Kevin Durant… you can call him a traitor if you feel that way, you can hate him, but that doesn’t take away from him being an all-time great and one of the purest skill sets in NBA history.
Durant has infamously been known for “chasing rings” after signing with the 2016 Golden State Warriors, who won a record 73 games. Durant’s Thunder blew a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, which has given him his “traitor” monicker. However, Durant deserved every part of those rings and had one of the most under-appreciated Finals performances of all-time.
Durant might’ve left the Oklahoma City Thunder to play for the team they lost to in the playoffs, but OKC was not a great environment for Durant in the first place.
Durant’s co-star, Russell Westbrook, would later become known as arguably the most selfish player in the NBA after the departure of KD, and Durant isn’t the only one who’s been successful after leaving Westbrook and the Thunder.
- Serge Ibaka would become a vital role on a championship team
- Dion Waiters would average 6+ PPG and become an NBA champion
- James Harden went from a 6th man to a generational player AND won MVP
- Victor Oladipo won MIP after being traded from OKC
- Reggie Jackson was able to become a quality starter
- Domantas Sabonis would become an All-Star
When Durant played a 26 game span in 2014 without Westbrook, his stat line consisted of:
35 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 6.3 apg, 52.7% FG, 39.9% 3PT, 87.8%FT. The Thunder went 19-7 in the span without Westbrook.
Since Durant left, Westbrook did not win a single playoff series on the Thunder, even with the help of stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Kevin Durant only lost one playoff series in that stretch, which was the NBA Finals, where he only played a total of 12 minutes.
Now, let’s talk about his 2 finals series.
Stat Line: 35.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1 SPG, 1.6 BPG.
Kevin Durant became one of 6 players to score 30+ points in every single game of the NBA Finals series, while also leading the team in scoring for all 5 games.
Durant was 1% off from leading both teams in FG%(minimum 20 shot attempts), 1st in PPG, BPG, and 3% for both teams, asserting his presence on offense and defense. Thus, KD walked away with his first career Finals MVP in an easy five-game dismantling of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Stat Line: 28.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 7.5 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.3 BPG
If you want to use the theory that Durant got “carried” by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, then explain Game Three when Durant had 43 points on 65% shooting. The closest scorer to him was Curry, who had 11 points on 19% shooting. Kevin Durant also scored more points COMBINED than the next 4 highest scorers on the Warriors that night (Curry-11, Klay-10, Draymond-10, Bell-10).
Durant led the Warriors in PPG, RPG, BPG, FG% (25 minimum shot attempts) and FT% (minimum 15 free throw attempts) taking home his second consecutive Finals MVP award despite a monstrous series from LeBron James.
His 2019 playoff run might’ve been short lasted due to injuries, but still made a major impact when he was on the floor for the Warriors. In his only Finals game, he scored 11 points in 12 minutes that was cut short due to his Achilles tear.
2019 (when healthy):
35.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5 APG, 51.8 FG%, 42.9 3PT %, 90.6% FT.
When Durant went out to play Game 4 while being down 3-1 to the Toronto Raptors, he was not fully recovered from his previous injury, but potentially put his entire CAREER on the line just to keep the Warriors alive.
Despite the 11 point performance, the Warriors went on to win the game 106-105. Who knows if the Warriors would’ve survived another game if Durant didn’t play for the small 12-minute window of time in the first half? But Durant did not coast to title wins, for his talent and effort made his rings deserved.
Photo: ABC News