One Last Thing - Kevin Durant

Every Saturday at 4:50 pm, I share "One Last Thing" on Hoffman and Platt. It's an essay on a topic that caught my eye during the week. This week I chose to shine a unique light on Kevin Durant coming off one of the best months in NBA history. Listen to Hoffman and Platt Saturdays at 2 pm on 103.3 FM ESPN.

Towards the start of the season, I said the gap between LeBron James as the best player in the world and Kevin Durant as the 2nd best was wider than that between Durant and Paul George, who I consider the 3rd best player. I was wrong. I was really really wrong.

The evolution of Kevin Durant's game is staggering and James is having his relative worst year in a long time (read: still better than basically everyone, but not as good as previous years), in large part because he's conserving energy for May and June. But this is more about Durant. Many players get better, but the elite get better at what they're good at and add different facets. This is what has made James the player he is. Not only has he become a better shooter from all areas, but he's added a post-game and worked on his left hand and become the best defender in the league.

Durant's worked out with James in the off-seasons, but being by greatness doesn't guarantee it. Whatever the reason, Durant has added too, taking advantage of a thought impossible skill set and maybe maximizing it. I say maybe because the thought that he could be much better is absolutely terrifying.

People don't realize how big Kevin Durant is. At All-Star Weekend a few years back, he and Chris Bosh were walking down a hallway as the collective media who saw them suddenly realized Durant was taller. He's every bit of 6'11" playing the small forward position meaning he's always got the height advantage. This means, especially with his lightning quick release, that he's always shooting into clean airspace. He's got an unobstructed view of the hoop as he shoots. It's the same thing helps Dirk Nowitzki as a shooter. It's also going to help Andrew Wiggins when he gets into the NBA because he gets off the floor so quickly on his jumper.

Durant's always been a shooter though and what's made him make that leap is Durant's progression as a ballhandler. Big guys don't dribble because science says they shouldn't. The taller you are, the farther the ball has to travel from your hand to the floor. That's more space and time for a defender to steal the ball. This is why guards are always taught to keep a low dribble. Despite being nearly seven feet tall, Durant's arms are so long he can keep that low dribble. He's also worked and worked in the off-seasons to speed up his dribble, eliminating that time for defenders to swipe the ball.

The long arms also make his crossover possibly the most lethal move in the NBA. You want to reach? Go ahead. His arms are longer than yours and you can't reach that far. A defender assumes if a player extends the ball that far in one direction, he's going that way. And then Durant with one swipe comes back. The defender leans. Durant has space. He also has two or three more of his at least 30 points.

Or maybe he drives, gets into the lane and dishes to a wide open teammate. During his January for the ages, he averaged 6 assists per game. He's averaging almost eight rebounds per game on the season. He's very much a plus defender on one of the best defensive teams in the league. He's a complete player and this is the fun time to remind you that he's only 25.

Wednesday night, Durant and James dueled. It was the opposite of what many probably expected. James outscored Durant while Durant's team ran away with the win on Miami's home court. In the end, James is still the better player when it's time to turn it on, but the gap has closed considerably and Durant is absolutely the MVP so far this year.

If you didn't get a chance to watch him in the last month, you missed out. He's always up to the moment and whether it's dueling with Steph Curry or dancing 1-on-1 versus LeBron, Durant was full of them in January. His streak of twelve straight 30 point games ended Friday night in Brooklyn because he didn't play fourth quarter. If you've missed out though, it's not the end of the world. Again. He's only 25. This could just be a start.