Israel: I'm wondering how sustainable this is, though. I mean, Durant isn't just scoring, he's making incredibly difficult shots look like layups.
Durant isn't just scoring, he's making incredibly difficult shots look like layups." -- Israel Gutierrez
Tuesday night against the Trail Blazers, he was literally laughing at the shots he was hitting late in the game. On one attempt, it seemed he waited for the double-team before putting up the 3 and nailing it. At some point, those double-teams are going to come way earlier; perhaps the Spurs will use that strategy tonight. And as Charles Barkley says, with Westbrook out, there ain't but two guys on that team that can score.
Is it possible this is a hot streak and, as defenses adjust, Durant will still look like a frustrated scorer at season's end? I mean, last year it looked like Durant was poised to win the MVP award before he played LeBron and the Heat. The two play next Wednesday night on ESPN.
J.A.: Nice promo. Are you going to share some of that bonus check with me? Speaking of sharing, I think Durant's willingness to give up the ball will keep him from facing constant double-teams. Opponents would rather force Durant to hit shots that make him laugh than allow easy buckets for Serge Ibaka and friends. And if Durant does end up facing more doubles, so what? MJ and Kobe were doubled and still got theirs -- without the height advantage Durant enjoys.
The greater threat to Durant comes from within. Westbrook took 1,160 shots in 2009-10, the last time Durant averaged 30 points per game. Westbrook took between 1,266 and 1,535 shots in each of the next three seasons and was on pace to shoot at least 1,400 times this season. Durant was averaging 28 points before Westbrook was sidelined by a knee surgery after Christmas.
We know Westbrook hampers Durant's scoring. The trade-off is Westbrook gives Durant a better shot at winning a championship -- and Durant is going to need a few rings before we can speak of him in the context of MJ, Kobe and LeBron.
That means the next question is, can Durant win multiple championships?
Israel: The funny part is that if Durant had been lucky enough to fall into a situation where he was paired with a dominant big, rather than another star perimeter player, it's possible he would have a couple rings now. Then we would be talking about him in terms of "when will his reign end?"
As it is, he has to adjust his game some to make sure his teammates don't become stagnant just watching him go to work. Here's the beauty of his game in particular, though. Because it's so easy for him to shoot over defenses and because his skill set makes any catch-and-shoot situation a great shot, he can still look to be a volume scorer without actually dominating the ball, therefore still encouraging ball movement.
There was probably no better example than his 54-point night against the Warriors. According to SportVU technology, Durant had the ball in his hands for only three minutes, 17 seconds in that game. That's an insane level of efficiency.