Kevin Durant is not performing at his top level for the Phoenix; however, his impact is obvious and needed for the Suns versus the Denver Nuggets.
At this point in the postseason, few Suns fans would say KD has been lighting it up. Durant has been off-kilter since returning from his ankle injury and has yet to reach the level we all expect he will. Despite this, KD is fifth in the league in scoring during these playoffs at 29.3 points per game, and more importantly, he is doing something no other Suns player seems to do, get to the free throw line.
Durant changes the equation regarding fouls for the Suns
We know stars get calls in the NBA, and superstars get calls, yet Phoenix has never really had a player the officials loved. Despite pouring in 47 points and going 20 of 25 from the field, if not for a late foul to stop the clock, Devin Booker would not have taken any free throws during his historic Game 3 performance. Alternatively, Durant lived at the line, a new one for Suns fans.
Although his attempts are down across the three games series at just 7.3 per game, overall, through eight playoff games, KD is fourth in the league in attempts per game at 8.4. Unfortunately, Booker is not getting the same kind of respect, getting the line just six times per night behind superstars like Malik Monk and Norman Powell. But I digress because this article is about Durant and the fact that he does get the benefit of the doubt with some calls.
As a team, the Suns are averaging 23 attempts per game – the Clippers series skews that number – imagine how low that number would be without KD. Durant’s 8+ attempts per night help keep Phoenix in games they would otherwise be whistled out of, as Durant gets calls no other Suns player does. Just like Nikola Jokic gets calls, Deandre Ayton does not.
For all Mikal Bridges has done for Brooklyn, he gets fewer calls than Booker, averaging just 5.8 attempts per game in the postseason. Thus while Durant has not quite looked the part, the benefit of having one of the all-time greats on the team is real, even when he is off. The mark of a true scorer is a player who can find a way to produce even when they are not at their best, Durant is a true scorer, and the Suns are the beneficiaries.
The good news is KD will bust out at some point, but until then, if he can at least keep getting a few calls, the Suns have a chance, and he is playing his part.