NBA, The NBA's 30 Best Go-To Players / Oct 7, 2009 / 1:55 pm

The NBA’s 30 best go-to players (#15: Kevin Durant)

Kevin Durant

Who do you want your offense to run through with everything on the line? Counting down 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…

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#15: KEVIN DURANT, Thunder

Like his partner-in-precociousness, Derrick Rose, the challenge with Kevin Durant is to not give him too much, too soon.

Challenging because, at just 21 years old with what still looks like a teenager’s body, Durant ranked sixth in the NBA in scoring last season at 25.3 points per game. Challenging because his Oklahoma City team — which is undeniably his — showed signs of promise late in the schedule and got even better over the summer. Challenging because, if you speak to KD at length, as I did this summer for a Dime cover story, you see the competitive fire and desire to be No. 1 on these kinds of lists escaping from his pores like two-a-day sweat. Challenging because, well, he’s just that f’n good.

Durant may have more natural scoring ability than anyone — yes, anyone — in the NBA. But those skills that seem like his birthright overshadow the real reason why he’s on pace to run this League: He also has a ton of learned scoring ability. Durant couldn’t drop 25 a game with an entire defense planned around him if it was as simple as throwing a ball into a basket on instinct. He does it because he’s a student of the game, with the work ethic of a Shaolin monk. KD soaks up on-court lessons from colleagues and coaches, and studies team-building tactics from proven winners like Tim Duncan. Vegas or the Virgin Islands, he works out when he’s on vacation. And I’d take an educated guess that, if there were no basketballs at said getaway, he’d do like Shep in Above the Rim and spend the weekend playing ball without a ball. Durant would be good if he didn’t try — which means he’ll be great because he tries so hard.

You have to begin with the jumper, his primary weapon that he can unleash from short to long-range from multiple angles. It’s the foundation of an arsenal that allows him to get points in the post, on the drive, and at the line. Although naturally humble, Durant even admits he can score with anybody. His areas in need of improvement, most notably rebounding and defense, don’t factor as much into the go-to guy equation, but playing a more complete game will put KD’s team in better position to be competitive, where he can then show his crunch-time brilliance more often and on bigger stages.

Tellingly, Durant’s most standout clutch moments last year were attached to OKC losses. Twice against the Nuggets, once in January and again in February, Durant hit a go-ahead bucket in the final seconds — only to be trumped by a Carmelo Anthony knockout punch in the end. Against New Orleans, KD scored 21 of his season-high 47 points in the fourth quarter, until Chris Paul had the last word with a game-winning shot.

And that’s mainly what holds Durant back for now. Talented as he is, you can’t be considered an elite go-to player when your team wins 23 games out of 82. A top-percentile player doesn’t allow his team to go 4-29 before New Year’s Day, as the Thunder did last season. Yeah, I know he can’t do it all by himself, but that’s how basketball works. Individual greatness can’t be fully realized until you have a strong team around you that makes for black-and-white results.

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16. Gilbert Arenas
17. Derrick Rose
18. Chris Bosh
19. Andre Iguodala
20. Tracy McGrady
21. Baron Davis
22. Michael Redd
23. Devin Harris
24. Kevin Martin
25. Al Jefferson
26. O.J. Mayo
27. Stephen Jackson
28. Nate Robinson
29. Boris Diaw
30. Rip Hamilton

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  • Mellmeister

    He’s on his way to NBA Elite… but mayne… he needs to bulk up so that people wouldn’t know what he’s gonna do… he’s so skinny… got a WNBA ready body too like Rubio… hahahaha! but i haven’t seen anyone like him since T-Mac shot the lights out in Orlando…

  • http://swagbucks.com ProphetGK

    Look out for the Thunder for this season and in the future, no doubt that when lakers and celts are about to restructure OKC and KD aka “mac and cheese” are going bring it home…

  • DTUCK

    Durrant is syc, and heads shouldn’t sleep on OKC this year. I’m a Kobe and Laker fan, but I have to admit that KDiggz is a star.

  • D.H.

    Remember, the question that was asked is, “Who do you want your offense to run through with everything on the line?” and you are listing Durant as number 15?!? The guy averaged over 25 points a game last season. He defines the phrase ‘pure scorer’. And I can see him winning the scoring title in the not to distant future. This is not a list of the most complete player. This is all about offense. And here you have a 6-10 forward who can kill the opposing team from just about anywhere on the floor.

    You either need to re-phrase your question or re-edit your post.

    I’m curious to see

  • Kobeef

    It sucks to read this article if you are a blazers fan.

    If James Harden can step into a sidekick role to Durant, the Thunder are going to be very good. Westbrook is already the under rated PG that none of the elite PG’s want to face.

  • Big Sia

    PROPS FOR HAVING VC TOP 15

  • Patrick

    This is way too low. The only people ahead of him should be Kobe, Lebron, Pierce, Melo, Roy and DWade. Maybe Dirk. Just because the other kids on his team haven’t stepped in to the grown up game completely yet doesn’t mean KD is not the man.

  • kevin k

    Durant at 15??? yea his team sucks but if you are talking about go-to player, he should be easily be in top 10… I rather have Durant than Melo

  • Bizz

    16. Gilbert Arenas
    17. Derrick Rose
    18. Chris Bosh
    19. Andre Iguodala
    20. Tracy McGrady
    21. Baron Davis
    22. Michael Redd
    23. Devin Harris
    24. Kevin Martin
    25. Al Jefferson
    26. O.J. Mayo
    27. Stephen Jackson
    28. Nate Robinson
    29. Boris Diaw
    30. Rip Hamilton
    …so apparently there is somebody on Phoenix (Amare/Nash), and Atlanta (Joe Johnson) that is considered to be a better go to guy than Kevin Durant?…I don’t care how much points Amare scores in a game, if he’s gonna score a ranking higher than Kevin Durant, then CB4 and Al-Jeff deserve similar rankings, and they’re actually THE offence on their teams, not a product of the system like Amare is. As for Joe Johnson’s training staff needing to learn CPR and the Heimlich to prevent him from choking, Durantula got robbed here @ 15. He’s a better go to guy than Deron Williams as well (no disrespect to Deron)…this list was a joke when Al Jeff was thrown under the bus @ 25, but now I’m puking at the screen at this bogus rating.

    And with the GM ratings all saying “don’t give it to LeBron with the game on the line”…I wonder if DIME agrees with them, or will they just continue to disrespect the people who have time and time again won with the game on the line. I better not even see LeBron in the top 4 (Kobe, Wade, Pierce, Melo)

  • Jake

    This kid is poised for a breakout year. He has unbelieveable skill and is slowly becoming one of the best in the game and he’s only entering his third season. He as a player is a beast. The interesting thing though is that you factor in his team, which GM Sam Presti (part of the illustrious Spur’s management tree) has methodically built and collected pieces and assets. They’ll have money for free agents next season and arguably the BEST young core in the game with KD, Westbrook, Green, and Harden. The way this team has been built, if things go according to plan, they’ll mesh and become really good just when teams like LA, Boston and San Antonio are in their final twilight years. If they add the right free agent next summer and this cast continues to grow behind the potential of KD, this team could arguably be the next Spurs esque’ dynasty.

    I know that is a ton of IF’s, and alot of potential praise but this team really does have the oppurtunity to be something great. Only time will tell however.

  • KenAdams

    @ #9 Bizz – He’s a better go to guy than Deron Williams as well.

    I think you hit you head to many times, Deron is better.

  • doc

    He definitly belongs on this list.Once his defense steps up a notch or 2 he can shoot damn near to the top.And whoever think being a go to player is all about offense you dont know the game very well.

  • doc

    And until a D will led team win 20 games.He aint a better go to shit.

  • doc

    And until a D will led team win 20 games,or get farther than a D Will led team,He aint a better go to shit.

  • knock knock

    LOL, a kevin durant “go to player” got them to the worst record in the L. Who cares if he scores a lotta points, this skinny kid is just shooting jumpers. That, and he’s giving up 35 to the opposing player. it’s ridiculous

  • the cynic

    Right now. Joe Johnson>>>>>>>>>Kevin Durant. I bet Durant is nice in nba 2k though, you know the game where he can actually win games

    Durant is going to be a beast 3 years from now though

  • the cynic

    “I rather have Durant than Melo”

    hahaha, Melo would send Durant home crying like he just took his lunch money

  • sh!tfaced

    Gotta second that. It damn sucks to read this if you are a Blazers fan. Hah!

  • Bizz

    Jerry Sloan alone makes Utah 42-42 just by coaching the team…so if you’re going to go by records determining a go to guy’s value, I can’t wait to see how moronic the list is gonna look when you start to get into the top 10 guys. By your same logic, LeBron is the #1 go to guy based on last season’s record, yet no GM (and if it was a poll of 30 GMs, even his OWN GM didn’t pick him) as the go to guy. And for the record, Deron is a better player, but not a better GO TO GUY than Durant. Put Durant with a coach like Sloan, and the words “Kevin Durant” and “20 win season” would never be put in the same sentence. His team was basically an expansion team and he was STILL worthy of being the starting SF and was snubbed from the Western Allstars.

  • http://swagbucks.com ProphetGK

    Here’s my list:

    1. Mamba
    2. LBJ
    3. Wade
    4. B-Roy
    5. Durant

    Nuff said

  • doc

    Yall hyping Durant up.Let him accomplish something first.Bron get bashed for his career on here but KD the 35 point scorer/slash 20 game winner is the messiah.Please.He can be top 5 but you not if you win 20.And you damn right I go by records.Sloan aint coaching no bums to a lot of wins.He had Stock and Malone,when they left Utah stunk until D Will came.They just got him real quick.U hyping Sloan up too.

  • http://uoregon.edu sans

    those results are racist