Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant is expected to make his debut with the team Wednesday night against the Charlotte Hornets. It is perhaps the most-anticipated event in Suns history for a player who has been acquired by the team.
Kevin Durant is expected to make his Suns debut tomorrow, the team announced pic.twitter.com/RMBkjVVsbu— ESPN (@espn) February 28, 2023
Durant, who is 34 years old, might be the best player to ever wear a Suns uniform. He is a two-time NBA Finals MVP, one-time regular season MVP and four-time scoring champion. Durant was averaging 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 55.9 percent from the field (37.6 percent from 3-point range) in 39 games with the Brooklyn Nets this season before he suffered a right MCL sprain Jan. 8.
"Is it official?"— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) February 28, 2023
Yeah, it's official.
Devin Booker on Kevin Durant making his #Suns debut tomorrow at Charlotte.
"It's exciting. It's what we've all been waiting on." pic.twitter.com/bEpx48pUq4
Durant told reporters recently he has not had any pain in his knee for the last few weeks. Suns coach Monty Williams said Durant will be on a minutes restriction, but nonetheless, his debut will be a good time to see how Phoenix fares the rest of the season.
Before Durant takes the court with the Suns, here are three things to watch for in his debut.
Chemistry with the starting five
This is expected to come as games progress, but Durant’s chemistry with starting point guard Chris Paul, starting shooting guard Devin Booker and starting center Deandre Ayton will be very important to monitor.
Kevin Durant on playing with Devin Booker in Phoenix:— The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) February 28, 2023
“Being around somebody that works like that and cares about the game like that is only going to help me. I’m looking forward to being around him.”
@boardroom | @KDTrey5 pic.twitter.com/AwNTX2TPmV
When Durant played with the Golden State Warriors from 2016-17 to 2018-19, it was uncertain at first how he would mesh with superstar guard Stephen Curry, shooting guard Klay Thompson and forward Draymond Green. It turned out to be seamless, as Durant was able to settle in as a scorer while Curry could play off the ball or bring it up the floor more.
Durant’s fit with the Suns is different. Paul is a pass-first player who could set up Durant, Booker, Ayton and others. That should give Durant ample opportunities to score in Phoenix’s offensive sets, which rely on ball movement and multiple players to get touches.
"It's going to take me some time to get used to everything early on. As far as just having fun and getting lost in the game, I'm looking forward to doing that again."— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) February 28, 2023
Kevin Durant to make Phoenix Suns debut Wednesday at Charlotte #Hornets (w/videos) #Suns https://t.co/6jsE7Q39J2 pic.twitter.com/lObeJ2Lcyc
I’ll be looking out to see how the Suns run their ‘Horns’ sets – with two players at the elbows near the high post and two others in the corner – to free opportunities for Durant and Booker. Durant said he and Booker are very similar in how they play, which will be an interesting fit to watch for in itself.
Durant seems very excited to play with his new teammates, who have also commended his scoring ability. It will be fun to watch for in the first game.
Durant told reporters he has not experienced any pain in his knee, but it will be interesting to see how long he plays Wednesday.
Barring an extremely unforeseen circumstance, Durant will be in the starting lineup and get a chance to mesh with his teammates for the first time. Williams will have to be careful with Durant to ensure his health is prioritized for the remainder of the season and beyond.
Durant will be on a minutes restriction, so Suns fans won’t perhaps won’t get to see his maximum impact. But it will be interesting to see how he fares with his new teammates in that time and how the Suns fix their rotation around him.
Williams has said Josh Okogie and Torrey Craig will be the team’s fifth starter depending on matchups. How will that fare against the Hornets?
Charlotte has multiple interchangeable forwards, including forward and former Valley member Kelly Oubre Jr., P.J. Washington and Gordon Hayward. Miles Bridges is not with the team after he was arrested in Los Angeles in June 2022 for domestic violence.
Can the Suns mesh well without Durant on the floor, too? That remains to be seen and we’ll address it in our next topic.
Bench and backup play
The Suns could have the most dangerous starting foursome in the league with Paul, Booker, Durant and Ayton. But how will they look around that?
Okogie, who has had a very strong stretch of games and averaged 16.1 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 50.6 percent from the field (46.2 percent from 3-point range) in his last seven contests played, has been a promising piece who may secure the starting spot by the end of the season.
At the very least, the Suns will have the ability to interchange matchups with Craig, who is lengthy and can defend multiple positions. Phoenix also has the flexibility to go small with Durant and Ayton each at center with wings around them.
Recently-acquired wing Terrence Ross has seen time in the team’s last few games, but forwards TJ Warren and Darius Bazley – who were acquired at the trade deadline – have not been active much. Williams has tended to go with players who have been in his system for longer, so those traded players will have to make their impact heavily in the opportunities they have.
Like all of you Suns fans, we’re very excited to see how Durant’s debut will shape the team. This might be the best chance Phoenix has ever had to win an NBA championship – even more than the last two seasons given Durant’s star power – so expectations will be higher than ever over these last 20 games.
The Suns and the Hornets tip off at 5 p.m. MT in Charlotte. The game will be televised by Bally Sports Arizona.
Check out our game preview here.