The Oklahoma City Thunder are doomed.

The path to the NBA Finals now resides in Los Angeles (Lakers and Clippers) and San Antonio in the Western Conference.

James Harden is gone, and so are OKC’s chances of winning a title…

Is what most said.

But so far this season, the Thunder have an offense and defense ranked in the top 10 and seem to be looking pretty good.

Kevin Martin has been a terrific offensive option for them given his ability to drain shots from all over the place whether contested or not; which has replaced some if not all of the scoring that left when James Harden went over to Houston. Mind you, no one ever doubted his ability to shoot, they doubted that he could create offense for others because he isn’t a particularly skilled ball-handler or passer.

Enter Kevin Durant.

The former Longhorn has improved every season that he’s been in the league.

His shooting has improved form his rookie season to this one, and so has his shot selection. After those facets of his game got better, he needed to get a little stronger because big defenders like Metta World Peace could just bully him around while chasing him around screens and make it difficult for him to catch the ball or do anything good with it after finally getting a touch. And so KD became stronger, but also better at using screens.

Considering that he was already a scoring machine at this point, no one could have blamed him if he stopped trying to improve, but that’s not Durant. Instead, he worked on his ball handling to be able to take defenders off the dribble and get to any point needed on the floor to take whatever shot he wanted. After that, he added his beautiful floater, which is seriously one of the most gorgeous shots in basketball when he executes it.

So what was left for him to do?

Well, Kevin Durant simply improved at reading defenses and making pinpoint passes.

Obviously, the personnel — shooters — he has around him is a big help, but Durant is now occasionally bringing the ball up, running the offense and creating high percentage shots for teammates.

For instance, KD is running some pick-and-pops with Serge Ibaka and delivering on target bounce passes that lead the big man directly into his shooting motion. Also, he is much tougher to double-team now on the low block because his length allows him to see over the defense, but also because he can see where the extra defender is coming from and kick the ball out for either the assist or hockey assist (pass that leads to another player getting the assist).

This improvement means that the fear that Thunder fans had about Westbrook’s inability to run the offense at times because of his penchant for getting out of control and recklessly attacking the basket can be mitigated to some extent because KD now has the tools to adequately run the offense and call his own number. Granted, most would rather see the Texas product catch the ball at the wing or in the post where he can make one quick move and elevate for an easy score, but having more options can only be a good thing.

And yet, for all of these new things that Durant can do, Scott Brooks has taken a few possessions away from his superstar in this early part of the schedule as his usage rate (percentage of possessions used by a player) has decreased from 31.3 last season to 28.7 this season. Some would think that it’s because Westbrook has been monopolizing the ball to no end, but that would be incorrect since the former Bruin’s usage rate has decreased from 32.7 to 30.7 as well.

In actuality, the benefactor of more possessions has been Serge Ibaka, who has been averaging a career high in field goal attempts and points per game.

The Thunder offense has become a little less predictable not only in their play-calling but also in the end result because of the added ball movement this year, and that comes as a result of Kevin Durant’s improvement on this front.

In this respect, Durant reminds me of Vince Carter in his third season in Toronto. Although many will challenge this comparison, offensively they were similar players. Have a look at their statistical outputs by age:










Vince Carter








Kevin Durant







Those that remember Carter’s third season in Toronto will tell you that he had become a gifted ball-handler as well as above average passer because he understood how defenses were loading up on him and defending him. Thus, he understood how to pass out of these situations, and when to take advantage of the defense.

Obviously, Durant is a different player by virtue of his length as well as the plays that Scott Brooks runs for him; but the similarities are still there. Durant is maturing and improving with each passing season to better profit from whatever opening defenses are giving him.

Thunder fans are obviously hoping that KD’s career is far more different than VC’s, but where Durant is today as a player is quite impressive. He is most certainly not yet at the level of Kobe Bryant or LeBron James in terms of his ability to toy with a defense by reading and reacting to what they are doing, but he is coming along on this front and it might not be long before he is doing everything on the basketball court.

There’s a terrifying idea for the Golden State Warriors tonight, and the rest of the NBA for that matter…

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