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Thursday, October 27th, 2011 at 1:31 pm  |  85 responses

Top 50: Kevin Durant, no. 2

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Ryne Nelson / @slaman10

Who honestly remembers watching Kevin Durant in a Sonics uniform?

It was a time before owners were supervillains (with the exception of Seattle public enemy, Clay Bennett). Light years before superteams became en vogue. Eons before fans cared about international pro leagues.

In actuality, it was just over three years ago.

Outside of Seattle area, very few people watched a lot of the ’07-08 Sonics. Non-Sonics fans who watched every game? Well, that was probably only me.

See, when Durant’s career is over—when he’s inducted into the HOF—I’ll be rocking a Sonics trey-five jersey. Not necessarily because the threads will be exclusive, but because it was during his rookie season that I discovered what type of player Kevin Durant was.

I didn’t expect KD to become the second-best player in the L, but from jump, it was clear that KD would soon become a face. But with an unpopular move to OKC on the horizon, the NBA’s marketing train never stopped in Seattle. With a terrible record and a 19-year-old Durant as its centerpiece, the Sonics were mired both at the bottom of the standings and in people’s minds.

That’s why most people struggle to remember Kevin Durant’s first pro season. But I remember a few things…

Like when KD hit the game-winner against the Mavs in the Sonics’ final game in Seattle. Or when he nailed his second buzzer-beating three to prolong the game in Seattle against the Nuggets (Durant finished with 37 points, 9 dimes and 8 boards). Or when this filthy move made Shane “No Stats All-Star” Battier look, well… merely mortal.

Of course, those were just highlights. Durant’s jumper was erratic, and he crashed the glass more like a 6-0 PG than a lanky 6-9 forward. He lost a total of 62 games for the Sonics (even with Earl Watson, Chris Wilcox and rookie Jeff Green as supporting cast). But he showed a passion for the game unrivaled by anyone save the League’s megastars.

Kevin Durant spent his rookie campaign in NBA purgatory, trying to be the savior for a city that couldn’t be saved. His squad routinely got trampled in hollow arenas. It was an existence that could easily have taken the fire out of any player.

But Durant actually got better as his rookie season progressed. By April, Durant was putting up lines like 42 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists. Outside of Kobe Bryant and Monta Ellis, the still-green Kevin Durant was the most dynamic player on the West Coast.

He copped the ROY trophy that season, but people still didn’t pay Durant much attention until the Thunder began winning during his third season, KD’s second in Oklahoma City. And now, there’s really nothing left to be said.

He’s been to the Western Conference Finals. He’s twice led the L in scoring. Twice selected to the All-NBA First-Team. Won a gold medal at the World Championships in Turkey. And today, Kevin Durant firmly holds the title of first runner-up in the SLAMonline Top 50. He probably won’t drop on this list. Not for a while.

In a summer marked by greed, Durant’s only been giving—giving back to the game he loves. Dedication and passion light the path to basketball’s hallowed Hall. It’s refreshing to see Durant hasn’t veered even slightly.

No matter where he goes, what jersey he wears, Kevin Durant just plays basketball. KD passed his first test when he thrived through the toughest season in his career as a 19-year-old rookie.

That’s how I learned that no obstacle can stand in the way of Kevin Durant. And that’s why I’ll be rocking KD’s Sonics jersey when the Hall comes calling.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15
45 Kevin Martin Rockets SG 8
44 Andrew Bynum Lakers C 5
43 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 11
42 Lamar Odom Lakers PF 14
41 Gerald Wallace Blazers SF 7
40 Brook Lopez Nets C 4
39 Joakim Noah Bulls C 3
38 Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 13
37 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 12
36 Eric Gordon Clippers SG 7
35 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
34 Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 6
33 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 11
32 Al Horford Hawks C 2
31 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 9
30 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 10
29 Josh Smith Hawks PF 9
28 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 5
27 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 8
26 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 6
25 John Wall Wizards PG 7
24 Danny Granger Pacers SF 5
23 Monta Ellis Warriors SG 4
22 Joe Johnson Hawks SG 3
21 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 4
20 Steve Nash Suns PG 6
19 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 8
18 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 7
17 Chris Bosh Heat PF 6
16 Kevin Love TWolves PF 5
15 Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 5
14 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 4
13 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 3
12 Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 4
11 Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 2
10 Deron Williams Nets PG 3
9 Carmelo Anthony Knicks SF 3
8 Chris Paul Hornets PG 2
7 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 1
6 Dwight Howard Magic C 1
5 Dwyane Wade Heat SG 2
4 Derrick Rose Bulls PG 1
3 Kobe Bryant Lakers SG 1
2 Kevin Durant Thunder SF 2
1 LeBron James Heat SF 1

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • http://shinefluid@aol.com yada

    i love KD, but i will say this. russel westbrook is more important to that team than ppl want to admit. ppl knocked him for trying to takeover but when they did give KD the ball he was being pushed out and forced to shoot 35 ft 3s. i watch them vs the clips once and they had randy foye on him and foye was bodying him up pushing him out to the 3 pt line. other than that tho, he’s bout 7ft and plays like a 2 guard and more athletic than ppl give him credit for. again i love his game but thats just something i observed

  • http://www.slamonline.com Megatron

    everyone join the xbox 360 online 2k12 league. go to private league, name is “slamaleague” password is “slamily”

  • mytiman

    No way in the world is Kevin Durant better than Black Mamba.

  • http://dui007.com jbn74sb

    Even after watching Artest lock his skinny *ss up in the 2010 playoffs, Durant is still one of my favorite players in the league.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I seriously don’t understand why you posted #1 & #2 in the same day. You have a new magazine cover coming out tomorrow that you don’t want shine to get taken from like last year?

  • Jetfuel

    “In a summer marked by greed, Durant’s only been giving—giving back to the game he loves. Dedication and passion light the path to basketball’s hallowed Hall. It’s refreshing to see Durant hasn’t veered even slightly.”

    This is why slam ranked him at #2 – Pick up games with no defense…. WADE is clearly #2

  • AD

    @Megatron what type a lg is it and when does it start

  • Jetfuel

    Really nice write-up though, thanks

  • http://www.slamonline.com Megatron

    nbk is the commisioner, its a serpentine fantasy draft, draft is monday night, superstar difficulty.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RevcwSUnpxk&feature=related Shecky Shabazz

    I wish KD was still in a Sonics jersey…that alone would make him #1 in my book.

  • Jono

    And he’s only 23. When he learns to play defence and distribute anyhere near LeBron’s capabilities, it’s game over.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    This kid is special. I don’t really think he deserves the #2 spot, but he is a one of a kind first ballot hall of famer.(barring injury) When you can say that about a 23 year old kid then you know he’s special. He is 7′(6’11″) has a 7′ 5″ wingspan(at least that’s what it was at the draft combine. He has the handles of a 2 guard. The scoring prowess of the greats and he has shown that he wants to improve to be one of the greats. I would not be shocked in any league draft to see KD go #2. He is a phenomenal once in a lifetime talent. Now for the bad. He is at best an average defender despite having more length than anyone in the league not named McGee. He struggles to get out in the passing lanes and block shots as much as he should per his length/talent. He has yet to truly show if he is “clutch” or not. He is also scrawny. He uses his height to disguise the fact that he is 200 pounds wet. With all this said he is going to be in the top 5 for the next decade so get use to Durantula’s name fellas. Oh and yes I remember the Sonics days quite vividly. I own a KD35 Sonics jersey and it is honestly tops of my collection despite having some incredible collectible ones. I don’t root for the Thunder for personal reasons, but I will always root for KD(and Nick Collison).

  • http://www.slamonline.com UNFROZEN CAVEMAN LAWYER

    I KNEW HE WAS INCREDIBLY SPECIAL WHEN HE WAS AT TEXAS. REALLY, HE JUST HAS TO GET STRONGER WITH THE BALL, HE CANT LET PEOPLE FORCE HIM AWAY FROM WHERE HE WANTS TO GO.

  • Triyo

    if KD is 6’11 7 ft then Dirk must be 7’4 cause he looked way taller in the WCF

  • meloman2.0

    I have beef with this article for a number of reasons.
    1) Durant is not the 2nd best player in the league
    2) You said by the end of his rookie year Durant has the 3rd most dynamic player in the west, besides monta and kobe. First of all, I wont even tackle the fact that you obviously forgot Melo (who was an allstar while Monta wasn’t) AND iverson. You’re also forgetting about players like ginobili, dirk, steve nash, chris paul, T-mac… the list goes on

  • meloman2.0

    I honestly like Durant… love his game. But people hype him up wayyyyy too much. He’s done nothing other worldly to deserve the type of credit that he gets. Score points? it’s been done before. What makes hime different from T-mac and Melo?

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    He’s 23, and plays hard all game every game.

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    I remember him hitting a game winner in his rookie season and than punching his chest like I am god!

  • http://www.nba.com showtime

    HARD work beats Talent/ When Talent doesn’t work HARD- Durant…but im over this by now thou..

  • dbo

    mmmm, i dont agree with it, maybe durant is the best scorer in the league, but that doesnt mean he is the second best player in the NBA, he doesnt rebound, he doesnt deffends well and he is not a great passer, so he doesnt makes his teammates better, kobe does, wade does, cp3 does..

  • BlackStar

    KD is tough and will get better, but I’d take Melo over him. Melo doesn’t care of D, but he gets boards.

  • BlackStar

    *doesn’t care for D

  • VanCityBBall

    its scary almost just to believe that KD will only get better with every dribble, deffensively and offensively… my top 3 would have been 1:LBJ (as much as i hate him), 2: Dwade 3: Kevin Durant 3b: Kobe… for all the kobe riders just remember that these stats were off last season, so that means Kobe’s iunjuries effected his rank, KD on the other hand won 2 scoring champs in a row… AT 23

  • manu

    too bad his jumpers still erratic lmao

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    SLAM posted NO2 and 1 today so they have NOzero left for tomorrow AKA
    The white mamba!

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    @meloman2.0 1) Not my opinion, either, and 2) Just my opinion.

  • JR

    @meloman and @BlackStar both Melo and T-Mac were hyped just as much as KD, so why doesn’t he deserve the hype? Like Melo, he’s already made it to a conference finals (albiet much earlier in his career), something Tmac could never accomplish. So far he’s tougher than T-Mac–missing less games and complaining way less. He boards almost as well as Melo and is only getting better. Plus he seems to just be a better dude, Melo screwed Denver over by forcing a trade; that’s not something I want.

  • http://shinefluid@aol.com yada

    id take melo too. melo bangs inside. plus he plays d when he wants. in the olympics he guarded centers and he ALWAYS plays d on lebron pretty well. its not like kd is locking ppl up out there

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    KD is a much better defender then Carmelo Anthony. 1 or 2 games a year don’t make you a good defender. Plus LeBron went for 27 7 5 against Melo last season. Hardly a good defensive effort.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    He’s not justified at #2, but his scoring production may make up for his lack of an all-around game. @nbk…SLAM always posts 1& 2 on the same day….it’s kind of pointless not to, don’t you think? We’d all know who is the last one standing if they didn’t.

  • BAWSE

    Kobe needs to be number one. But i dont mind this list.

  • Bimmer

    @meloman He said West coast not Western Conference…

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Eboy really? Last year I thought they just did because they had a new cover coming out the following Monday. My bad though.

  • http://www.slamonline.com house

    this list is a shining example of the saying “opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one”.

  • http://slamonline.com Eldon Khorshidi

    Odenized ftw! Nice write-up, Ryne.

  • Otero

    I like this I remember Kevin in the green watching him close to see how’d he takeover after ray left. Good write though.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    I’m pretty certain they’ve done it the last two years.

  • Carl

    Durant is the 2nd best player in the NBA. Kobe is not top 5 anymore and should be 7 or 8. Durant has been ranked #1 in Fantasy Basketball the past 2 seasons. He is a stat stuffer and shoots better from the line than Lebron plus blocks more shots.

  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca/ niQ

    Yea, they post 1 and 2 the same day every year. On another note, I’m happy for kid. Can’t believe he’s only 23. And I agree with nbk, KD is a better defender than Melo.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    They have, I just remember Ryne tellin me it was because they had a new issue coming out. That’s also why they did 1 & 2 over the weekend rather then on a Friday or Monday.

  • add

    sounds about right

  • MIGZ

    HELL NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! so your telling me KD is better then Melo? HA! whose rating this, Charles Barkley?

  • golden state

    i rocked my sonics durant jersey to a blue scholars concert in cali and they spotted me and brought me on stage. still got love for the sonics, love for blu scholars and the movement in the town, love seattle, and will always love durant!! keep doing your thing!

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    blu scholars ftw

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    I know I’m biased as a Magic fan, but I really believe this was Dwight’s spot. And I hate to start arguments, but I really believe this is too high for a pure scorer.

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    Caboose, your not the only one, but R u a Magic fan or a Dwight fan?

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    Magic first, Max. When Dwight leaves, I’ll root for that Orlando squad led by Jameer and Ryan Anderson. But, I’ll still be a fan of Dwight wherever he goes (unless it’s Miami, Boston, or LA, then it’ll be tough).

  • http://shinefluid@aol.com yada

    would u consider lebron a good defender? cause melo always give lebron buckets. great players gonna give u buckets eventually

  • Armando

    Triyo.. I hear you… draft combine: 6-9, might have grown but imo it doesn’t look like much if so as he is clearly much shorter than Dirk, but KD is one of very few listed at his without shoes height… I don’t see him as the second best though although as I’ve said before: places 1-8 are so close there can be made an argument for every player as the best. LeBron might be the best skills wise (not so obvious to me though), but when the point in basketball is to win games, isn’t it the players who causes his team to win games, most importantly big games, and especially performing when it matters, who is the best?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Dagger

    I’m not saying I don’t love Durant like anyone else, and I respect his talent, his crazy upside. BUT: you can’t tell me that the second-best player in the league is a kid that plays average (at best) defence, is a mediocre passer and can be pushed out of his preferred spots on offence. Frankly I have Durant ranked somewhere around 6-7; right now there’s no way his impact on a game exceeds that of Wade or Howard. And no, I don’t see Durant as better (yet) than oldschool guys like Dirk and Kobe.

  • http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/wizards/a-quick-guide-to-the-issues-of-the-nba-lockout/2011/10/11/gIQAon1ZbL_story.html unf*ckwitable

    He will be number 2 one day, but not yet.

  • the truth

    When’s the draft for the 2k league?

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Monday at 9:00MT as of right now.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Kinda sad KD is barely at little over 50 comments

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    2 articles in 1 day do that.

  • meloman2.0

    @nbk How though? How does KD play defense, I’ve yet to see him lock down someone else. And you’re forgetting that Melo’s team as a whole doesn’t play much D. Ofcourse Lebron will get those numbers with turiaf guarding the paint. OKC has ibaka and Perkins

  • Kadavour

    what’s the xbox360 association ID? Is the name still slamaleague?

  • http://slamonline.com datkid

    durant at #2… nah

  • justsomeguy

    Usually I’d LOL at this. But this isn’t just LOL material, it’s LMAO material. You guy’s dropped the ball harder than a millions years worth of puberty.

  • http://slamonline.com datkid

    durant is bad at d… but at least he tries.. melo RARELY even pretends to try.

  • http://www.tampax.com doyouwantmore

    KD = MJ > LBJ = DW

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    Where did the idea Durant wasn’t a good defender even come from? He’s bot elite but he is good. Kinda hard to be a 7’0″ SF with wing quickness and speed and not be an effective defensive player.

  • robb

    Honestly, you can’t say someone’s the second best player in the league just because he’s a scoring machine. I like KD, he plays hard he’s incredibly skilled, great shooter, handles the ball awesome for someone his size, but the top 3 MUST play defense to be considered the best players.

  • Heals

    Although I may not agree with KD being this high, part of me loves it. I hopped on the bandwagon during his only year at UT because of the him vs Oden debate and the fact that I was hoping the C’s would draft him. Despite how things turned out it’s been a joy to follow his career thus far. He’s ideal for OKC (and would’ve equally been if not more for Sea) and the squad around him is entertaining. People I plead with you to see him live before he costs Kobe/LBJ money. Teams (the Clips from my experience) are sleeping on pricing for OKC and with all of the stars of today/in this top10 he is by far the best deal…

  • Babylux

    D wade should be third

  • bigmike100

    Ha! kd at numb 2 smh dis cray(jay-z voice)

  • http://gmail.com z

    I love melo now that he’s a knick but I don’t feel wronged that kd is over him. Melo hasn’t PROVED conclusively that he can play lock down D against anyone but bron in clutch moments imo. Again I love him for wanting nyc but he’s gotta prove it to me b4 I go to bat for him. Nyc>your city get over it, bostonites!

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    The real travesty of course is that slamonline uploaded the 2nd (Durant) up with the 1st (Bron) and Durant, as usual gets no love.

  • Chris101

    KD is an average stretch 4 with twice the scoring capability. He is wayyyy too hyped. He has the handles of a regular 3, the playmaking abilities of a 4, and he is half the defender that someone like Dirk is (Dirk is the king of underrated D). Wade is #1 and Bron is 2. Dwight is 3 and Durant is 5 at best. Scoring always seems to blind people…

  • quicklikeaf0x

    Durant should be ranked somewhere between 6-10 and T-Mac prime > KD

  • Drig

    KD>Melo on D solely because……..Melo never bothers to play D. He can. Just that he won’t.

    Melo>KD on O. Anyone dares to disagree can eff off on this matter lol. I’ve seen both players and Melo by far is a better scoring machine. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he gets buckets in close games at a great clip too.

    Melo slightly > KD in rebounding and play-making ( Honestly, I don’t know if Durant will ever be a great playmaker because as long as they have Russ or another great PG who can make plays, he’s not gonna improve in that field…. )

    But KD’s 23 years and Melo’s 26. That’s the only reason why I would even consider taking KD over Melo. Oh, and even I wanted Dwight here…..

  • Seven Duece

    No. Sorry, but no. His D is not good enough to surpass Wade or Kobe at this point. Even with Dwight maybe, past Rose for sure; but not over Flash AND Mamba.

  • ab40

    he’s number four, Dwight is no. 2 and Dirk is no.3 LBJ is nice but one more playoff stinker and he’s got to be dethroned because well mental strenght is a skill too and he’s very weak at that.

  • Dingo Rob

    MVP this year

  • http://itsahardwoodlife.blogspot.com omphalos

    He’ll be ranked higher than Lebron in 2 years.

  • Zxck232

    I watched every nba game last year. IKR? I like the nba though.. And there were several times I was anazed by Kevin Durant’s defense. Thunder @ Heat, he COMPLETELY locked down Lebron James. Look it up.

  • Zxck232

    I watched every nba game last year. IKR? I like the nba though.. And there were several times I was amazed by Kevin Durant’s defense. Thunder @ Heat, he COMPLETELY locked down Lebron James. Look it up.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    LeBron that ^^ night 19, 8, 3 w/ 1TO on 8-21 shooting. Basically showing what I was saying about Durant. He’s a good defender, not great, but definitely not bad. (and this can be seen as an anomaly, LeBron did go for 23 4 13 in a win in the first meeting)

  • jone

    KD is good but number 2 he is not… will not be a fan of his until he learns how to pass… have u seen him willingly pass the ball? i dont think so haha.

  • Rainman

    #2 is too high for Durant , Simply too high. Number 5 woulda been fine, 4 too

  • golakeshow

    What the f#ck slam. Kobe behind durant. You guys suck kevin durant’s dick way too much. Mamba;s the greatest of all time. their’s no denying it bit#hes

  • http://slamonline.com Jeremy Bauman

    I was right with you watching all of those games… How about at Texas lol he was the man before he even got to the L and will always be my No.1 favorite player. Just plays ball, wants to win, and keeps on learning. Gotta love KD. Great write up, Ryne!

  • DRU

    IMO If you think KD plays “defense”…. your basketball IQ is to low to be taken serious. KD does NOT play defense. Period. He benefits from playing on the floor with 4 other players who are good defenders. I like the kid but these rankings are poor. In no particular order: Kobe, Wade, & LBJ should be at the top.

  • DRU

    I meant to say Dwight not Wade.

  • http://slamonline 3kings

    i like durant. he has talent. If he stays healthy and works on distibuting and defense, he and lebron will be tied for best player. BUT put 6 11 at shooting gaurd or small forward and its like putting lebron permanatly at point gaurd, way to big for his position. kids great tho

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