Top 50: Kevin Durant, no. 2

by October 24, 2013

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.

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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.