Finding a comparison for Kevin Durant has always been impossible.
From the moment he entered the league in 2007, he was a gifted scorer. Seven feet tall, with impossible length, his movements on the floor seem alien-like — like he was created in a laboratory to play basketball. If LeBron James is the cerebral pinnacle of the NBA, Kevin Durant is gifted talent in its most raw form. He’s tall, he can shoot, he can leap, and he can do all these things well enough to have a career scoring average of 27.2 points. That’s fourth all-time, behind just Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Elgin Baylor.
In the last two seasons, we’ve seen him defend at an All-NBA level too. With Oklahoma City, he was able to affect Golden State’s drives to the basket in last year’s instant classic of a Western Conference Final. Despite his slender appearance, he was completely able to hold his own at the power forward position and play free safety. With the Warriors and Draymond Green, he’s even more mobile — able to close long spaces of basketball floor with one stride, blocking or changing shots all over the floor.
So if Kevin Durant, now 28 years old and at the height of his powers on both ends of the floor, is as great as his play suggests, why haven’t we started his legacy conversation?
Coming into this NBA Finals series, the main figurehead was LeBron James. Already a champion three times and dominant in his run of success in the Eastern Conference (12 years and counting), James has been public in his chase for the greatest of all-time. As our Joshua Howe so artfully put it on this site last week, this is a complex comparison — and one that’s inhaled the NBA conversation. LeBron or Jordan? Modern basketball or that of yesteryear? Because James is playing a team as brilliant as the Golden State Warriors, his David vs. Goliath story is even more intriguing because he seems on the verge of overtaking Jordan.
James’ orbit is powerful, and it’s swallowed Kevin Durant’s ability to pass him objectively. While Durant’s play has overshadowed all comers in the first two games of the Finals, nobody seems all that entertained by the basketball machine. Scoring 71 points on 27-for-48 shooting would be enough to draw widened eyeballs in any other year, but because of Durant’s offseason circumstances, they seem tainted.
So much had to happen to bring Durant to a 73-win Golden State team. His willingness was the least of these factors — who wouldn’t want to sign a max contract for a team that was one Kyrie Irving shot away from winning the title? The salary cap spike happened at a perfect time, allowing the Warriors the space to sign him while keeping their other three Hall of Fame assets in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
Then, once he got there, the Warriors were downright boring in their excellence. They sleepwalked through the regular season, and are now 15–0 in the playoffs with only three victories closer than 10 points. They’ve been the biggest villains in what’s become the most boring, uncompetitive playoffs in recent NBA history.
Durant and the Warriors are so great, so unassailable, that they’ve turned LeBron James — the best player in the game for over a decade — into an underdog once again. They’ve actually made James’ case against Jordan stronger in some respects. Jordan never had to go through a team like Golden State to win one of his six championships, much less do so three times in as many years.
Even with LeBron fighting, we know what’s happening here after three games. The Warriors will win the title, in four or five games. They will be the best team — by far — going into next season. Kevin Durant will continue to make shots with the graceful ease we’ve seen over the last 10 seasons.
It just isn’t as definitive when there’s no competition, though. Finding Durant’s legacy will be an ongoing and frustrating conversation around the NBA. Deciding whether he deserves a third seat at LeBron and MJ’s table will take time, and perhaps moreso because of who Durant has chosen to surround himself with.
Context is everything in the NBA, and finding a comparison for Kevin Durant continues to be an impossibility.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
Something Out of Nothing
It’s March 2016, and I’m driving with Alan Shane Lewis to Montreal to meet with Marc Griffin and Phil Boileau. We’re meeting to speak about this exciting new idea I pitched to them. We were tired of spinning the wheels on our own individual internet shows, and I told them that it was time we stopped waiting for a network and became the network.
We spoke that weekend about creating a community of content creators that all loved ball and came together to make unique content with unique voices – voices we felt were never heard in the mainstream. This community was the base of Press and we’d continue to push forward from that spot. We spoke about some amazing show ideas, article ideas, social media plan. It was truly an exciting time, and still one of the best weekends of my life.
Two years later and that group is a lot smaller, and that idea is Press Basketball.
It caught fire at the beginning and we had people joining our bright shiny new plaything left, right, and center. It was exciting, but now I kind of realize that a lot of it was just that we were that “bright shiny new thing”.
We ended up with a lot of Press Basketball “members” but when I stepped back and looked at what was happening… it wasn’t what I’d imagined. The fire burned out. The idea was gone. We had just become another thing trying to stay alive, waiting for some deus ex machina to show up with money and make everything okay.
I’ve gone through most of my life making something out of nothing. It’s never easy, but when it happens it’s always worth it… ALWAYS. Press made me feel alive at a point. It was literally all I could think about, and while it still is on my mind, it doesn’t make me feel alive. This hurts more than I can ever explain.
Changes are coming my friends. We’re not laying down and dying, and if we do it’s not going to be like this.
The core of Press will be setting fire to a lot over the next few weeks and I personally can’t wait for this to start. From the ashes something new will rise (I watched a lot of XMEN growing up).
Stay tuned, because it’s not over.
Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers
Lonzo Ball is the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. The new savior. The Big Baller Brand is now here to stay and LaVar Ball’s family’s future is set. But is that enough?
Lonzo Ball is a great kid and athlete who knows his talent will take him to another level. The major question mark that remains is whether or not he will take the Lakers there as well. He has the platform and skillset to do so, but with that comes the added pressure from the city and league to basically become part of the next version of Kobe and Shaq. It’s too strainful for a young kid—a rookie—to achieve.
Magic Johnson, the recently named President of Basketball of Operations for the Lakers, is taking an aggressive approach to get this team back into playoff contention his first year in. One of his first moves was sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. Brook Lopez is definitely an upgrade at center, but has a couple of years already under his belt.
Lopez will provide a much needed veteran presence with a great IQ for the game at his position. The only downfall is that a couple of years under his belt doesn’t really transfer to great experience, but simply wasted miles on his body. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and doesn’t even rank in the top 10 centers in the league. In fact, Bleacher Report had him last season at exactly 15 out of the top 30 centers in the NBA. While he is has improved by adding the three-point range to his arsenal, there is no doubt that he is nearly past his prime, and although he can still contribute on a nightly basis, who knows how much and what effect it will have with Lonzo Ball running the point.
Ball has great court vision that has been often compared to that of LeBron James. Combined with his passing skills, he is a true PG with tremendous upside in the backcourt. With that being said, he will only reach a certain extent. His full potential is years from being maximized and people are buying into it early on. In fact, the pressure for him to lift a sub .500 team to the playoffs for the first time in five years is daunting.
These are Lonzo Ball’s stats during his rookie—and only—year at UCLA:
- 14.6 Points
- 7.6 Assists
- 6.0 Rebounds
- 1.8 Steals
- 0.8 Blocks
- 55.1 FG%
- 41.2 3P%
He did a tremendous job maintaining that statline and even added a triple-double in the NBA Summer League, earning him the Summer League MVP.
Don’t get me wrong, Ball seems ready for the challenge and is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent mirroring that of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but he is not an All-Star or MVP—at least, not yet. These way-too-early predictions that he is the Lakers’ new savior are farfetched. He has yet to face the elite NBA offensive threats and superstars that have been at it for 10-plus years. Defensively speaking he will not be able to keep up. Not in his first year. He still needs NBA experience and a more rounded roster to be able to reach the playoffs.
He is off to a good start, but being named NBA Summer League MVP doesn’t necessarily mean a spectacular season is coming as some think it does. Especially if you consider the previous Summer League MVP winners.
|2012||Damian Lillard (co-MVPs)||PG||Portland Trail Blazers|
|Josh Selby (co-MVPs)||PG||Memphis Grizzlies|
|2013||Jonas Valančiūnas||C||Toronto Raptors|
|2014||Glen Rice Jr.||SG||Washington Wizards|
|2015||Kyle Anderson||SF||San Antonio Spurs|
|2016||Tyus Jones||PG||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|2017||Lonzo Ball||PG||Los Angeles Lakers|
With the exceptions of Damian Lillard in 2012 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2013, the past five Summer League MVP winners have gone on to produce very mediocre NBA careers. All I’m saying is, don’t read too much into NBA Summer League. It’s the pre-preseason that no one really watches or cares about.
The NBA season is nearing—exactly a month away—and my somewhat harsh criticism of Lonzo Ball isn’t too cruel. I am just not ready to jump on the Ball bandwagon following LaVar’s prophecies of his son being the Lakers prodigal son. He won’t be. Again, at least not yet. He needs to earn his spot and the transition will surprise him his first year in. It will hit him hard, but, despite my concerns, eventually Lonzo Ball will become a future NBA All-Star and a daring NBA point guard.
Not yet though, and until then all we can do is prepare for his official NBA debut. Until then, we can enjoy and bask in his newly released rap single paying tribute to his little brother LaMelo Ball.
If the NBA doesn’t end up being his calling in life, at least he has a back up career in mind.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
An Ode to the 2007-2008 Warriors
USA VS EVERYBODY | The Break | Episode 17
Trading Places | The Break | Episode 18
February Fouls | The Break | Episode 16
Christmas Day Showdowns | The Break | Episode 10
Western Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 1
Eastern Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 2
NBA & More Mailbag with Josh Howe — TWT 102
Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview with Keith Parish — TWT 101
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