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Thursday, October 24th, 2013 at 12:00 pm  |  59 responses

Top 50: Kevin Durant, no. 2

The unanimous pick for second-best in the game, for better or worse.

by Ben Osborne / @bosborne17

I was lucky enough to be in a meeting Monday afternoon with Rick Telander, Fly Williams and some folks from Nike and Barclays Center. It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what we’re all trying to get done, but it sure doesn’t have to do with the SLAM Top 50.

What does have to do with our esteemed list is that the only two current players the great Fly (if you don’t know who he is, ask your friend Google, find your copy of SLAM 25, or see what we’ve done on/with him here on the site over the years) had any interest in talking about: LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

And, guess what? He feels the same way most of us do. LeBron James is “a freak of nature. It is really unbelievable that God built someone that big, and that fast, that can handle the ball the way he can. Plus, his knowledge of the game and respect for the history of it? And fearlessness on the big stage? I was lucky enough to spend 10, 11 days with LeBron working on his very first Nike commercial, and I think about that time whenever I see him play now. There has never been anyone like him.”

As for Kevin Durant, Fly says, “I’ve talked to him a lot, too. He’s a baaad man. I like how that dude plays.”

As a stick-skinny assassin who could score from anywhere inside the halfcourt line, Fly was in many ways KD before KD, albeit in a much sketchier era.

Since I committed to turn a decent writeup in to Ryne, I need to do a lot more than quote Fly Williams, but his unprovoked comments do kind of sum things up.

Look, I have zero complaints with Kevin Durant’s game. A 6-9 2-guard? Handles? Better and better defense? And, as Kirk Goldsberry made extra extra clear in this neat piece on how we should best gauge NBA scorers, KD is the second-best “Shot-Scorer” in the League (take a wild guess who was number one).

Kevin has also evolved as a leader, navigating a franchise with a head coach I still argue is overmatched and an insanely skilled point guard who does not always represent, shall we say, traditional point guard values.

When I first started thinking about this write-up, I was almost going to write it negative. Like on some “I’m sick of Kevin’s narrative” shit. He was the second-best two seasons ago. He was the second-best last year. He’s gonna be the second-best this year. He’s fun to watch. He’s nice. He’s not nice. He shows out in the winter. He shows out in the summer. It’s all good, but none of it is new.

But being “bored” with that? That’s my problem. Or the problem of the copy writers who need to think of new and inventive ways to use Kevin to move product, when the greatest help any of us who have to tell KD’s story could be given is for him to surpass LeBron James, either in popular opinion or at least by winning his first NBA title.

Alas, I don’t think either of those is going to happen this year. LeBron is too solid to give up his crown as the game’s top player, and the Thunder are too thin to take the crown as the NBA’s best team. Ironically, I don’t think either team will win this season’s title, but you can read my picks here next week.

LeBron’s literally unparalleled package of physique, skill and mental approach made him the unanimous pick for No. 1 one on this list. Kevin Durant’s incredible package of skills and scoring mentality made him the unanimous pick for No. 2 on this list. Per Ryne, this is actually the second straight year that these two guys were the only unanimous picks.

When I got over my brief/dumb idea, to write this in a negative, challenging way that would accomplish nothing other than making me sound like a jerk, I briefly went the other way and considered calling KD “1A.” But that’s not true either. Kevin Durant is awesome. He’s the second-best basketball player on the planet. He’s not LeBron James.

If only the age-old song my daughter recently learned in kindergarten actually had a real-life meaning.

“First is the worst, second is the best, third is the one…”

You know, there may be an ad campaign in there somewhere.

Where should Kevin Durant rank in the SLAM Top 50?

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SLAM Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9
43 David Lee Warriors PF 11
42 Jrue Holiday Pelicans PG 12
41 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 10
40 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
39 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 9
38 Kevin Garnett Nets PF 8
37 Rudy Gay Raptors SF 8
36 Paul Pierce Nets SF 7
35 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 11
34 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 7
33 Al Horford Hawks C 8
32 Andre Iguodala Warriors SF 6
31 Brook Lopez Nets C 7
30 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 6
29 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 6
28 Damian Lillard Blazers PG 10
27 Josh Smith Hawks SF 5
26 Joakim Noah Bulls C 5
25 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 4
24 John Wall Wizards PG 9
23 Chris Bosh Heat C 3
22 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 5
21 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 4
20 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 3
19 Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 8
18 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 2
17 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 2
16 Deron Williams Nets PG 7
15 Kevin Love TWolves PF 1
14 Dwyane Wade Heat SG 3
13 Paul George Pacers SF 4
12 Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 6
11 Tony Parker Spurs PG 5
10 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 4
9 Kyrie Irving Cavs PG 3
8 Dwight Howard Rockets C 1
7 Derrick Rose Bulls PG 2
6 Kobe Bryant Lakers SG 2
5 James Harden Rockets SG 1
4 Carmelo Anthony Knicks SF 3
3 Chris Paul Clippers PG 1
2 Kevin Durant Thunder SF 2
1 LeBron James Heat SF 1

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • i_ball

    phew. I SLAM hasn’t completely lost their mind. Nothing to argue about here

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Top 50: LeBron James, no. 1

  • @iamMrjump

    @i_ball:disqus echo that sentiment nothing to argue about here

  • LakeShow

    Poised to take the throne…

    Expect Durant to really take over this season. He’s going to surprise allot of people with a new array of moves. He’ll maintain efficiency, while scoring more, and tossing more dimes. He’s put on some muscle, he’ll play some more PF this season…

    Expect the unseen from him: 30-8-5-2-2 on 50-40-90% will be right around his rounded numbers.

  • Caboose

    Unseen? Bird kinda did that.

  • LP @ThisisEther

    i’d like to see the video game scoring average from him…or anybody….36 ppg…

  • Blarmac

    Man, I love KD.

  • TR

    hes not getting 2 blocks and 2 steals a night…

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    not like this. not like this at all.

  • retrobat

    Real question here. Minus any of the drama/off-court shenanigans, if you had to build your team around KD or Dwight Howard, who would you choose? This question is assuming that both are healthy and have not had injuries.

  • Feez_22

    Just a great player who will make a SERIOUS run at the MVP this year. I would not be surprised if he won it. Not one bit. Just a great player.

    Could end up as the best scorer in the history of the game when it is all said and done. Appreciate him, folks.

  • Dundler

    I take Durant

  • Dundler

    Watching Pelicans-Miami from yesterday…Durant and Davis are actually fairly similar. Obv Davis is the big, much stronger, whereas Durant is perimeter and a shooter, but they both have that lanky, weird wiry frame that looks like it should have no business being able to run like that.
    They both have handles (again Durant is obv better but you see my point), both sprint and have much more co-ordination than you should have with that stretched out body. Just something I noticed.

    (Davis was also quality in that game. Picked a Heat player’s pocket twice and ran a break perfectly as if he was a PG)

  • Sean Superstar Juan

    Ummm, yeah he did. He did kinda win 3 MVP’s in a row.

  • LakeShow

    Agreed. Nothing alike and quite similar at the same time haha.

    Davis is fun to watch though.

  • LakeShow

    1.6 and 1.6 rounds up to 2. That’s why I said rounded figures. He won’t achieve a full 2 blocks or 2 steals.

  • LakeShow

    Well, yeah besides Bird, lol.

    KD is a much more perimeter focused player as you know which separates them. KD shoots over 5 three’s a game on average over the last three seasons, while Bird floated more around the 2-3 mark.

    It’s unseen in some ways.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    not what he’s talking about.

  • Sérgio

    He is not gonna average 30. Also, if Westbrook isn’t there to shoot the bad shots, Durant won’t be able to carefully pick his spots in order to have pretty numbers on his shooting percentages.

  • LakeShow

    Westbrook will be there for a long enough part of the season for him to do that.

    Why won’t he score 30ppg? He’s averaged 28.5 over the last 4 years, with one of those being over 30ppg.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    on 1.6 3pa a game. Bird was never a scorer like Durant is. Dude still needed 22 shots while shooting 52% to get his 28.7 points.
    .
    Durant did that without Westbrook….in the playoffs

  • Jayril Ritual

    on other news..dwyane wade says time for Kevin Durant to pass the torch to Lebron as the best player in the L,

    wait..what?! xD

  • lanky boys

    haha also reminds of of deandre jordan and javale mcgee, but those two cant shoot anything outside of dunk range

  • pposse

    the real top 5 this year in no particular order is wade, lebron, durant, rose, and dh

  • TR

    he wasnt even getting 1.6 of either last year. Durants a great player, but i kinda hate watching him play sometimes. Free throws galore to get points gets old sometimes

  • ron g

    D12, Cp3, D-Rose, Kd and then Lebron #1. I believe the top five should consist of the two best players at the two most dominant positions(pg & sf)

  • Dagger

    To be fair, if your point is that Durant is a better scorer than Bird was, Durant has never shot better than 51%.Yeah, he gets to the line more often than Bird, and he shoots more threes, but Bird was more efficient from the field.

    Arguably Bird’s best season as a scorer:

    30 PPG, 53-41-92.

    To get 28 PPG the season before, he needed just 20 shots.

    That’s remarkable. As a scorer I think Durant will probably eclipse Bird someday, but I’m not ready to give him that yet.

  • Chester

    Too bad this ‘real’ top 5 only exists in your world.

  • pposse

    yeah we’ll see.

  • LakeShow

    LeBron actually gets more points per game at the FT line than Durant, by career average. Last year LeBron went to the line the least in his entire career but expect him to be right where Durant is next season, right around 8FTA. Same as MJ, Kobe, Tracy Mcgrady, Dwayne Wade etc…

    I don’t know if you realize this but KD has gotten better every single year. There’s no reason to think he won’t get to around 1.5 -1.7 steals or blocks.

  • LakeShow

    I’d do either Kobe, Harden, or Melo instead of Wade for sure.

  • pposse

    im tellin you Wade wil rise this year. You see yesterday 27 pts 4 stls while Lebron gets 26 pts and 7 assists.

    I see Harden and DH steppin on each others toes this year. They probably will figure it out but it will take more than a season. And Kobe doesn’t qualify if he doesn’t come back before Christmas from shear volume of games missed.

  • pposse

    also just look at how effficient Wade was with a ball dominant albeit better decision maker that is Lebron. Putting up 22 5 5 as second fiddle on a team that will most likely be #1 overall seed is still better than 27 4 on an inferior team in my opinion.

  • TR

    Steals are back on the rise, block percentage was way up, but I doubt it’ll get much better. Hes decent on the help side, but Ibaka holds down the paint. And my thing with Durant and his free throws is a little unfair i guess. He hits at such a high clip that some nights it makes his point totals arent as impressive to me. Like he scored 45 points in a game against dallas last year i think or the year before and it was like off 21 made free throws and a horrible shooting night. Things like that just kinda sour me on him from time to time.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Bird was the better all around player, but as a pure scorer? with the things Durant can do, and how efficient he is? i’ll take him.
    .
    And Durant’s eFG% and TS% just last season were both higher than Bird’s career high in each category. He’s the more efficient story by a growing margin.

  • Dagger

    I knew you would respond with eFG% and TS%. To that I would agree: last year, Durant’s efficiency was pretty insane. I would add only two things:

    1. Can Durant sustain that level of efficiency in light of the evolving roster of the Thunder? Bird’s efficiency year after year still sets him apart for me.
    2. The way in which Durant and Bird were required to get their points matters. In the Thunder’s offense, Durant isos all the time, which is reflected in how few of his shots are assisted, relative to Bird’s. I’m not saying that this indicates that Bird was actually more efficient than Durant, but I will say that the relatively slight superiority in Durant’s efficiency last year can come down to variables that are relatively hard to quantify.

    Which is all to say: if there’s a separation between Durant and Bird as scorers, it’s pretty slight, and I still give Bird a small edge.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    well, considering Bird’s shots were more often assisted, it’s safe to say that came from being a better overall player, specifically better within a team concept. While Durant was somehow more efficient in situations that are more often, left without structure….in an NBA where defense is considerably harder to take advantage of…..

  • LakeShow

    I’m sure he’ll rise….. till he falls down.

    The dude is injury prone and on the wrong side of 30. He doesn’t have a high threshold for pain. He will probably play a similar number of games to KB.

    KB and Harden will do more as #1 options than Wade will as a #2.

  • pposse

    Well thats my prediction you wanna wager a pokemon card on it?

  • King David

    Melo > Durant

  • LakeShow

    No.
    You probably think Wade had a better year last year than KB, so I would wager nothing with you.

    You also probably would think you won on a bet about Rose having a better year than Chris Paul last season.

    “He empowered the team from the bench even more than CP did on the court!”

  • Kim Hargreaves

    Nothing wrong with being the second best player in the world, KD keeps improving every year too. Dude is young enough to still be in his prime when Lebron falls off.
    All that said, weak write up. I want to read why these guys deserve their positions.

  • danpowers

    could please everybody who voted him as “worse than no.2″ be banned from here? thanks

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Ahhhh.. 1.6 rounds down to 1.5…

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    I take howard…if I can trade him for durant and a draft pick. :-)

  • Feez_22

    To address you last point, Davis was a pg for the majority of his basketball life. He only switched to being a PF/C because he had a massive growth spurt. He was a 6’3 PG at the beginning of his junior year in HS. Dude grew to 6’10 in 1 year lol. That’s one of the reasons why he has skills you wouldn’t expect from a big man such as his shooting, dribbling, perimeter defense, etc.

    Pretty crazy though lol. I couldn’t imagine growing 7 inches in the span of 1 year.

  • pposse

    ahh i see your scared. That gi joe set i was gonna ask you to wager must be pretty special to you. Its cool tho, I shall remember these outlandish claims.

  • LakeShow

    i’m trembling

  • LakeShow

    1.5 isn’t a rounded figure lol….

    1.5 rounds up to 2.0

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    efficieny is skewed factor in usuage and how much wade actually has chance to make a mistake

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    reminds me of a more polished darius miles nah i just said that to see how you would

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    yeah but you can’t just keep projecting an increase there has to be a plateau.

    I mean if we took that logic then he’ll eventually reach 3 each by the end of his career.

  • Interdico Scriptor

    Paul

  • LakeShow

    It’s rare for superstars to plateau when entering their prime.

  • shutup

    LMAO technically both are rounded figures, 2.0 is a whole number, but rounding is set to what you want to round to. OBV lakeshow is saying round to the nearest whole number, but 1.6 itself is probably a rounded number due to the hundredths that isn’t included (the second spot after the decimal), the more spots after the decimal the more accurate the stat. Although bpg really should have at least 1 space after the decimal (in all reality I think 2 spots after the decimal is standard) or else 95% of all NBA players would avg 0,1 or 2 bpg, and there would be no way of distinguishing a player who avg 1.6 bpg from someone who avg 2.4 bpg. So your both right but both wrong at the same time………

  • shutup

    Tony Parker should be in that top 5, in the “real” world. Still the most decorated pg in the league, and if he keeps doing what he did last year no reason he wont be in the convo for MVP, albeit probably for third or fourth runner up, mainly due to the fact that he plays for the best coach in basketball, and isn’t asked to do everything that Lebron or Durant do for their teams.

  • LakeShow

    lol…You watch Machida knock out Munoz this weekend? Nice hit.

  • shutup

    Crazy stuff, fully expect Silva to regain his belt but in case it doesn’t happen Machida is probably one fight from a title shot, either Bisping or Belfort imo, things get real interesting if Silva wins, and Machida finds his way to #1 contender. I would love to see Machida vs Weidman even if its not for the belt. Machida does well against wrestlers (not named Jon Jones)

  • LakeShow

    Yeah, i’m sure Silva will recapture the belt. If not, fireworks either way, like you said.

    I like Machida’s drop to 185. I bodes well for his future. He did all he could in Light Heavy Weight I think.

    I really liked Jimi Manua’s skill-set. That kid will be climbing the charts big time now in the LHW division.

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