Coming into the 2013-14 NBA season, with an aging and injury prone Kobe Bryant, it was probably safe to say that the battle for the leading scorer would center around Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. Now that the season has concluded, we know that Durant has lead the league in scoring for the fourth time in his career.
Durant has the traits of all multiple scoring title winners. He has the ability to defeat any team defense concept thrown at him. This is combined with the physical skills to outmatch most defenders he encounters on a one on one basis.
In the movie industry, movies are pitched with phrases like “it’s Love Story meets War of the Worlds.” Durant’s pitch line reads like George Gervin meets Bob McAdoo meets Dirk Nowitzki.
Gervin, like Durant, was a slightly built scoring machine, that at the time he played soared three to four inches taller than most opponents assigned to guard him. Durant plays small forward at nearly seven feet. Nowitzki is a seven footer with a very good outside jumper. He can routinely fire up outside jumpers against defenders reluctant to go all the way out and challenge his shot. Durant trumps Nowitzki by having the shooting skill to hit jumpers from any spot on the court. Bob McAdoo was a pioneering big man that could move down the court on a semi-break, and instead of setting up in the post, he would just launch uncontested eighteen foot jumpers with deadly accuracy. Durant can do the same.
Durant has improved his ball handling to the point that if a defender plays him too tightly, and if he’s ahead of the pack on a fast break, he can easily drive to the basket and score. It’s no wonder he’s the favorite for league MVP this season.
Barring injury, it seems highly likely that Kevin Durant will finish his career as one of the top five all time scorers. Let’s compare what Durant has done in his seven year career with the top three scorers in NBA history.
The players with the highest career point totals are Kareem Abdul Jabbar, (38,387), Karl Malone, (36,928), and Michael Jordan, (32,292).
In his seven season career Durant has amassed 14,851 points for a 27.4 scoring average. Jabbar scored 16,555 points in his first seven seasons, a 30.1 scoring average. In seven seasons Malone had 14,770 points, a 25.9 per game average. Jordan in his initial seven years produced 16,596 points for a 32.6 per game average.
It used to be conventional wisdom that a team with the league’s leading scorer would not produce a championship. The likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant changed that perception. It will be interesting to see if Durant can translate his scoring prowess into being the driving force behind a championship winning team.