his efficiencies in these scenarios, and you see the picture of downright dominance being painted.
Durant is also 83.7th percentile in post-ups (1.15 PPP), shooting 63% in these scenarios.
He adds a few cylinders into the engine of the Suns already top-end offense, and supercharges it, making it one-of-one.
Doesn’t force changes to the system, rather adding abundances of value to its already-existing entities and dynamics while sprinkling in more size and skill, as well as more off-script juice (via iso’s, cuts, mismatch exploiting, and general play outside of a set).
He’s downright prolific.
Durant is shooting a career-best 55.9% from the field this season. Zoom in on his numbers solely from two, and he’s at a career-best 62.2%, while also leading the league in two-point pull-up shooting percentage, at 54.7%, field goals made there, at 5.6 per game, and points off pull-ups, at 12.2 per.
He will provide a scoring gravity that’ll bend defenses, another option to manipulate spacing with – they’ll likely isolate tags (ie Mike D’Antoni offenses, in sending pick-and-rolls to the single side) to force defense’s hands-on rotations – plus infuse their three-player actions with a different type of size and dynamic.
He makes the offense *that* much more prolific off of his all-encompassing scoring prowess and brings a general threat in any action he’s involved in, from any spot on the floor.
Whether he’s handling the rock in Spain pick-and-roll, screening for Ayton then coming off a down screen in “Flex,” flying off staggers, or screening in “77,” any action involving him will garner the attention of all five defenders.
Beyond just scoring, he also brings a third elite playmaker to this team, who can do so independently of, but also in addition to, playing with a pick.
Also, he’s doing so from a 7-foot line of sight that A.) Makes it tough to double him, B.) Tough to contest his passes, and C.) Allows him to see when and where players are sending extra attention from.
He has keen senses for when and where extra attention may be coming from, as well as a catalog of different ways to deliver the ball in play off of his extra attention.
Sidenote: all three of him (1.0), Booker (1.1), and Paul (1.1) are at the 1 secondary assist per game mark, with all three ranking in the top-32 in total secondaries per game.
Durant understands his gravity and has the disposition to get off it quickly, with the intent of keeping an advantage.
Even more, he’s just generally really good with delivering passes that can be scored off of and can do so with both hands, from all over the floor.
(Imagine these passes are to the likes of Booker/Paul/Lee etc. out on the perimeter.)
The fact that he can toggle from a play initiator to an elbow hub, to a handoff hub in Delay action, or post playmaking hub, on a possession-by-possession basis, and blends a true joy and flair for passing that is noticeable, in addition to the scoring and shot-creating threat that he is, is what makes him the best weapon on offense in the league.
In addition to his work on-ball, he combines athletic and sudden mobility to work off-ball and create separation with, no different than a wide receiver.
He’s good at using false steps and his hands to create leverage, then has soft hands on the catch.
Teams will almost always bring the dynamic of physicality to their top-locking of him, in hopes to stagnate his flow.
In that, he consistently is ok not touching the ball and enabling his teammates to play 4v4, with more real estate to work with and no help to worry about from his man.
In addition to the top-locking when he’s setting up to come off screens, you can see the heavy denial, with contact, above as well.
These possessions, especially with him still being able to sustain his rhythm while this happens sometimes for multiple possessions in a row, is imperative to note.
Shifting to the defensive side, he’s a more than willing defender that can guard multiple types of players, and do so with activity and a blanketing-type feel due to his 7’5 wingspan.
He’s really good with positioning and anticipatory skills, in addition to getting down in a stance and playing in read-and-react, staying in lock-step in isolation.
He can also contain the post and is solid as a low-help defender as well. He provides secondary rim protection, can kick out and scram switch guys out of mismatches (not unlike what Bridges and Crowder would do), as well as helping to put fires out at the rim and shoot passing lanes.
It’s not spoken on enough that he averages 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals per game in his career, indicative of his willingness as well as activity in causing events defensively.
He’s more than capable of making dynamic closeouts off of tagging, x-outs, running guys off the three-point line then recovering while sliding to contain, and effectively execute jab at’s as a team swings the ball around the perimeter, due to his condor-like wingspan and general mobility.
Kevin Durant to media in 2016:
“Since I love you guys so much, I was recorded at 6’10” and three-quarters with no shoes, so with my shoes on I’m 7-feet”
99 was excellent next to Ayton, but the 2-way benefits & advantages a versatile, dual 7ft frontcourt presents, is daunting
— Stephen PridGeon ☯️ (@StayTrueSDot3) February 10, 2023
You add that to the 7’1 Deandre Ayton, who has a 7’5 wingspan, as well as others, and the Suns have now compiled a roster that suggests they should see a general uptick in activity via steals/blocks/deflections in causing events defensively, and should probably blend more dictating-style defensive schemes – bringing Ayton up to (or closer to) the level of the screen in pick-and-roll, then having Durant/Okogie/Craig/Bazley peel in as the lowman – which would consistently take away passing lanes and force an offense off-script.
Durant in tandem with Ayton will be fun defensively, and will also help a ton on the glass as well, as he’s averaging 6.7 rebounds this season.
In all, Durant infuses so much into this new rendition of the Suns, without the need to change the manner in which they operate on either side of the ball. He just generally better primes this team for postseason play, on both ends, and adds another hoop junkie and fierce competitor with an edge, to a dynamic duo that already exuded these intangibles.
His skill and general looming impacts will exceed far (far!!!) past just scoring, though scoring will be loud and dominant as well.