Kevin Durant Has Disappointed in the Playoffs

Posted: June 21, 2012 in Okafor's Corner
Tags: , ,

Prior to the beginning of the NBA Finals, I declared that Kevin Durant was rapidly becoming a complete player and because of that, he would one day surpass LeBron James while both players were in their respective prime. Up until the Finals, Durant had displayed an all-round game. He ccreated for his teammates, rebounded at a high clip for a small forward, and defended well when called upon (See his lockdown of Kobe Bryant in the second round). Durant has always been regarded as a scorer—nothing more, nothing less—but his play during the regular season and the first three rounds of the playoffs demanded that we change our perception of his game.

Well, now four games into the Finals, the perception that Durant is only a scorer and is far from being a complete player seems fitting and his glaring weaknesses are one of the main reasons that the Thunder find themselves down 1-3. Scott Brooks has some culpability for his consistent, gross mismanagement of his lineup configurations but as the inarguable best player on his team, Durant has disappointed in every game of the Finals since than game 1.

His defensive play has regressed to the point that OKC has determined that it’s best that they assign him to one of the Heat’s worst offensive players (Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers, etc.) in order to avoid getting into foul trouble. And even when put on the aforementioned players, he has struggled to defend them. Last night, Cole and Chalmers had their best game of the series and Durant primarily defended them. Granted that Cole and Chalmers were the beneficiaries of passes from James when OKC doubled or shaded players his way while he worked in the post, but the need to employ that strategy is a direct result of Durant’s inability to defend his position. Durant’s poor defensive ability has also negatively affected James Harden in an indirect way. Harden has been repeatedly called upon in this series to defend James, who is at least three inches taller and 35 pounds bigger. The constant battle with a player that is substantially bigger is tiring and partly explains Harden’s struggles on the offensive end.

Durant has also struggled mightily in other areas during the Finals. During the regular season, he averaged eight rebounds and 3.5 assists per game and 7.9 and 4.75 respectively in the first three rounds of the playoffs. But in the Finals, those numbers have dipped to 4.2 rebounds and 2 assists per game, numbers that aren’t commensurate with a player that is widely regarded as the second best player in the NBA.

Due to his underwhelming all-around performance in the Finals, Durant has failed to seize an opportunity to establish himself as the best player in the game or at the very least, complicate the discussion. As James is on his way to winning his first Finals MVP, it is as clear as ever that he is the best player in the game and will hold that title throughout his prime.

As Nike propagated a few years back: We are all witnesses.

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