D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images
What makes Kevin Durant, well, Kevin Durant, is that he never sees himself a finished product. Despite having one of the most unstoppable, most complete, most well-rounded offensive games in the world, Durant approaches every summer, every practice, every shootaround, every game, as an opportunity to get better at something.
He talks about “getting better every day” ad nauseum, almost to the point where it seems like he says it without even realizing it. Like it’s just his talking point. But it’s not. He genuinely is trying to get better every single second, every single day.
We’ve seen it since his rookie year. He’s improved his strength. Improved his ability to get open. Improved his handle. Improved his passing. Improved moving without the ball. Improved his vision. Improved his defense. His rebounding, his leadership, his finishing, his left hand.
Whether it was because of what LeBron did in the Finals or just because it was the next thing to add to his list, Durant has focused a lot more in working in the post. He’s darn near seven feet tall and can shoot over basically anyone he wants. From 3-9 feet this season, he’s shooting a career-high 55.0 percent. From 10-15 feet, he’s shooting a staggering 58.1 percent. He’s one of the best players there is inside 15 feet, so naturally, the more looks there, the better.
And a lot of that happens by getting into the post to create those high percentage opportunities.
“Kevin, his post up, is becoming really effective,” Scott Brooks said. “He can face up and shoot the shot, or he can back in and shoot the fadeaway shot or the jump hook to the middle. But our spacing is really good and our timing is better with that set.”
The way Brooks described it, the evolution of Durant’s post game has as much to do with the team’s overall development as it does KD’s. The better the team moves the ball, understands timing and uses spacing, the better chances Durant will get to work in the post.
“That’s the thing about what I’m excited about what we’re doing,” Brooks said. “Offensively, we’re really understanding spacing much better and that’s taken many, many years and many hours of work and I’ve talked about it and it seems so simple to just tell a guy to get here, but there are a lot of moving parts to every offensive set. We have a lot of guys that create and can be a moving part with the ball.”
This season on post-ups, Durant is shooting 54 percent, per Synergy Sports. He’s attempted 50 shots, made 27 of them. It’s not his most effective device, but he’s averaging 1.16 points per possession on post-ups, which is very good.
How good? It’s No. 1 in the entire NBA, among qualified players.
It’s also one of the areas Durant turns the ball over fewest. Only 3.2 percent of his turns have come via posting, compared to 29.4 percent when he’s the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll. Durant started this season assisting more, but turning it over a lot too. Lately, the Thunder have used Durant a little less in those situations and put him in more post-ups and isolations.
“Just taking my time,” Durant said Sunday about posting. “I know I can shoot over most of the guys guarding me. Just taking my time. I’ve been working with Mark Bryant a lot. He’s been helping me out. Just telling me to slow down, see the floor first and then go to work.”
Durant said his progressions in the post are pretty simple. Don’t think. Just play. Read, react.
“I try not to think to be honest. I just try to use my instincts,” he said. “See how the defense is playing me. Just go to my go-to shots. I’ve been working a lot on that one-legged fadeaway and turnaround jumpshots.”
Stronger defenders still try and muscle Durant off the block and keep him away. He’s seeing more double-teams too. But like KD said, he just takes it slow, reads the play and then makes his move. It’s not like he necessarily has some go-to drop-step or anything. He basically either spins back to the baseline and shoots over the top, or he tries to go over his shoulder and get to the paint. He just has such a soft touch and is so gifted within 15 feet that is almost seems like automatic points.
Assuming this isn’t just some blip in the radar of the early season and an actual Thing for Durant, the post could become a very valuable weapon for OKC going forward. Like I said, that was LeBron’s preferred destination in the Finals. What made him so abusive was his ability to pass out of it to open shooters. Durant doesn’t assist a ton out of the post quite yet, but that’s the next progression for him. And if I were assuming, I’d say he’s going to improve there pretty quickly too.
On playing the Heat: “That’s a long ways away. Geez. Gosh. It’s always a privilege when you play on Christmas Day. not a lot of teams get to do that. It does take you away from your family, but it’s a great opportunity for our team and the league to be showcased in a lot of homes that day.”
On using revenge against the Heat: “I haven’t really even thought about it yet until… now. Yeah, I’m going to take Spoelstra on. It’s not a revenge factor. We definitely wanted to win that series and be champions but they played better than us and they deserved it. We had a great experience. We learned a lot about ourselves, about our team. And hopefully some of those things will carry over. But revenge? Eh, I think that’s always short lived. You want to have pride in yourself and your team more so than to be revengeful. No more Miami questions.”
On Stephen Jackson: “It’s nothing that I worry about, what he tweeted. One of the things I do know, and I do have a lot of respect for San Antonio and Coach Pop, it’s not something that ever comes out of our organization. It’s behind us. It has no bearing when we do play Monday night. It won’t even be even a thought in my mind. The league did what they had to do.”
On watching the Spurs play the Rockets: “Nah, I was actually eating dinner. I really don’t watch them too much unless we’re about to play them or we have to.”
On turning things around the other night: “Sometimes you have slow starts. And then you get to the half. But we know we’re a defensive team first and an offensive team second. So we need to let our defense set the tone for us.”
On the upcoming Heat game: “I’ll give you another week man. Man, we got five more games left bro.”
On what picking teammates up after they literally fall: “Togetherness. It shows team comroderity. It makes the guy on the ground feel good regardless of if you did something bad or if you did something good. But if you’re team is there to help you, you know you have somebody that’s behind you … as a teammate, if you see one of your teammates fall I think everybody should run over there and pick him up regardless of if he made a bad shot, a bad turnover or whatever it is, just pick him up.”