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Don’t Look Now, But Kevin Durant’s Playing Like an All-Star

TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2008
About a month ago, I started to see articles questioning Kevin Durant’s seemingly inexorable march to the Rookie of the Year award.

Argument goes like this: Durant’s been playing for a terrible team, and taking a ton of bad shots (At the end of February, Durant’s shooting percentage had sunk below 40%.) Stands to reason he’s racked up the numbers he has–maybe the award ought to go to a guy who’s contributing to a playoff contender, like the Hawks’ Al Horford.

Maybe the national grumbling was a wake-up call, because Durant’s approach has been completely different in March. He’s not only playing like he deserves a rookie of the year award–he’s playing like an All-Star.

Durant is shooting 53% this month, including yesterday’s incredibly efficient 7-13 shooting night against the Blazers. The kid is passing on threes (he’s shot only ten this month, compared to 70 in November) and instead dribbling forward for shorter shots, or taking the ball inside.

He’s also shooting less. Durant hasn’t taken 20 shots in a game yet this month after doing so 17 times in the season’s first 46 games.

You wouldn’t think less shots would lead to more points, but it has for Durant. He’s averaged 21.1 points this month, his best month yet. That average is just a shade under the 21.2 points Brandon Roy averaged in December, the month when the Blazers went 13-2 and B-Roy wrapped up an All-Star bid.

Durant’s 53% shooting percentage this month beats out the NBA’s best. B-Roy’s best shooting month was a 48% January. Kobe’s, a 51% February. T-Mac, a 44% November. Lebron, a 50% February.

Durant, who plays the same position as all of these guys, is the one who’s had the most efficient month of scoring. And HE’S DOING IT AT 19!

What changed? I suspect–this is pure psychological guesstimation–that Durant couldn’t get better until he gave up on the season. That’s right, he had to give up to improve.

Early in the year, Durant was trying to do what he’d always done in a basketball uniform–win. And for him, from age whenever to age 18, “win” meant him taking a lot of shots…he was by far the best player on the court in every game in which he participated.

Having accepted that the Sonics weren’t going anywhere, Durant started (oh God, I hate to use this hackneyed phrase but it fits) playing within himself. Instead of focusing on winning, he’s focusing on taking better shots.

The team, incidentally, isn’t doing any better. The team was 12-35 (.255) in Durant’s ball-hog days, they are 5-19 (.208) since. But that’s likely due to the teammates he’s lost. If Durant puts up his March production with any kind of help…that’s a playoff team, folks.