One of the most exciting aspects of this upcoming Phoenix Suns season will be getting to watch Kevin Durant play a full year for the team. Due to a couple of injuries, Durant only played eight regular season games with the Suns last year before they headed into the playoffs.
Now Durant, after a busy offseason for the Suns, will have to figure out how to gel with his new teammates while chasing down some history along the way.
Although KD is once again surrounded by a nearly completely new group, he should have no problem adjusting his game to accommodate whoever he shares the floor with.
Durant is possibly the most flexible superstar in history, and there was no greater evidence of that than when he shifted his play style on the fly after being traded to the Suns.
Durant went from the one-man-show he was running in Brooklyn with the Nets to willingly playing second fiddle to Devin Booker. His season usage rating of 31.5 percent fell to 26.8 percent and his assists dropped from 5.3 to 3.5 as he played off-ball more. In turn, his efficiency went up from an already elite true shooting of 67 percent to 69 percent.
With Bradley Beal now in tow, Durant’s numbers should continue that trend as Beal shoulders some of the offensive load. Durant will see even less defensive attention than before and get higher percentage looks because of it.
One component that he could key into to take advantage of this is to be a higher volume 3-point shooter.
Last year Durant took just 4.9 threes per game, which would’ve ranked 70th in the league if he had qualified. He shot 40 percent from deep on that volume which is elite, and certainly indicates he should be taking more 3s. His percentage might suffer a bit but the higher volume would still make it very much worth it.
Like Durant, Booker and Beal prefer to operate within the arc when they have the ball, so it’ll be important to space the floor when they’re going to work. Durant will have ample opportunities from the arc on kick-outs and should be taking them all.
Durant’s role on defense seems like it’s going to be a fluid situation depending on the personnel that’s surrounding him. While he played the four last year for the Suns and during his Brooklyn tenure, he’s probably better suited to guard wings and smaller fours.
However, it appears that Durant will be locked into that four spot, at least to begin games, given that Josh Okogie or Grayson Allen have the inside track on the fifth starter spot after their stellar preseasons.
Durant has excelled as a rim protector against smaller lineups in the past, but as we saw in the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets, it’s not ideal to have him matched up on bigger fours and traditional centers.
The Suns have a lot of flexibility with their lineups, and pairing KD with someone like Keita Bates-Diop or Chimezie Metu at the four will allow him to slot into his natural spot at the three.
And if the Suns were to matchup with the Nuggets in the playoffs again, or a bigger team like the Los Angeles Lakers, they can easily adjust to play those bigger lineups, a luxury they didn’t have last year.
As a 17-year veteran and one of the greatest scorers of all time, Durant has a major milestone in his sights this year: cracking the top 10 scoring leaderboard. Durant is currently 13th on the all-time list but sits just 517 points behind 10th place Moses Malone.
Durant will assuredly reach that hallowed status this season as long as he stays healthy. The highest ranking realistically in reach for him this year would be passing Shaquille O’neal for 8th place.
Durant would need to score 1704 points this year to do that, but that has been a surprisingly hard mark for him to reach recently due to games missed. If he clears 63 games played while maintaining his career scoring average of 27.3 ppg he’ll get it, but that might be one we’ll have to wait another season for.
This will be Durant’s first full season with the Suns, so it’ll take some time for him to move up Phoenix’s record books, but he does have a chance at setting the seasonal scoring record.
That mark of 27.2 ppg was set by Tom Chambers in the 1989-90 season. Durant’s career scoring average is .1 points higher than that, so as long as plays enough games to qualify, he has a great chance of setting the record in his first full season in The Valley.