Through the Lens: Kevin Durant at an All-Star Level

In his 14th NBA season, with nine All-NBA selections and an MVP award on his resume, Kevin Durant is playing at levels consistent with the best the league has seen of him. His league-leading scoring average of 29.7 points per game is his highest rate since he led the NBA for the fourth time in five seasons with 32.0 points per game in his 2013-14 MVP season. Durant’s 5.9 assists per game match his career-high rate of the 2018-19 season and he’s averaging 7.9 rebounds per game after having averaged 8.0 or more three times in 13 seasons. His usage percentage of 31.4 is sixth in the league and he’s shooting 52.3 percent overall and 38.2 percent from 3-point range. “He’s just incredible,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “His level of play is insane. Efficiency, leading the league in scoring with as few shots as it takes for him to do so is incredible in its own right. “Some of the nights he’s had to close games down the stretch, to defend at the rate he’s defended at, you put it all together and it’s an incredible start to the season.”

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After opening with 32 points and 11 rebounds against defending champion Milwaukee, Durant upped things with a triple-double in a 114-109 win at Philadelphia, putting up 29 points with 15 rebounds and 12 assists. “Every game is different,” said Durant. “We all know some of these contending teams like physical play defensively, they’re so versatile defensively. So going into the game, I’ve got to just be prepared to do anything. It might not be my night scoring, it might not be my night assisting, so I’ve just got to be ready to do anything. At the offensive end, I think I started scoring for us. But my role tonight was more getting into the paint, making plays, rebounding and knocking down shots if I had them. ”

In Brooklyn’s home opener, Durant put up his second 30-point game in Brooklyn’s first two games of the season. Two months later, Durant is tied for the league lead with 13 30-point games. Against the Hornets, Durant had 38 points on incredible 70.8 percent shooting, making 17-of-24 shots and adding five rebounds and three assists. After Durant put up another 70-percent shooting night at the end of the week, scoring 22 points on just 10 shots against Indiana, Nets head coach Steve Nash said, “It’s hard not to use Kevin Durant. There’s the choice to use him and then there’s just the ball finds Kevin Durant because he’s so difficult to defend. So it’s not all us being like ‘let’s go to Kevin’s, let’s go to Kevin.’ Sometimes it’s just that he’s just that good, that he inserts himself into the game even without us pressing that button time and time again. So part of it is just how talented and supernatural he is. ”

Durant put up five 30-point games in 12 days while running his string of consecutive 20-point games to open the season to 14. He had 32 points against Atlanta on 65.0 percent shooting (13-for-20) with seven rebounds and five assists, put up a double-double against Detroit with 29 points and 10 rebounds and then scored 30 in three straight games, including an 11-for-12 shooting night in Orlando. The streak ran through Durant scoring 33 points on 9-of-17 shooting with eight rebounds as the Nets won for the eighth time in nine games. When the Golden State Warriors came to Barclyys Center for Brooklyn’s next game, Durant’s former head coach Steve Kerr said, “There is no tough shot. That’s what makes Kevin special, even amongst his peers. He gets to shoot whatever shot he wants. It’s basically up to him whether it goes in or not for the most part. He’s basically impossible to guard. ”

Durant eclipsed his season high with 39 points against Phoenix at Barclays Center on Nov. 27 while playing 45 minutes and making 4-of-7 3-pointers. He added nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Two games later, he went for 30 points on 50 percent shooting, plus 12-of-13 free throws, with 10 rebounds and six assists against Minnesota. Before Durant put up his second consecutive double-double against the Chicago Bulls the next night, Nash said, “Kevin’s mentality is a huge reason why he’s one of the best players of all-time. He loves the game. He comes in every day and has a laser focus on his routine, he finds the most happiness when he’s on the basketball court. The success he has is really the mentality as much as it is the gifts. The joy that the game gives him makes him sacrifice every day. ”

With the NBA’s highest-scoring game of the season, Durant posted the eighth 50-point game of his career – seven in the regular season and one in the playoffs – finishing with 51 points against the Pistons. Durant made 16-of-31 shots, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range, and made 14-of-15 free throws, both season highs. He’s currently sixth in the league in both free throws made (6.3) and attempted (7.1) per game. Among players with at least 100 free throw attempts, Durant is sixth with an 88.6 free throw percentage. Against Detroit, Durant added nine assists and seven rebounds. “It was very special,” said Patty Mills. “Obviously, special for him, but I think it’s special for everyone that was able to take part in that and be up close and personal to what happened tonight. It’s really special to see how he goes about his business off the court. Not a lot of people have the opportunity to see what goes into something like that. They see the result, and the result is unbelievable. But I think for me it’s special to see what happens behind the curtains and behind the closed doors, which makes it even more special I think. ”

With the Nets shorthanded, Durant put up back-to-back 34-point games to lead the Nets to wins over Toronto and Philadelphia. He added 13 rebounds and 11 assists for a triple-double against the Raptors. Against the Sixers, he shot 13-of-24 (54.2 percent) with 11 rebounds and eight assists. “He’s the most unaffected basketball player maybe of all time,” Blake Griffin said after the win over the Sixers. “They’ve got some good defenders on that team and he obviously gets everybody’s best defender every night. Double teams, whatever it is. High difficulty shots and he just goes over and shoots it like nobody’s there. It’s demoralizing as a defender because you feel like you’ve done everything you can. You’ve played great defense and he’s still got it. “

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