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Top 50 NBA players from last 50 years: Kevin Durant ranks No. 13

Editor’s Note: As a part of a brand new sequence for his podcast, “What’s Wright with Nick Wright,” FOX Sports commentator Nick Wright is rating the 50 best NBA players of the last 50 years. The countdown continues in the present day with participant No. 13, Kevin Durant.

Kevin Durant’s profession highlights:

  • Two-time Finals MVP
  • 2014 league MVP
  • 12-time All-Star
  • Six-time first-team All-NBA, four-time second staff
  • Four-time scoring champion
  • 2008 Rookie of the Year
  • 2013 50-40-90 membership

Kevin Durant isn’t the best scorer or shooter in NBA historical past. But he may be essentially the most full providing of each. 

In quick, KD shoots higher than Michael Jordan did, and scores greater than Stephen Curry does. The solely participant approaching Durant’s offensive versatility and effectivity is Larry Bird, besides the extra athletic KD is a superior creator and, because of the distinction in eras, makes as many 3s per recreation as his iconic predecessor tried. 

“He’s some of the gifted scorers and some of the naturally sleek basketball players we’ve ever seen,” Wright mentioned. 

Kevin Durant is No. 13 on Nick Wright’s Top 50 NBA Players of the Last 50 Years

One of essentially the most deadly scorers of all time, Kevin Durant is a two-time NBA champion, former Rookie of the Year (2008), four-time scoring champion, an MVP and a two-time Finals MVP. But his place in historical past is difficult by his soar to the Warriors and his different groups’ lack of playoff success.

Alas, that is far from the narrative shaping Durant’s profession. How (exceptionally properly) he performs basketball has usually taken a again seat to whom he’s enjoying with, though that wasn’t all the time the case. 

The last star of the SuperSonics franchise made his NBA debut simply weeks after his 19 birthday and was an immediate bucket. He scored 24-plus in three of his first 4 video games, tallied 42 factors and 13 rebounds in his rookie finale (on 18-of-25 taking pictures) and averaged 20 for the season. 

By Year 3, Durant and Russell Westbrook had reworked the relocated Thunder right into a contender. The 6-foot-10 small ahead received the primary of 4 scoring titles in 2010 (solely Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain have extra) and put the league on discover together with his first postseason sequence. Just 21 years outdated, KD erupted for 29 and 19 in his third playoff recreation earlier than main OKC to a 21-point win over the defending-champion Lakers two days later. It was the one double-digit lack of L.A.’s second title run. 

“Kevin Durant, very similar to LeBron [James], mainly kicked ass within the playoffs as a toddler and by no means stopped,” Wright mentioned.

In 2011, Durant dropped 41 to open the playoffs and 41 once more to get rid of the Nuggets. He closed out the Grizzlies with 39 and 9 and went for one more 40 versus the Mavericks in his convention finals debut. In 2012, Durant and his younger teammates ripped by a bunch of growing old Hall of Famers on the Mavs, Lakers and Spurs to achieve their first Finals. 

The Thunder had been so scorching they had been truly favorites heading into the 2012 Finals in opposition to the superteam Heat. Those odds seemed justified after Durant put up 36-8-4 in a decisive Game 1 victory. While KD would go on to have a robust sequence – he averaged 31 and 6 on 55% taking pictures – Miami proved to be the deeper staff because it eked out three wins by six factors or much less. 

Durant registered a 50-40-90 marketing campaign in 2012-13 and propelled OKC to the West’s high seed, solely to have Westbrook endure a season-ending harm within the first spherical. 

KD was even higher the next season, breaking Jordan’s document for consecutive 25-point video games and averaging a career-high 32.0 for the season. He was a near-unanimous alternative for league MVP forward of James, whom he completed runner-up to 3 occasions beforehand. Despite Durant’s offensive prowess, the Thunder struggled to get out of the early rounds and had been eradicated within the convention finals by the Spurs. 

After KD missed many of the subsequent season with a damaged foot, he was again within the convention finals in 2016.

“And that is the place Durant’s profession will get a bit difficult,” Wright mentioned. 

The Thunder received 11 of their first 15 playoff video games and had been one win away from clinching their second Finals berth following back-to-back blowout wins over the 73-win Warriors. The ensuing week could be Durant’s last with Oklahoma City.

Golden State capitalized on KD and Westbrook’s collective taking pictures woes to rally in Games 5 and 6. In Game 7, Durant snapped out of the transient stoop and made 10-of-19 photographs, however Westbrook remained chilly (7-of-21) because the Warriors erased one other second-half deficit to finish an epic comeback. 

A spike within the wage cap paved the best way for KD, an unrestricted free agent for the primary time, to not solely cut up from Russ however be a part of Golden State a number of weeks later. Pairing with Curry & Co. allowed Durant to flex extra of his playmaking and defensive muscle tissues. It additionally immediately made the Warriors one of many biggest groups of all time. They breezed by the next common season and almost went undefeated within the postseason, dropping solely a possible Finals clincher earlier than closing out the Cavaliers in 5. Durant averaged 35-8-5 for the sequence, eclipsed 30 factors in each recreation and produced .556/.474/.927 taking pictures splits

Cleveland put up even much less of a battle within the 2018 rematch, which noticed Durant hit a dagger 3-pointer late in Game 3 simply as he had within the earlier Finals. He averaged 29-11-8 within the sweep on 52.6%-40.9%-96.3% taking pictures and once more was, by far, the Warriors’ finest participant.

“No one can take any situation with what he did in Golden State,” Wright mentioned. “Two Finals, two Finals MVPs, however everybody sort of feels uncomfortable about it.”

Though KD wasn’t essentially considered the league’s finest participant, he performed prefer it usually sufficient to make the Warriors seemingly unbeatable. The basketball nirvana quickly ended, nevertheless. Durant’s pending free company in 2019 brought on friction all through what could be his closing season within the Bay. Golden State remained a heavy favourite but grew to become weak as soon as KD suffered a calf pressure halfway by the postseason. He’d been averaging 38.8 factors in eight full video games previous to the harm.

The Warriors made their fifth straight Finals anyway however trailed 3-1 to the Raptors when Durant tried to play Game 5. He lasted 12 minutes, scoring 11 factors and connecting on all three of his 3s earlier than tearing his Achilles.

The ensuing misplaced season has considerably felt like three of them, as Durant’s migration to Brooklyn has been undermined by accidents and insubordination from his hand-picked teammates. With Kyrie Irving sidelined and James Harden severely restricted, KD performed a number of the finest ball of his storied profession within the 2021 postseason. The Nets had been tied 2-2 with the Bucks after dropping two straight and had been trailing large within the second half when Durant caught fireplace. He scored 31 factors over the ultimate 18 minutes – he’d play all 48 – and completed with 49, to associate with 17 rebounds and 10 assists within the Brooklyn win. 

In Game 7, Durant’s last-second jumper was an inch from counting as a 3 and clinching the sequence. He went for 48-9-6 and performed all 53 minutes, however the Nets misplaced in extra time. 

“Foot on the road, in what might have been an all-time shot on the finish of regulation. Everyone remembers that. I actually hope folks don’t neglect Game 5,” Wright mentioned. “One of the best basketball video games anybody’s ever performed.”

Durant has a number of of them. He’s gone for 40 factors 14 occasions within the postseason and has the fourth-best scoring common within the playoffs (29.4) and common season (27.2). The latter quantity is constructed on an beautiful 49.6% taking pictures from the sector, 38.4% from 3 and 88.4% from the road.

Just 33 years outdated, KD nonetheless has much more photographs in him. All that is missing in his illustrious résumé is extra profitable. His groups cut up 4 Finals and had been knocked out by a finalist in six of his seven different postseason appearances, dropping to 6 champions total. Durant’s brilliance deserves higher.

“If somebody involves me and says Nick, you’ve gotten him two spots too low or two spots too excessive, I perceive the arguments,” Wright mentioned. “I believe he’ll transfer up barely over the remainder of his profession. I’m unsure how a lot increased he can transfer up, and I believe Giannis [Antetokounmpo] will move him ultimately.”

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