Approaching the beginning of the NBA season, many fans vented their disappointment when Russell Westbrook made his return sooner than expected. For those who yearned for Kevin Durant’s solitary statistics, they’re here now instead.
In the seven games since Westbrook’s injury, Durant is averaging 35 points, 9.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists. And despite bumping up his shot attempts by close to five more per game, Durant is shooting 49.7 percent without Westbrook on the floor–a slight improvement over his regular-season rate.
Kevin Durant’s Stats During the 2013-14 Regular Season:
Though it’s unrealistic to forecast those numbers over an entire season, there’s no harm in analysing the rarity of his accomplishments however short the timespan may be. Only four players in the history of the league, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Rick Barry, and Kobe Bryant, have averaged 35 points per game in a single season.
Regardless of how much the NBA has changed over the years, one has to wonder the type of numbers Durant, who’s frequently referred to as “the league’s best natural scorer”, would put up as the Thunder’s sole alpha dog.
So far this season, Westbrook is averaging 17.9 field goal attempts per game, the team’s second-highest after Durant, who takes 19.3 attempts. Next on that list is Serge Ibaka, who takes 11.7 shots per game. With Westbrook gone from OKC’s lineup for an extended period of time–or not on the team at all–it’s fair to assume that Durant’s shooting volume would increase even further than the additional bump we’ve seen over the last seven games.
Kevin Durant’s 2013-14 Shot Chart Thus Far:
The League’s Best Scorer:
All this comes of no surprise.
The majority of players around the league note that Durant is by far the toughest defensive assignment to deal with.
Per Scott Agness of Pacers.com, Paul George said of KD:
I watch their games, I watch a lot of NBA games. And offensively, KD is scoring in bunches off of iso plays and one-on-one plays. And when they play against us, he’s moving a lot. He’s the screener, he’s getting back-screened and he’s coming off pin-downs and it’s a little different when I’m guarding him and it makes it a tougher cover.
Fear of guarding Durant is nothing new, and his unmatched scoring ability is something we’ve become accustomed to. In 2010, a 21-year-old Durant became the youngest scoring champion in league history, averaging 30.1 points per game. He then went on to win back-to-back scoring titles in 2011 and 2012. Durant also manages to score with consistency and boasts a career-average of 26.7 points per game.
Lighting It Up:
During his seven seasons in the NBA, Durant has scored 40 points or more in a total of 34 games. Most recent of these contests is his 48-point outing versus the Utah Jazz, which came just three days after his previous 48-point performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Full Highlights of Durant’s 48-Point Game vs. Timberwolves (2014.01.04):
A Few Interesting Stats Taken From Durant’s 40+ Point Games:
- Selflessly stuffing his stat sheet: When scoring 40 points or more, Durant’s recorded at least five assists eight times. His highest number of assists in a single game is seven.
- Topping 50: Durant’s exceeded the 50-point mark twice: Once against the Denver Nuggets in 2012 (51 pts), and once against the Dallas Mavericks in 2013 (52 pts).
- Scoring with efficiency: Out of his 34 40-point games, Durant’s highest FG% is .762 against the Golden State Warriors in 2010, when he made 16 out of 21 of his shots. He’s shot 70 percent or over a total of four times and only shot below 50 percent seven times.
- 3-point land: When scoring 40 points or more, the most efficiently Durant’s shot from beyond the arc is 100 percent against the Indiana Pacers in 2010 on just two attempts. Durant shot .833 percent from deep in his 51-point game against Denver in 2012, converting 5-for-6 from downtown. The most 3-pointers Durant’s attempted is 13, which he did twice. Both games were against Utah.
- Cashing in: Durant’s made the most out of his trips to the line and cashed in on all of his free throw attempts 10 times. He made all 21 of his attempts in is career-high game versus Dallas.
- Rebounding: Durant has recorded double digit rebounds in eleven of his 40-point games. His highest number of total rebounds is 18 against the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2011.
- Foes of Forty: 17 different NBA teams have had to witness Durant light it up at their expense. Durant’s scored 40 points or more against the Minnesota Timberwolves five times, the Denver Nuggets four times, Dallas and Utah three times, and the Los Angeles Clippers, the Indiana Pacers and the New Orleans Pelicans (previously known as the New Orleans Hornets) all twice.
Stats courtesy Basketball-Reference.com
The date of Westbrook’s return after undergoing his third knee surgery is still uncertain. Although he’s often criticised for unwillingly taking a lesser, more selfless role on the team, an abrupt ending to his season during last year’s playoffs was a true testament to how important his talents are for the Thunder’s championship hopes.
Refusing to go down without a fight, Durant is continuing to battle in a gruelling Western conference and edging closer to his first MVP award. However, swaying voters and stopping LeBron James winning his fifth Maurice Podoloff trophy in six years won’t be easy. Durant must maintain his exceptionally high level of play and continue leading the Thunder without Westbrook’s help.
As I mentioned before, Durant’s 35 point per game average over his recent stretch is likely to subside over the next few games. With that said, if he continues scoring like he has been, 2014 could mark the year of three new accomplishments for Durant: His first ring, his first MVP award, and the first time he’s unanimously regarded as the best player in the world.