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Patrick Hruby

Atlantic Sports Roundtable: How Good is Kevin Durant?

Very good, of course. Right on the cusp of great. In this week's Atlantic Sports Roundtable, we discuss the NBA's Next Big Thing:

Jake Simpson: ... what makes Durant special is his offensive ability. I've never seen a player quite like Durant on offense, and unless some boomer-generation historian wants to compare him to George Gervin, no one else has either. Durant is 6'9" and lanky, with a shooting range of up to 25 feet and a preternatural ability to score. In Game 6, he drained a three-pointer from about five feet behind the three-point line to complete an 18-point comeback for the Thunder—it was a shot that no one else in the world could make consistently, and yet it looked like second nature. Barring injury, Durant could lead the league in scoring every year for the next decade ...
... by all accounts, Durant is a consummate professional on the court and a gentleman off it, announcing a 2010 contract extension with the Thunder via a simple, exuberant tweet (unlike certain Decision-making superstars). LeBron James may be the best player in the NBA, but Durant is the best for the game ...


Patrick Hruby: ... I agree with your George Gervin comparison, Jake, though with Durant's height and seemingly endless arms, there's a little Dirk Nowitzki in his game, too. Which is to say: No one in the NBA is a bigger mismatch than the Thunder forward. Not even James, a point guard blessed/cursed with Karl Malone's body. (Of course, if James ever develops a reliable post game, he'll instantly become the biggest mismatch in league history not named Shaquille O'Neal). Cover Durant with a small, quick defender, and he'll shoot over the top; check him with a big man, and he'll drive to the basket. Durant can go one-on-one with the shot clock running down. He can score just as effectively as an off-ball threat, coming off screens and curls within a structured offense. In short, he's skilled, versatile, and pretty much unguardable—consistent, Scottie Pippen-like defensive intensity and physical strength are the only two things keeping him from surpassing James as the league's top player, and guess what? Durant is only 23 years old ...


Hampton Stevens: ...  in his single season at Texas, KD played in 35 games, averaging over 35 minutes per contest. (He also averaged 11.1 rebounds. Oden, the 7-footer, grabbed 9.6.) For me, though, it only took one of those games to know that Durant was special. That March, Durant brought his 15th-ranked Longhorns into Allen Field House, and put on maybe the single greatest performance by an opposing player in the history of KU basketball. It was just dazzling. Showing a poise that would have been sensational for an NBA vet, the freshman opened the game by going 5-for-5 on three-pointers. Then, in the second half, he got hot. Kid stopped, popped, dunked, banked, and everything-elsed for 25 points—despite spraining an ankle with four minutes left in the game. The KU crowd couldn't help but roar when he left the court ... Durant did something else in that game, too. Late in the second, Durant made a "clam down" gesture towards his teammates, helping them stay poised. Anyone who watched his young Thunder team beat the Spurs this week saw him make the same gesture two or three times. That's what makes me think that Oden may ultimately prove an even bigger blunder than Sam Bowie—and that Durant may even outshine Michael Jordan ...