Durant’s Time is Now

The King is in blue.

Much has been said and written about Kevin Durant’s outstanding 2013-14 season, including his “dethroning” of LeBron James as the league’s best player. This season has been Durant’s best since coming into the NBA in 2007, averaging 32.2 points and 5.6 assists per game – both career highs. Durant is versatile – shooting over 50% from the field and over 40% from the arc while being an inside presence when he needs to be. There’s nothing to dislike about his game, much like LeBron’s – but it’s the distance he’s put between himself and the rest of the league this year that is truly fascinating.

Since being drafted by the Sonics, Durant has made his aspirations to be the best player in the NBA no secret. Unfortunately for the former Longhorn, he had to live in the shadow of a player that could end up going down as one of the best to ever play the sport. By the time Durant was a rookie, James was playing in his fourth All-Star game, had made the All-NBA First Team, and had just come off a run to the NBA Finals. While LeBron’s high school games could sometimes be found on ESPN, Durant was relatively unknown until he burst into the national spotlight in Austin his freshman year. Being as good as LeBron for a year or two was never going to make fans think he was the best player in the league – he had to make sure there was no question about it.

At this point in the season, Durant has scored over 300 more points than the next best player. He’s made 53 more field goals while attempting 52 less shots than Carmelo Anthony (James is currently third in total points scored). While Durant is usually near the top of the free throw leaderboard every season, he currently has 157 more free throws than any other player in the league. It’s not just scoring where Durant has taken a step forward, as only he and James sit in the Top 20 in assists without being point guards.

The advanced statistics support the theory that Durant has taken the leap over James and the rest of the NBA as well:

Player Efficiency Rating:

  1. Kevin Durant – 30.4
  2. LeBron James – 29.1
  3. Kevin Love – 27.7

Offensive Win Shares

  1. Kevin Durant – 13.3
  2. LeBron James – 10.8
  3. Kevin Love – 9.9

Defensive Win Shares

1. Paul George –  5.9

8. Kevin Durant – 4.0

(LeBron James not in Top 20)

Total Win Shares

  1. Kevin Durant – 17.4
  2. LeBron James – 13.8
  3. Kevin Love – 13.3

Here’s a guide to exactly what Win Shares are if the stat is new to you.

Aside from now being sure that Love has been the third most productive man in the NBA this season, Kevin Durant is clearly the best player in the world at the moment.  Part of LeBron’s problem (if you dare to say he has one) is that he seemed to go through a few lulls throughout the course of the season, while Durant was electric the entire way through. The forward has put up over 40 points 13 times this season, as well as going over 50 twice in the last two months. On the other hand, James has reached 40 only three times this season, and has been under 20 points 13 times (Durant has scored under 20 only four times).

As for what Durant himself thinks about this season, you can bet he’ll hold off judgment until the Thunder are either eliminated from the postseason or he’s holding an NBA Finals trophy. Anything but a championship is looked upon as failure by the fans and media, and soon Durant could be getting the treatment that James got for so many years before the move to Miami. A good month of playoff basketball could help the world of basketball see that there’s a new king in town.