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.

All-Star Weekend, Soccer, and More!

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Tuesday, 7 PM @ Rose Quarter, Portland, OR

Can the Trail Blazer slow down the frontrunner for MVP?

The Thunder are looking like the league’s best team, leading the NBA with 41 wins and a .774 win percentage, so they’ll give Portland all it can handle in this match up. However, OKC has stumbled away from home, going 18-9 compared to 23-3 at home. The Trail Blazers look to be what the Thunder were a couple years ago — a young team that came out of nowhere to eventually become the best in the West. Led by Damien Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Trail Blazers will look to bridge the 4-game gap between them and the #1 Thunder.

#1 Syracuse vs. #25 Pitt
Wednesday, 7 PM @ Peterson Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Pitt will try to handle Cuse its first loss

Even with contests like Duke-North Carolina, Heat vs. Warriors, and Canadiens vs. Red Wings happening on the same day, this is the game you want to see. Syracuse is the unanimous #1 team in the country in both the AP and Coaches polls, but they’ll be at the Peterson Events Center in Pittsburgh for this one. Pitt has slipped a little recently after starting the season 16-1, losing 3 of their last 6 — including a 59-54 loss at Syracuse. The home-court advantage could be exactly the lift the Panthers need to get over the hump and hand the Orange their first loss of the season.

NBA Slam-Dunk Contest
Saturday, 7 PM @ Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA

John Wall will look to bring some new energy to the contest

The lineup has been OK at best for this event over the last few years, but in 2014 the NBA attracted some of the best. Paul George, Damien Lillard and John Wall are a few of the competitors looking to take down reigning champion Terrence Ross. Between jumping over cars and 360-windmills, we’re sure to get a show at the New Orleans Arena. Say what you will about the non-compeiative nature of the All-Star Game on Sunday, these guys want to win.

Arsenal vs. Liverpool, FA Cup Quarterfinals
Sunday, 4 PM @ Emirates Stadium, London, UK

Will Liverpool trounce Arsenal for the second time in a week?

A rematch of the 5-1 thrashing Liverpool just gave the Gunners in the Premier League on Saturday, this is a great contest between two of soccer’s best clubs. We are unlikely to see another instance of Arsenal giving up four goals in the first 20 minutes, but Liverpool’s attacking play is hard  to stop. Whether it’s Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge or Raheem Sterling, the Reds offense is set to send them back to the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Arsenal looks to be headed back to Europe as well, but the club hasn’t won a trophy since the 2005 F.A. Cup. Lots on the line here.

 

 

Don’t Miss a Thing

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Tuesday, 7 PM @ Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK 

KD is a favorite for NBA MVP this season.

Current 2nd and 3rd in the Western Conference, this is an intriguing match up. A win could move someone into 1st place, and the way Kevin Durant has been playing, most bets might be on the Thunder. KD threw up 54 points last week, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Damain Lillard might be even better than the Durant-Westbrook combo.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Wednesday, 7 PM @ Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Crosby leads the league in points, and it’s not even close

The Penguins sit in 1st place in the Eastern Conference, while the Habs are in fourth. A big win in Pittsburgh could give the Canadiens the confidence they need to start climbing that ladder to secure home ice advantage in the playoffs. Montreal is strong defensively and kill 85.6% of power plays, so Crosby and Malkin will have their hands full.

Australian Open Men’s Single Semifinals
Friday, 2:30 AM @ Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia

Oh, the possibilities.

The Australian Open. While we aren’t quite sure who will be playing in the semifinals quite yet, you can bet it will be at least one of these two legends. All but one of the top eight seeds have made the quarterfinals, and with a Rafa-Roger semifinal possibly looming, it’s worth making up early for (or going to, if you’re lucky enough to live in Australia).

Michigan vs. Michigan State
Saturday, 7 PM @ Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI

No love lost in this matchup

In the only game of the weekend featuring two ranked teams, the #21 Wolverines are looking to knock off #3 Michigan State on their home court. Last year the Spartans demolished their rivals 75-52 at the Breslin Center, but then lost a nail-biter in Ann Arbor 58-57.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat
Sunday, 1 PM @ American Airlines Arena, Miami FL

The shot that cost the Spurs their 5th title

The Spurs lost a heartbreaking 2013 NBA Finals to the Heat, and this will be the first time the two meet since Game 7.  San Antonio is in first place once again, while the Heat trail only the Pacers in the East. You can bet the American Airlines Arena will be packed to capacity, and the Spurs would love nothing more than to silence the Miami fans.

Kevin Durant returning to Austin

Texas Longhorn fans should have October 20th, 2009 circled on their calendar.  That is the day that UT basketball favorite son, Kevin Durant, will be returning to Austin to play an exhibition game at the Frank Erwin Center.  Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder will play the San Antonio Spurs in an NBA preseason game ahead of the 2009-2010 season.

The game will be the first official game for Durant back in Austin since he went pro after the 2006-2007 season.  Durant played one magical year for the Texas Longhorns, winning all of the major Player of the Year honors in college basketball that season.  Since then Durant has had his #35 jersey retired by the Texas basketball program.  Durant has come back to Austin over the past few off-seasons to practice and scrimmage with some of his former teammates and the new Longhorns basketball players.

The game matches Durant and his OKC squad against the 4-time World Champion San Antonio Spurs.  The Spurs were knocked out in the 1st-round of the NBA playoffs this year, but should return a strong lineup for the 2009-2010 assuming their core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are healthy.  Click here to buy Spurs tickets for the 2009-2010 season as soon as they are available.