Scaletta’s Summer Top 100 is a ranking of returning NBA players. For a full explanation of our methodology, read our intro.
Kevin Durant turned the entire NBA world on its head when he announced that he was heading to the Golden State Warriors. Since then, he’s gone from Batman to the Penguin on the hero/villain scale. That’s the price to pay for exercising your free agent rights in America.
Durant played the “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” card and a lot of people have a problem with that. A lot of people also think it’s just fine. But everyone thinks that it makes the Dubs a pretty darned good basketball team. Can he win a title now? Does he make them the best team in history?
As I wrote for BBALLBREAKDOWN, Durant and Stephen Curry are the two most effective scorers in the league when factoring in both scoring inside the smaller circle and outside the larger one. That, coupled with Klay Thompson’s shooting and Draymond Green’s passing is going to make Durant even more efficient than he already is.
The scary thing about Durant is that as good as he is at making tough charts, he’s always had to take too many of them. He hasn’t played in a wide-open offense that can best utilize his talents the way the Dubs can. Depending on his touches, 30 points and 65 percent true shooting aren’t unrealistic. And if he gets that, he could get his second MVP award.
There isn’t much chance that he falls very far. There is just too much opportunity for him to succeed. But if Westbrook, Harden or both can put up huge numbers and carry their teams to the No. 2 seed, they could beat out either of the Warriors’ superstars for the MVP.
We talked about what Westbrook did without Durant the last few of years, but what about what Durant did without Westbrook?:
And unlike Westbrook, while Durant had the court alone, he was more efficient (63.8 true shooting percentage to 63.3). That, in part, is because he was getting better looks.
So what’s he going to do when virtually every look is a good look and he’s not getting double-teamed every time he touches the ball? Also, note how Durant’s assist numbers went up without Westbrook.
He’s one of the most talented scorers in history. He can put the ball on the floor, drive to the bucket, post you up, hit the pull-up or drain the catch-and-shoot.
With Thompson and Curry spotting up for open looks — well, you can see how things can start getting silly. He’s averaging 29.8 points on 70.0 percent true shooting to go with 7.4 boards and 5.3 assists per 36 minutes during the preseason.
So yeah, ridiculous much?
Kevin Pelton explains why Durant’s defense is tailor made for the Warriors “small ball” lineup:
Playing against Golden State in the conference finals, Durant made good on his immense defensive potential. Combining the size of a power forward (or small center) with the mobility of a wing allows Durant to cover ground quickly as a help defender and block passing lanes. He has been reluctant in the past to play extended minutes at the 4, but surely the Warriors’ best lineups will feature Durant in the role Barnes played in the Death Lineup. KD is an upgrade as a defensive rebounder and rim protector.
And here he pairs well with Draymond Green, who has the muscle to defend the post-ups, but not the length to be a great rim protector. Part of the beauty of the Warriors new look is how well all the pieces fit together.