5 Things Kevin Durant Must Do to Win the NBA Championship This Season

  • Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka

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    Renew His Leadership Role

    With Russell Westbrook’s stock shooting past Mars while KD sat out injured last season, it’s going to take a renewed leadership role that involves both Westbrook and Durant holding the reins at different times if they’re looking to win a championship together. Russell Westbrook is no longer KD’s sidekick, he’s proven himself better than that, and KD, arguably, may not even be the best player on the Thunder roster anymore unless he gets back to top form. Not to say Durant should take on a reduced leadership role on the court or in the locker room–he should beckon the Thunder more aggressively now than ever. Instead, he needs to increase his pull while working with less rope, relying more on Westbrook’s court vision and ability to make plays while running up the court. Also, the Thunder brought in another viable scorer in Enes Kanter, who re-signed with the team on a handsome contract in the offseason.

    During their get-go days together, Kevin Durant, truly his brother’s keeper, never publicly pounced on Russell Westbrook after a blunder from the latter, as much as the media enticed him to do so on several occasions. Westbrook, in turn, has never shown hubris Durant’s way. They’ve learned to win together as well as how to lose together, so no doubt it’s the perfect time for them to lead a Thunder team together en route to their first championship (second if you count the SuperSonics 1979 championship).

    image via Keith Allison/Flickr Creative Commons

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    Capped Minutes

    While it makes perfect sense to cap the playing time of a veteran on his last leg–like Byron Scott planning to limit Kobe Bryant’s playing time so he can go out standing up–Kevin Durant, after hauling himself through a long 2013-2014 regular season by playing an average of 42.9 minutes per game in the playoffs, saw fatigue take over as his Thunder played against a strategically well-rested Spurs team in the Western Conference Finals.

    Kevin Durant is only 26 years young, which in basketball terms means he’s approaching his prime years as a player and could very easily, if healthy, play over 40 minutes per game but even young legs can tire and give out. Endurance has to be met with playing-time management (Gregg Popovich has mastered it in dealing with his aged Spurs squad) if you’re looking to keep momentum in full swing well into the playoffs. Also, Durant, with nerves that are made of steel, is making his return from an injury-riddled 2014-2015 season, so if you’re Billy Donovan, you may want to proceed cautiously and allow Durant to slowly get into his groove.

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    Build On Team Chemistry

    While KD’s frustration and cynicism in dealing with the media is well documented (and understood), he does keep ears to what the media and public are saying about him and his Thunder team. In a GQ article, Kevin Durant referred to Westbrook as “an emotional guy who will run through a wall for me…” and acknowledged the public perception that OKC is worse now than they were when they had James Harden.

    While KD and Westbrook are knotted together in trust and harmony, they have to expand and let their team in on some of that too. It’s been proven over the years that no one or two players can lead their team alone to a championship. Instead, it takes smoking guns on all fronts to win a title, from star players down to the last guy on the roster. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Thunder play or trade up the hand they’ve been dealt in the start of the season and what moves they’ll make to add some needed depth to their roster.

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    Pressure Front Office For Talent Acquisition

    While KD rightfully refuses to take questions regarding his free agency bid next year, as if there weren’t enough day-to-day distractions, there’s no denying that the heat is on the Thunder’s front office and management to provide Durant with a cushion of reliable support if they plan on keeping him. Russell Westbrook’s contract with the Thunder runs until the 2017 season but Durant’s and Westbrook’s bid for winning a championship together seems to be now or never over the course of these next two years…that’s if Durant opts to stay and sign an extension with the team after this season.

    Aside from securing a long-term deal with Durant, bringing on role players and adding depth to the roster should be the Thunder’s other main focus, especially if they want the former to happen. The pressure is on the team’s front office to build and manage a championship-caliber team.

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    Just Do Him

    While we can list the countless things KD can do/should do to improve his game and up his chances of winning a championship, things like strengthening the upper half of his body or making an off-the-court deal with the devil somewhere, the truth is KD has the skill, killer instinct, and competitive drive it takes to lead the Thunder to a championship so as long as he’s able to stay healthy. Once he’s able to fully overcome the mental hurdles that accompany injuries, he’ll be able to get back to doing him, which means using the offseason to improve, going full stride and beastmode in his return on the court and fueling his desire for a championship more and more. The Thunder always have a fighting chance if they keep a healthy squad, which is more than you say about a lot of other teams in the league; what’s left is to go out and get it.

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  • Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka
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  • Kevin Durant
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant at full health is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world. While LeBron James, Magic Johnson to Durant’s Larry Bird, has hoisted up the Larry O’Brien championship trophy twice in-between the Spurs reign and Golden State’s rapid rise (starring Stephen Curry) atop a loaded Western Conference, Durant has been dealt one tough break after another. There were the injuries last season that sent OKC to the lottery. There were playoff injuries in prior years for both Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook. Before that, there was the trade of James Harden.

During Durant’s absence, a perfervid Russell Westbrook picked up where Durant left off by clinching the 2014-2015 NBA scoring title. Oklahoma City’s wins couldn’t match Westbrook’s numbers on offense as the Thunder failed to nab the eighth seed to make the playoffs. To make matter worse for an already limp Thunder team, they lost Ibaka during a critical, late-season push to make the playoffs.

Kevin Durant, who dubbed himself “The Servant,” is looking to reclaim his status as one of the best ballers on the planet. The Thunder’s top three with Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka are all healthy and ready to go for the upcoming regular season. They’re looking to bounce back as one of the Western Conference’s premier teams.

For KD to win a championship, however, it’s going to take more than a just healthy squad. Here are 5 Things Kevin Durant Must Do to Win the NBA Championship This Season that don’t involve KD jumping ship to a manicured, championship-finalized squad.

image via Nike