Tony Piraro of Rant Sports wrote an excellent piece found here on the reasons why Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant is the best overall player in the NBA. There’s no question that Durant is the best scorer in the NBA with his ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor and also take his defender off the dribble.
This season Durant is averaging 27.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks and is shooting 51.3 percent from the field, 36.5 percent from three and 83.6 percent from the free throw line. If Durant is able to keep up these numbers it would represent a career high in rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and field goal percentage.
Yet, even with Durant accomplishing career highs in a number of categories does that truly make him the best overall player in the NBA? Durant is definitely up there and yet at this point he is not.
What keeps him from being the best overall player in the NBA is that he is an adequate defensive player. For example Danny Granger of the Indiana Pacers has had similar seasons where he averaged more than one steal and one block per game for a season and he’s not considered a very good defender and the same can be said for Rudy Gay of the Memphis Grizzlies.
For Durant to become the best overall player in the NBA he needs to improve his defense. He doesn’t need to get to the level of where Shawn Marion was when he was with the Phoenix Suns or the current level of defense played by Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks or Gerald Wallace of the Portland Trail Blazers. Right now Durant would be considered the fifth best defensive player on the Thunder as Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are ahead of Durant defensively.
Rebounding wise Durant has done an excellent job throughout his career. He does though need to become a better distributor with the basketball as 3.4 assists is low for a player with Durant’s capabilities. The low assist numbers aren’t entirely his fault as the Thunder aren’t really known for having a number of players who can hit jumpers from the perimeter.
Now the question becomes if Durant is not the best overall player in the NBA. Who is?
There are two players that rank ahead of Durant at the moment. The first one being Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves who is having another outstanding season. So far he is averaging 25 points, 14 rebounds, 1.9 assists, a steal on 44.6 percent shooting, 34.8 percent from three and 83.3 percent from the free throw line.
While Love’s numbers are down from a season ago in terms of his field goal percentage and three point percentage, he continues to rack up the double doubles and the most impressive number on the season for Love is that he is leading the NBA in free throws made.
Overall Love is one of the most fundamentally sound players in the NBA and even though he doesn’t block many shots, he makes up for that by his ability to box out, grab the rebound and throw the outlet pass to get the Timberwolves out in transition.
Lebron James would be considered by many as the best overall player in the NBA. Like Durant, James if he continues his play will set new career highs in rebounds per game, field goal percentage and three point percentage. Currently James is averaging 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.8 steals and is shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 41.3 from beyond the arc.
Defensively James has made huge strides and that was shown in the 2011 playoffs when the Miami Heat took on the Chicago Bulls and according to ESPN when James was tasked to defend MVP Derrick Rose, James held him to 6.3 percent shooting in the five game playoff series.
There’s no question that Durant is regarded as one of the best overall player in the NBA. He has not yet reached the point where he can be considered the best. James has Durant beat in being able to distribute the ball, rebounding wise and defensively. It will be a difficult task for Durant to overtake James, yet Durant certainly has the work ethic to do exactly that.