10th Grade Rantings
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When college basketball players make the jump to the NBA, many expectations are placed on these players. Whether you were a superstar point guard, a good power forward, or a multi-dimensional shooting guard, if you are selected high in the draft, you will be expected to do something. At the position of small forward, this is no exception. When these guys are drafted, there is always one slogan that judges their potential:

The sky is the limit.

There are small forwards like LeBron James, guys who are drafted with expectations through the roof, who are talented enough to become superstars. There are small forwards like Carmelo Anthony, who turn into very good (although overrated) players. There are small forwards like Marvin Williams, who turn out to be very underrated, and successful players, but because of their expecations, are labeled as busts. There are small forwards like Adam Morrison, who seem more like good bench players, rather than the 20 point scorer they were counted on to be. And then there are guys who really do fit the judgment of their talent. There happens to be one player, who is especially true of this notion.

Even if you don't know it...yet.

That guy? Really? Yes, he wasn't the first pick of his draft. Yes, he didn't lead his team out of the lottery. And yes, he hasn't even been an All-Star yet. But trust me, Kevin Durant has all the makings of a future superstar, much to the surprise of many basketball fans. Sure, Durant now has columnists writing about him, he is getting more attention from the media, and he now does get talked about on ESPN. But does anyone realize just how special of a player Kevin Durant is?

To show everyone just how good Durant is thus far, we are going to compare him to some other NBA figures, guys who get attention 24/7, guys who are talked about as future Hall of Famers, guys who are considered the elite of the most competitive laegue in the world. Guys who aren't skinny, shy, 20 year olds, right? So, get ready to look at Durant's career, and some superstars at the same point in their careers.

 

LeBron James is arguably the best player in the NBA. He is an Olympic gold medalist, an MVP candidate, an Eastern Conference champion, and the best small forward in the world. But how do his second year numbers stack up against Durant's?

Kevin Durant- 26 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 48% FG, 43% 3PT, 86% FT, 3.2 TO

LeBron James- 27.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.2 APG, 2.2 SPG, 47% FG, 35% 3PT, 75% FT, 3.3 TO

Yes, Kevin Durant is no LeBron James. But for the probable best player in the world to be going against Durant, the stats are surprisingly similar, aren't they? LeBron scores more and gets more assists and rebounds, although the scoring and rebounding are close; but remember Durant weighs just 215 pounds, so as he gets bigger, so will his rebounding numbers. LeBron got more steals, but that was the peak of his career, so if his steals went down, it is possible that Durant's could go up. But what about shooting? It's a clean sweep for Durant, as he has better percentages than LeBron in all three categories. The turnovers are close, and overall, LeBron is the better player, but they are much closer than expected.

  

Carmelo Anthony is one of the most popular NBA players in the world. He is an All-Star, a great scorer, a two time member of the United States Olympic basketball team, a gold medalist, and a top five small forward. So how do his second year numbers look against Durant's?

Kevin Durant- 26 PPG, 6.6. RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 48% FG, 43% 3PT, 86% FT, 3.2 TO

Carmelo Anthony- 20.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, .9 SPG, 43% FG, 26% 3PT, 79% FT, 3 TO

As you look at those, the conclusion is striking: Carmelo is regarded as one of the best young players in the NBA, and Durant seems to be better than him at everything, at this point in their careers. Carmelo is 6-8, so Durant pulling in almost one rebound more a game is impressive, considering Caremlo is considered a top rebounding small forward. Durant is also a much better shooter than him, and shoots and astounding 17% better from downtown. Of course, Carmelo really broke out the next season, so his stats got better. But that also means that Durant's stats could increase, as well.

  

Paul Pierce is exemplifies everything a young player wants to be; he is a good teammate, an All-Star, and an NBA champion. Both he and Durant were drafted with high expectations, so how does Durant look compared to The Truth?

Kevin Durant- 26 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 48% FG, 43% 3PT, 86% FT, 3.2 TO

Paul Pierce- 19.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3 APG, 2.1 SPG, 44% FG, 34% 3PT, 79% FT, 2.4 TO

Pierce was one of the more complete young players when he came into the league, but Durant matches up nicely with him. Durant does score and rebound more, although Pierce gets more steals and assists, but both are close. But as for shooting, Durant again kills Pierce in all three categories. Pierce's turnovers are far less, but they were the lowest of his career that year, so Durant's turnovers could easily increase, or, for that matter, decrease. But if Durant's career turns out anything like Pierce's, it will be considered a big success.

  

Wow. Now, we're really comparing the 20 year old to the big boys. Larry Bird is arguably the greatest small forward to ever play in the NBA, and did numerous great things in his career. Is Durant any match for Larry Legend?

Kevin Durant- 26 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 48% FG, 43% 3PT, 86% FT, 3.2 TO

Larry Bird- 21.2 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2 SPG, 46% FG, 27% 3PT, 86% FT, 3.5 TO

Well, maybe we were getting ahead of ourselves a little bit, huh? Sure, Durant scores more, but Bird didn't have to score at that time. Bird kills him in the rebounds, assists and steals, although the career-high steals in the second year continues. But something very odd sticks out; and that's shooting. Bird is considered one of, if not the, best shooter of all-time. Not only does Durant have a better field goal percentage, and a better free throw percentage, but he kills him in three-point percentage. So for Durant to be the better shooter, out of a 20 year old, and one of the best shooters ever, seems to say something, doesn't it?

  

Whoa, whoa, whoa. MJ? Air Jordan? Are we really going to compare the 20 year old to the best player of all-time, Michael Jordan? Yeah, just for fun, we are going to. Why not? I'm sure Durant has surprised some of you so far, so why not continue the run?

Kevin Durant- 26 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 48% FG, 43% 3PT, 86% FT, 3.2 TO

Michael Jordan- 22.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.1 SPG, 45% FG, 16% 3PT, 84% FT, 2.5 TO

Now, Jordan was a shooting guard. And yes, he was hurt that year and played only 18 games, so these aren't very symbolic of his career. But does this still mean something? Jordan was 6-6, so for Durant to be out-rebounding him by almost 50% is impressive. The assists are the same, and Jordan had less turnovers, while Durant scores more, but Jordan couldn't really score, so that is basically irrelevant. However, again, look at the shooting. Durant out-shoots Jordan from distance by 27% percent! Think about that. I know Jordan's shooting got better, but if that's the case, and Durant's do, as well, what are we looking at? Think about that for a second.

 

Of course, none of this could be complete without comparing what Durant did as a rookie, to what he is doing this year. So, just how much did Kevin Durant elevate his game from his rookie year in the NBA, to his second year?

Kevin Durant (second year)- 26 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 48% FG, 43% 3PT, 86% FT, 3.2 TO

Kevin Durant (rookie year)- 20.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1 SPG, 43% FG, 28% 3PT, 87% FT, 2.9 TO

Well, first off, it looks like someone missed the sophomore slump. Just look at his increase in production from year one, to year two. His scoring is up by more than 20%. His rebounding is up 33%. His assists are up, his defense is improving, and everything else increased (even the turnovers), too. But the big improvement? His shooting. His field goal percentage is up 5%. His free throw shooting is down, but he more than makes up for it from long distance. Just look at that. In just one year, Durant has increased his three-point shooting 15%!

If he can do that in his second year, when he is just 20, what is going to happen in the future? What will he be doing when he is 22? 23? 25? If he keeps improving his game like this, Kevin Durant will be a top ten NBA player in no time. He could be a top five player, or maybe, in five years, he could share the "best player argument" spotlight with Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron. Is it possible?

For great players, the sky is the limit. For Kevin Durant, is the sky really the limit? Maybe we should just check back in five years.

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