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Friday, April 26, 2013

Kevin Durant's Evolution

It has been fascinating to observe Kevin Durant's evolution from skinny, one dimensional rookie to fully grown, multidimensional veteran. After Durant struggled during the summer league as a rookie, I wrote a skill set evaluation that included this comment about Durant's ballhandling: "...what I saw was a player with a high dribble (a quick handed NBA guard would have picked Durant clean at midcourt) who did not attack the hoop straight on but launched a soft shot that turned out to be an airball." Durant came into the NBA as a very raw talent and, instead of just hyping him up like some commentators did, I informed readers about Durant's strengths and weaknesses, concluding with these words: "If you are a University of Texas fan or a Seattle fan and think that I am being too harsh on Durant, just go to NBA.com and watch the webcasts of his games. As they say, the eye in the sky doesn't lie. I have nothing against him and wish him all the best but he's got an uphill climb ahead of him and all of the breathless praise and lofty predictions really do him a disservice; somebody needs to get in his ear about the things that he doesn't do well and help him out. If all Durant hears is how great he is going to be then what incentive is he going to have to work on his game?"

Durant's first coach, P.J. Carlesimo, foolishly shifted him from forward to shooting guard; contrary to the bleatings of some so-called experts, positional designations matter, and the young Durant was ill-suited to play shooting guard. After the Oklahoma City Thunder replaced Carlesimo with Scott Brooks, Brooks immediately moved Durant back to forward and Durant thrived as soon as he returned to his comfort zone. Durant could have rested on his laurels and been content as a one-dimensional scoring machine but Durant eagerly attacked his skill set weaknesses in order to become a much better all-around player.

Research has demonstrated that "effortful study" is essential to achieving skill set mastery in many fields and Durant is yet another example of this; Lee Jenkins' recent Sports Illustrated article about Durant states that Durant realized that he "dribbled too high," that his shot selection needed improvement and that he must become a better passer. Durant became great precisely because he was smart enough to recognize his flaws and because he worked very hard to improve his game. Working hard does not guarantee success but not working hard guarantees failure.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:54 AM

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