By the time the Oklahoma City Thunder tip-off against the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night they will have had almost four full days off from their last game. Breaks this long in the regular season are rarities and it could not have come at a better time for the Thunder.
Since their loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday the Thunder have had three days to recover and get their legs back. That break may not be more important for any other player than Kevin Durant. The three-time reigning scoring champion is also on pace to lead the league in a different statistical category for the third time in the last four seasons: minutes played.
Durant is easily the Thunder’s best player and the best player’s usually play the most minutes. That’s just how it goes. However, Durant his headed for his third straight 3,000+ minute season, and he’s on pace to play the most minutes in any single season of his entire career. Playing that many minutes may seem like a big priority for Durant and the Thunder, but in the end, it won’t help them win a championship.
Since Michael Jordan, no player has played more than 3,000 minutes in a season and won an NBA championship.
With that said, Durant is on pace for 3,427 minutes this season. But, if he had it his way, he would play all 48 minutes of every game. Durant is a competitor and he never wants to sit if he thinks he can help his team win. He’s the star of the team and the Thunder have the best chance to win when he’s on the floor. I’m not saying that the Thunder should start limiting his minutes a la Stephen Strasburg, but continuing to play him for over 40 minutes every game will have negative effects down the road.
The Thunder are still in great shape as the NBA approaches the All-Star break but if they are thinking long-term this season they will be smart to monitor Durant’s minutes a little closer.