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Top 50 NBA Players: #2 Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant
Resume: 28.1 points (2nd in league), 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists (career best), 1.4 steals (career best), 1.3 blocks (career best), 38.5 minutes (4th in league), 679 free throws made (1st in league), 750 free throws attempted (2nd in league), 51% FG (career best), 42% 3PT, and 91% FT (1st in league, career best)… Team record in games played: 60-21 (0-1 without)… Playoffs: 30.8 points (career best), 9.0 rebounds (career best), 6.3 assists (career best), 1.3 steals, 1.1 blocks, 44.1 minutes (career best), 46% FG, 31% 3PT, 83% FT, 5-6 record… All-Star, 2nd in MVP Voting, 1st Team All-NBA

Kevin Durant, one of the most gifted offensive talents to ever step on a basketball court, is without much dispute just the second best player in the NBA; no higher and no lower. Even after putting together one of the most mind-blowingly incredible offensive seasons in the history of the NBA, Durant mustered exactly zero first-place MVP votes (in all fairness, if one vote was going to go to someone other than LeBron, it should’ve went to Durant, not Carmelo Anthony) and didn’t improve his place in the league—not that he had much room for improvement. Second best player in the NBA is certainly not a label that should be scoffed at or downplayed. Yet Durant is clearly not happy with it.

April 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) celebrates after dunking against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

“I’ve been second my whole life. I was the second best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I’ve been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the finals. I’m tired of being second. I’m not going to settle for that. I’m done with it.” – Kevin Durant.

That quote is taken from an April 2013 Sports Illustrated feature on Kevin Durant. It was a good piece that set the tone for what most fans assumed would be a Heat/Thunder Finals rematch, once again pitting the two best players in the NBA against each other. Well, things didn’t go as planned. Russell Westbrook was taken out in the 2nd game of the postseason and the Thunder, without any Westbrook insurance, went 3-6 over the next nine games. Durant did everything short of flying the team plane, cooking the team meals and washing the jersey’s after the game. Forgive me for once again bringing up LeBron James, but it was Cleveland LeBron-esque what Durant was trying to do with a ragtag group of teammates that looked like a herd of deer in highlights. He was statistically spectacular but ultimately fell short and suffered some crunch time woes that are hard to completely block out of your conscious.

Last season Durant played with an edge that had eluded him in the past. Call it a killer instinct or call it anger… it was something though. Maybe it was a result of finishing runner up in the Finals. Maybe it was bitterness over the Thunder abruptly trading Durant’s close friend James Harden right before the season. But for whatever reason, Durant was playing pissed off. He was killing opponents and praying for them after the game—for what it’s worth, this became a wayyyyyyyy bigger deal than it should’ve been. All the while, Durant was showcasing a skillset that had improved in just about every way possible; he is a better defender, passer and even a more efficient scorer than he had been in the past. He joined the very exclusive 50-40-90 club (50 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent from 3 point range and 90 percent from the free throw line). He kicked all kinds of ass and was in a dead heat with LeBron for MVP until LeBron started kicking all kinds of ass for 27 straight games.

For a month or so Durant will be the lone alpha dog in Oklahoma City and in order to keep them competitive he’s going to need to score, and score, and score, because the points aren’t going to come from anywhere else. I’m talking 35 to 40 points a night. If anyone can do it, he’s the guy. Don’t sleep on angry Kevin Durant. He might only be the second best on this list. But second best is damn good.

sonnygiuliano