Remember back in 2010, when Kenny Smith boldly claimed that Kevin Durant would be the best basketball player in the NBA in three years?
It sounded pretty crazy then, mostly because of the guy that just won Sportsman of the Year, along with just about everything else you could possibly win over the past calendar year as a basketball player.
What separated LeBron James from Durant back then was his ability to create for others on offense, something the Thunder forward had yet to develop at the time. In fact, Durant has never averaged more assists than turnovers in his entire career – until now.
Trying to diversify all facets of his game, Durant is averaging 4.4 assists and 3.3 turnovers on the season. While it’s not at the level of James, Durant is certainly doing his best to close the gap on creating offense for his teammates.
Not only that, but Durant is trying to separate himself from James in his own way by doing something the Heat forward would never even dream of achieving: joining the “50-40-90 club”. It’s an exclusive 5-member club, where a player demonstrates his elite shooting ability by making at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the 3-point line and 90 percent from the charity stripe. So far this season, Durant is averaging 26.5 points on 51.4 percent field goal, while making 45.5 percent on 3-pointers and 90.3 percent on free throws. The shooting percentages are especially impressive when you consider the volume of shots taken.
He is second in the league in scoring, just behind Kobe Bryant, who is averaging 28 points on the season. If Durant can keep up his shooting percentages and surpass Bryant to win the scoring title, he would become the first player in NBA history to win a scoring title while shooting 50-40-90. Larry Bird, a player Durant likes to study, is the only player to come close to accomplishing both – he made 52.7 percent field goal, 41.4 percent on 3-pointers, 91.6 percent on free throws and came third in scoring average with 29.9 points.
It’s hard to distinguish whether Durant is the best basketball player in the NBA at the moment because of James’ presence, but he’s certainly closer now than he has ever been. Kenny Smith was definitely onto something when he made his prediction.
More on Durant and other relevant news around the league from Thursday: