The Independence Day move of Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors was the biggest free-agent move since the last one. Ok, so it was a bigger deal than most of them. A perennial MVP contender moving to a team that blew a 3-1 lead in the most recent NBA finals, their inability to achieve the elusive fourth victory costing them back-to-back titles.
Durant was heavily criticized for choosing Golden State. He had met with several teams, including Oklahoma and more stories franchises like the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs, but chose to go to a team that was already set up to win a title. Critics noted that the Miami Heat that LeBron James joined back in 2010 had gone 47-35 the previous season, while the Warriors famously won an NBA record 73 games last year.
Some pointed out that it was a bit rich for the Thunder to feel aggrieved at losing their best player when the franchise itself had moved from Seattle in between Durant’s rookie and sophomore seasons in the NBA. Durant, who this week donated $57,000 to an Oklahoma homeless school that will enable the facility to buy new land, is scheduled to return to play the Thunder in February.
Regardless of one’s view on the move and what it means for the future of the NBA and the ability that teams will have to rebuild through careful drafting and player development, it has been striking how well Durant has settled in to the Warriors rotation. The Warriors have an NBA best 22-4 record at the time of writing and Durant’s production as part of this super-team has been surprisingly consistent with his production last year as part of a two-man tandem in Oklahoma. His points per game has dropped to 25.9, which would be the fourth lowest average of his career if it maintained throughout the season.
He is still playing roughly 3/4 of each game, though his minutes are at a career low level if you set aside his injury plagued 2014-2015 season. He’s shooting a career-low 16.9 shots each game, but at a career-high 53.5%. His 4.7 attempts from 3 have predictably dropped, though he is still shooting 4.7 per game at just over 40%, while his 2 point FG% is at a career-high 58.5%. In all other statistical categories he is either as good as, or better, than his career averages and the only categories that have seen a drop off from last season are defensive rebounds (7.5 down from 7.6, but compensated by a 0.1 increase in offensive rebounds) and assists (4.6 from 5). He’s turning the ball over less as well, only 2.2 times per game.
He’s also grown a couple of inches since arriving in Oakland…