OKC ThunderDome

Beyond…Waaaay Beyond…

Mayberry: 10 Things We’ve Learned

Darnell Mayberry has written up his temperature check of the Thunder so far this season.

You can find the entire list here.

I want to comment on #10:

10) Kevin Durant’s got a long way to go as a playmaker
The face of the franchise entered this season talking about how he wanted to increase his assists and cut down on his turnovers. Through 10 games, Durant has 25 assists and 40 turnovers. We’ve watched Durant — and the offense — when the ball is in his hands, generally resulting in a turnover, a low-percentage shots or a hurried shot with the shot-clock winding down. But that doesn’t mean Durant has failed as a facilitator. In a weird kind of way, he’s actually succeeding. Durant needs to experience these growing pains. He’ll be better because of them later. You can’t suddenly become an effective and efficient set-up man when you’ve never had to do it. Sure, the the turnovers and hurried shots and stagnant offense all serve as one big eyesore now. But when Durant figures it out and evolves from dangerous to deadly two years down the line, we will all have a greater appreciation for his skills because we were there during these moments.

Mayberry is right – Durant’s progress as a playmaker has come with plenty of bumps and bruises, to the point where you wonder if the team were better off not having Durant press the issue so much.  However, just like a rookie quarterback has to throw his picks to learn how a defense reads him, Durant is going to have to learn the hard way what it takes to be a playmaker from the 3-spot.

It takes me back (looks longingly) 9-10 years ago to another young prodigy who had championship skills written all over him, but struggled mightily in learning how to deal with a defense that keyed on stopping him.  This other stretchy fellow:

When Duncan came into the league, teams were not able to contend with his fundamentally flawless post-up game. The Spurs teams rode their twin towers (Duncan with David Robinson) to multiple playoff births and a championship in Robinson’s final year.  It wasn’t until Robinson left that teams were able to exploit Duncan’s lone weakness – he was an indecisive playmaker.

I remember vividly in the playoffs offensive sets where the ball would go into Duncan in the post, and then the play would emerge and pass Duncan by because he could not yet react quickly enough to the situation.  Inevitably he would hold onto the ball too long, the defense would collapse, and the end result was a turnover or poor shot.  I would sit there watching the play unfold, practically yelling at Duncan to get rid of the ball before the help defense came.  How could someone so talented be so flawed in this area? It was painful to watch this big man (imho, the best PF of all time) fail so completely at passing out of the post.

But he learned.

Over time, after enduring playoff losses, Duncan learned how to fix this one hole in his game (well, at least the one hole that didn’t involve an ungarded 13′ shot).  He became deft at swinging the ball in and out of the post, which allowed his teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to excel and the team win multiple rings.

The moral of the story – there is hope.  It probably won’t happen right away, but it can happen.  Tim Duncan learned to be a playmaker.  Durant can too.

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