Kevin Durant has been off to a very productive start this NBA season averaging 29 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 5.3 assists with no drop-off in efficiency for the Brooklyn Nets. A real shocker considering he is only a couple of years removed from one of the worst injures a professional athlete can experience, which is an Achilles tendon tear. Most recently however Kevin has not been very available for a Nets team that has experienced major roster turnover after acquiring superstar guard James Harden from the Houston Rockets.
Of the past nine games, Durant has only been an active participant in one and a half of them. The half coming from him entering the Leagues’ Health and safety protocol during a game in Toronto causing him to be pulled mid-game and missing the next three while he underwent covid testing and contact tracing. When he got the chance to return during a game versus the Golden State Warriors he went down with a hamstring injury that currently has had him sidelined for the past four games.
Why Kevin Durant’s Absence was what the Nets needed
Sacrifices were going to have to be made in order for the Nets to reach their maximum potential and Harden made it known from day one he was willing to do that. Bringing another high usage star player onto a team that already has two superstars that excel with the ball in their hands made many questions if the trade was worth the risk for Brooklyn. We’ve seen in Oklahoma with Kevin Durant and James Harden are able to compete together seamlessly at a high level mostly due to Kevin’s tremendous ability to play off-ball. However, James Harden meshing with Kyrie Irving was a questionable fit. With the help of the past nine games due to Kevin Durant’s absence, it has cleared all confusion about that pairing ability to work.
When Harden was traded to the Brooklyn nets he spoke about how scoring isn’t everything and for the Nets to succeed his play-style may need to be altered. James Harden has proven to be a man of his word especially during these games without Kevin on the court.
The player that has lead the league in scoring on multiple occasions scoring numbers are down to 25.2 points per game during his time in Brooklyn almost a ten-point drop off from his season in Houston where he last averaged a Jaw-dropping 34.3 points a game. The reason for the decline is because he is deferring to Kyrie Irving allowing him to do what he does best which is scoring in isolation while James is looking to get everyone involved.
Harden has always been a gifted passer but at times in Houston, he had no real option to feed the ball to so he had to take on all the scoring responsibilities. Currently, during the past nine games, he is averaging a career-high 11.2 assists during this nine-game sample looking to get his teammates going like Kyrie who is averaging 28.4 points during this stretch of games.
The Nets are winners in the Harden trade
Kevin Durant’s absence has made one thing clear for the Brooklyn Nets and their doubters. Kyrie and Harden are able to co-exist and win against some of the toughest competition. Without KD they have beat championship-contending teams such as the Los Angles Lakers, LA Clippers, and the Phoenix Suns.
If the Nets are able to win these games against the toughest competition the league has to offer without Kevin Durant on the court. When he is available to return the Nets have to be the favorite to bring home the Larry’O Brien at the end of the season. Due to the fact that two high usage players in Kyrie and Harden are able to play cohesive basketball with Harden assuming the role of point guard allowing Kyrie to flourish in his pure scorer mentality.
Kevin Durant is already a player that we’ve seen from his championship-winning season in Golden State that he is able to be ultra-efficient in any role on or off the ball. Due to his absence, there should be no question that the Nets are going to be the toughest team in the playoffs to beat and I don’t see a team that is up to the challenge of stopping this historic offense.