Rare Game: 5 Things That Make Kevin Durant the NBA’s Most Unique Player

  • Kevin Durant
    Length

    On DraftExpress’ measurements page, it lists Durant with a 7-4.75 wingspan. I’d advise taking that for truth, considering most of his measurements were officially taken before the 2007 Draft. I’ve also heard 7-4.75 more than once. Either way, know this: There are very few players with longer official wingspan measurements. Shaq was 7-7. ‘Zo wasn’t far behind. In today’s game, you have to look at players like Andre Drummond, Larry Sanders, DeAndre Jordan, Brook Lopez, DeMarcus Cousins, and Anthony Davis. I think you can see what I’m getting at here. They’re all big men. No one that checks Durant out on the wings is even in the same league when it comes to length.

    Add in his high release and you can see why it’s impossible to block his shot. Last season, Durant somehow managed to shoot 39 percent from deep and that was despite just 56 percent of his treys being assisted, by far a career low. As he has gotten older, KD has scored more and more of his points by creating his own shot in isolation settings. Because of his incredible length, there’s not a player in the league that can even bother that jumper.

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  • Kevin Durant
    Small hands

    Okay, this one isn’t unique unless you want to loop Durant in with other “6-10” players with 7-5 wingspans. But it’s still really interesting.

    Oklahoma City’s media day was business as usual this year. However, there was one interesting tidbit to come out of the team’s media availability. Apparently, in direct contrast to some past photos, Kevin Durant cannot palm a basketball. Darnell Mayberry, The Oklahoman beat writer, tweeted out that Durant cannot palm a ball.

    Huh?

    Mayberry wrote, “Almost every photographer asked Durant to pose with the ball palmed in his hand. And every time Durant quickly, almost sheepishly, conceded that he couldn’t. The photographers moved on to the next idea.”

    That’s surprising, but not so much so. Phil Jackson famously predicted that Kobe Bryant was a better shooter than Jordan because MJ’s hands were just too big. Dwyane Wade is another current NBA player — and another star who is not a great jump shooter — with monstrous hands. Maybe there is something to that? Is Durant such an incredible shooter because he has smaller than expected hands for someone his size? Maybe we should ask the Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, because he might own the NBA’s biggest pair of mitts.

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  • 50/40/90

    Speaking of shooting, Durant’s percentages did drop slightly last season, though we can’t really blame him. He was asked to do more than ever (career-high usage rate), with less help from teammates. He took more shots than ever (20.8 per game) and way more triples than ever before (6.1). That being said, it would’ve been nearly impossible to match his shooting from the 2012-13 season. That year saw KD shoot 51 percent from the field, nearly 42 percent from deep, and almost 91 percent from the line. He joined the likes of Larry Bird, Mark Price, Steve Nash, Reggie Miller, Jose Calderon, and Dirk Nowitzki as the only every-night members of the 50/40/90 club in the last 30 years. (Steve Kerr also did it in ’96 but he played less than 2,000 minutes.)

    The amazing thing about Durant’s season was that he took the third-most shots of anyone in that group, scored the most points, and provided the most win shares. Basically, Durant kept up his unreal percentages despite being asked to do more than just about anyone else on that list.

    To get an idea how special this club is, Ray Allen is generally considered the best jump shooter of all time and he never came close to 50/40/90.

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  • Kevin Durant
    One-leg fadeaway

    Durant often gets compared to Dirk Nowitzki. With good reason, too. Both are abnormally tall jump shooters who can score in a variety of ways and don’t need superior athleticism to do it. Durant admits he’s studied the Dallas star since he was in middle school, and once said he was just 13 years old when he started working to master Nowitzki’s famous one-legged fadeaway. Kobe Bryant might be the only other player in the NBA that goes to the well consistently, but even he can’t do it like Dirk or Durant.

    “I just tried it one day when I was working out in the summer,” Durant once told ESPN Dallas. “It was rougher than I thought it was going to be, so it took me some time to figure it out, but I think I’m doing all right with it.”

    It’s an impossible shot to block, and it helps add an element to Durant’s game that’s difficult to replicate. It’s also a shot that knows no age barriers. As long as Durant is in the league, he’ll be making this shot look easy, lofting fadeaways over the top of defenders.

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  • Double-crossover

    I’ve written about this move before. Most wouldn’t expect to see this on a list of KD’s patented moves, but he uses the double-crossover enough that it has to be there. He’s also one of the few players in the entire league that can pull it off effectively.

    You can’t expect most 6-10 players to handle the ball like this, yet Durant routinely catches defenders with his patented double-crossover. Part of that is his ability to stay low, some is the threat of his deadly pull-up, but mostly it’s because of his freakish wingspan. A 7-4 wingspan lets KD show you the ball and then really go. Durant uses this setup move as often as anyone.

    My words. What’s Darrell Arthur supposed to do with this? He’s caught in-between trying to defend the drive, which you must because of Durant’s long strides, and the jumper, which you must because of the high release point.

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  • Kevin Durant
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kevin Durant

From the MVP speech to his demeanor with everyone from the media to the fans to the way he treats his teammates, there are a lot of ways in which Kevin Durant is unique. But on the court, he’s even more rare.

“I think he is the single most difficult guy to defend, and even when you defend him well, in most cases, he just missed the shot,” Doc Rivers told ESPN Los Angeles last year, adding that he’s felt that way for three or fours years. “He’s unique. I guess if you gave George Gervin five more inches, he’d be similar. But I don’t think we’ve ever seen a Durant. He’s Kevin Durant.”

Having just celebrated his 26th birthday, Durant has improved his game every year in the NBA. It still won’t make you the popular kid in school, considering Durant hasn’t won a title, but you can argue he’s already the best player in the NBA. The amazing part is he’s still just hitting his prime, stepping his overall game up to the point where last season he was more efficient than LeBron James — he had a lower turnover rate (10.3 to 11.4) despite a higher usage rate (31.2 to 29.1) — nearly matched his passing and rebounding numbers (though he averaged more boards per game, LeBron had a higher rebounding rate), and outscored everyone in the NBA by almost five points. It’s been nearly 30 years since a player won the scoring title by that wide of a margin. (Michael Jordan last did it in 1987 by averaging 37.1 a night.)

Despite the foot injury that could keep him out for up to two months, Durant is special no matter how you slice it up. With yet another dope colorway of the Nike KD7 dropping this Thursday at Champs Sports, we’re celebrating the dawning of a new age in the NBA with a player that’s never been seen before. Durant has rare game. Here are 5 Things That Make Kevin Durant the NBA’s Most Unique Player.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney