Kevin Durant, the 185 Pound Bench Press--and Cowboy MoviesI don't spend a lot of time analyzing what happens at the NBA predraft camp but much has been made of the fact that Texas star Kevin Durant failed to achieve even one repetition at 185 pounds on the bench press. Many high school and recreational league players can lift that amount (and more), so this definitely raises eyebrows, even if Durant is young and obviously slight of build. It is true that slender guys like George Gervin and Reggie Miller enjoyed long and successful careers--but it is also true that the NBA is a very physical game and that the average player is approximately 6-7, 230 and very strong. The 82 game season is a long grind for anyone and it is even more difficult if you are physically overmatched on nightly basis. On the other hand, Durant was a dominant scorer and rebounder at the Division I level despite his relative lack of strength, so it's not like he can't play at all. I don't doubt that Durant can be a very good NBA player but his subpar bench press and agility drill totals do raise at least a small red flag: Durant coasted on defense during his brief college career and it seems that to this point he has pretty much gotten by on his natural ability; how will he respond when an NBA coach insists that he play better defense and work with the training staff to improve his overall strength? If I were an NBA GM I would not be as interested in the details of Durant's predraft camp performance as I would want to look him in the eye and hear his response to the idea that he must commit to playing defense and working out. If Durant embraces those things enthusiastically then he certainly could become a perennial All-Star--but if he resists taking on those challenges then he will not reach his full potential as a player.
The best part of this story is how Durant's college coach, Rick Barnes, leaped to Durant's defense with perhaps the quote of the year: "There are a lot of guys who can bench press 300 pounds in the NBA who couldn't play dead in a cowboy movie. Kevin's the best player in the draft--period, at any position." I would have taken Greg Oden over Durant even before the predraft camp numbers came out but you have to admire the way that Barnes stuck up for his guy--and I'm sure that potential Texas recruits noticed that, too.
posted by David Friedman @ 3:50 AM