Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Rise of Kevin Durant

In the NBA this season there are 5 marquee players who are clearly the top stars in the league. Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are at the top of their game and are all being mentioned in the MVP race. Another young superstar is knocking at the door of the top 5 and is probably the best scorer right now in basketball. The problem for Kevin Durant is that he plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that has the 2nd worst record in the league (behind my dynamite Washington Wizards). Durant is a local kid out of the Baltimore area that spent one year at the University of Texas and was drafted #2 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft.

Durant is an interesting specimen. 6'9'', 215 pounds and skinny as a twig, but the guy can shoot the rock from anywhere on the court. When you watch him play it looks at times as if he might snap in half if a stronger player runs him over, but he has proved his durability and proficiency for scoring as he's dominated games of late (including a career-high 46-point game last week). Over the last month he's averaging 28 points per game putting him in the same company as King James and Wade. He's doing all of this on a god-awful team in a Midwest market that gets no national coverage. I'm betting that if he continues to improve his scoring, rebounding and defense over the next few years that we could be talking about Durant as one of the top stars in the NBA and start making comparisons of Portland's selection of Greg Oden as #1 in 2007 to the mistake they made in drafting Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft. It seems that NBA GMs disrespect Baltimore high school basketball talent as my man Carmelo Anthony was passed up in the 2003 draft for Darko Milicic as well.

True story: I was heading home from Seattle last May on business and noticed a very tall skinny guy standing in front of me waiting to board the plane. When he turned around I realized it was Durant. It's not too often I run into people taller than me. He was of course sitting in first class and when I passed him I congratulated him on being selected Rookie of the Year. He said "Thanks man." At least I didn't tell him he was on my fantasy team as I did with Allen Iverson at Union Station a few years ago as we road the escalator together.

UPDATE:  The All-Star rosters were named today and Durant did not make the West team even though he is having, in my opinion, a better season than David West or Shaq (both made the team).

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