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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Kevin Durant--Shooting Guard?

Even before Greg Oden was sidelined for the season by microfracture surgery, Kevin Durant was widely considered to be the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. Durant clearly has a lot of talent and may very well develop into a great player but after watching him play in the summer league I formed the opinion that he may not be great as soon as people think that he will be. In case you forgot--or did not pay attention in the first place--Durant averaged 24.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, .5 apg, 1.5 spg and 0.0 bpg in four summer league games while shooting .333 from the field, .263 from three point range and .848 from the free throw line. Seattle lost all four games. Yes, that was "just" summer league but you can look at that one of two ways: you can dismiss it because this was Durant's very first live exposure to the NBA or you can raise your eyebrows a bit at how one dimensional Durant's game proved to be against a lot of guys who will not even be on regular season rosters. The only thing that Durant did well was score and he needed a ton of shots to do that.

Yes, Durant looked better by the time the Team USA workouts rolled around but it is safe to say that he is not even close to being a finished product. His thin, frail physique precludes him from being a force in the paint at either end of the court right now, meaning that his ability to make free throws may not prove to be all that relevant because it is hard to see him drawing a lot of fouls; it will also be interesting to see how well he holds up physically (and mentally) over the course of an 82 game season. Seattle is not going to be very good this year and Durant will be expected to carry a lot of weight (no pun intended) in terms of minutes, shot attempts and scoring. A lot of people look at Durant's gaudy rebounding numbers in college and expect that to translate to the NBA but anyone who saw him play during the summer realizes that this is simply not going to happen, at least not any time soon. New Seattle Coach P.J. Carlesimo obviously understands that, because he basically took one look at Durant and shifted him from forward to shooting guard. Maybe some people have visions of Durant being the 21st century version of George Gervin, a slender forward who moved to guard early in his pro career and won four scoring titles--but there are some important differences to consider between Gervin and Durant. Gervin started his career at his natural position of forward and proved that he could rebound, draw fouls and even block shots, averaging 8.4 rpg, 6.3 FTA/g and 1.6 bpg in his first full ABA season (Gervin played just 30 games as a rookie after the Virginia Squires discovered him in the middle of the season while he was playing in the minor league Eastern Basketball Association). San Antonio Spurs Coach Bob Bass moved Gervin to guard late in Gervin's third season, after Gervin had already established himself as an All-Star forward.

Durant has not played one minute of regular season action in the NBA, yet even though he has been advertised as a great inside player his coach already wants him to switch positions. Carlesimo clearly wants to spare Durant from being pounded in the paint but the move to the backcourt will lead to other problems. To the best of my knowledge, Durant has never played guard; now he will have to learn how to do so against the best guards in the world. Also, from what I saw in the summer league, Durant has a very high dribble and is not a great ballhandler, so he will be a turnover waiting to happen if he is relied upon to do a lot of dribbling.

Durant clearly needs to put on some weight but that will be true regardless of which position he plays. I think that he and Seattle would be better served if he takes his lumps at his natural small forward position where he will at least be in the comfort zone of playing in areas of the court that are familiar to him.

posted by David Friedman @ 6:01 AM



At Thursday, October 04, 2007 8:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

that was sumer league this kid is the real deal he will be a great player if he play 2 or 3 he'll do his thing fom a scoring point of view and get better in oter areas as his career goes along. he scores like kobe to me but not great everywhere but not many people are just coming into the league. hell be better than oden because he'll play where oden is very injury prone as you see, oden average 20 3 and 5 this year.

At Thursday, October 04, 2007 4:01:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

You may be right about Durant's eventual success but how can you be so sure right now when Durant was hardly impressive during the summer playing against guys who can't even make regular season NBA rosters?

Durant scores like Kobe? You're joking, right?

At Thursday, October 04, 2007 4:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


sumer league means nuthing he got better at the end anyway. he will get 20 to 255 ppg next season he could score in so many ways and has great size. he will have to bulk up that comes with time.

he cant literally score like kobe but i meant he is a great scorer like kobe. kobe alot better right now at it then him but he young he'll get to the jordan kobe level one day wait did i just say that no he wont.

At Thursday, October 04, 2007 5:31:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

It will really be news if he averages 255 ppg (I realize that you meant 25 ppg).

Durant is very likely to average 20 ppg simply because Seattle got rid of its two best scorers, so he will get a ton of shot attempts. However, he shot poorly in the summer league and he shied away from contact; his shooting may have gotten a little better by the end of the summer league but he never really showed anything in terms of rebounding, passing, defense and ballhandling. Durant scored in many ways in college but he did not show that versatility in the summer league (unless you consider missing shots from all over the court to be evidence of versatility--check out his horrible shooting percentages). If he cannot get his shooting percentage above .400 then it will be hard for him to push his scoring average to 25 ppg. Right now, I expect him to score 18-20 ppg with a poor fg %.

Perhaps Durant will bulk up in time and he may become a great player but what this post is about is the decision to shift him to shooting guard. I believe that this move indicates that Carlesimo realizes that Durant, contrary to all of the hype, is not an all-around player who can play inside and rebound--at least right now. Nevertheless, I think that it is a mistake to shift Durant to a position that he has never played. Like I said, Gervin learned the pro game by playing his natural position and only later shifted to guard; I'm also not convinced that Durant is really in line to become an all-time great like Gervin, even though everyone has been hyping up Durant for the past year.


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