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2023 Phoenix Suns Player Review: Kevin Durant’s addition shocked the NBA world

We got a small taste of what the Phoenix Suns can be with Kevin Durant.

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NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to our Phoenix Suns Season in Review series where we do individual PLAYER REVIEWS of each man that contributed in the 2022-23 season. We go through the roster to analyze what went right/wrong for them, and what they can do to get better for next season.


Kevin Durant

  • Position: Forward
  • Vitals: 6’10” tall, 240 pounds, 34 years old
  • Experience: 15 years
  • Stats (regular season): 29.1 PPG, 5.0 APG, 6.7 RPG, 56.0 FG%, 40.4 3PT%, 91.9 FT%

Regular Season Recap

Kevin Durant started the season with the Brooklyn Nets… and then February 8, 2023 came. Where were you when this happened?

New Phoenix Suns owner, Mat Ishbia, did his best Tiger Woods impression and said, “Hello, world” by orchestrating one of the biggest blockbuster trades in NBA history. In that trade, the Suns sent Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four 1st round draft picks, and a 1st round pick swap to the Nets in exchange for Kevin Durant and TJ Warren.

When the trade occurred, Durant was out with an MCL sprain. So, the team had to wait six games after the trade until KD finally saw the floor in a Suns’ uniform. The Slim Reaper’s first game did not disappoint.

In a 105-91 victory over the Charlotte Hornets, Durant scored 23 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, had 2 assists, and added 2 blocks in 27 minutes of action. The Midrange Mafia member filled the box score in the efficient manner we are used to seeing, going 2 for 4 from beyond the arc and 10 for 15 overall.

KD continued to impress in the next two games, ahead of what was expected to be his home debut. In road victories against the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks, Durant averaged 28.5 PPG, 8.0 RPB, and 4.5 APG, while shooting 70.4% overall and 55.6% from three.

Those two games, of course, were capped off by this game-winner in his 37-point outburst against the Mavs.

The follow-up to Durant’s Sunday afternoon dagger was supposed to be his home debut against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but that was delayed when KD sprained his ankle in pregame warmups (note: the below video does not show his ankle because I am not putting that back into the universe).

That “left ankle soreness” caused Durant to miss the next 10 games.

He finally made his home debut as a member of the Phoenix Suns on March 29, 2023. In a 107-100 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, KD scored 16 points on just 5 for 18 shooting. The Easy Money Sniper admitted to having some nerves going into the very un-KD-like game, saying afterwards, “It was hard for me to stop thinking about the game. Sometimes you can want it too bad. And you come out there and play like you start rushing and start being uncharacteristic.”

Overall this season, KD played just eight regular season games for the Suns. The results cannot be denied, as the team went 8-0 in those games. Over those eight games, Durant put up 26.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, and 6.4 RPG, while shooting 57.0% overall and 53.7% from three - numbers which are quite impressive when considering the fact that he was meshing with his new team on the fly.

Post-Season Recap

Meshing with his new team on the fly is likely one of the factors that resulted in the team’s downfall this season. But, despite falling short of the ultimate goal, the NBA Playoffs provided a glimpse of the potential this team has with Kevin Durant in the mix.

During the Suns’ opening round victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, KD averaged 28.4 PPG on an efficient 51.8% from the field and blistering 45.5% from beyond the arc. The season-ending series against the Denver Nuggets, however, was a different story. While Durant’s points per game ticked up a touch, to 29.5, the efficiency vanished. During that 6-game series, KD shot just 45.3% overall and a woeful 22.2% from three.

His performance during the Nuggets series was not just a matter of Durant going on an extended cold streak. The Nuggets attacked KD and Devin Booker defensively and dared someone else on the Suns to make a shot - which they rarely did. Ultimately, the Nuggets series confirmed that, notwithstanding the (very justified) excitement over Kevin Durant joining the Suns, a championship team cannot come together over a span of eight games during the regular season.

Biggest Strength

He’s a 13-time All-Star, a 4-time NBA scoring champ, has made 10 All-NBA Teams, and has won two NBA Titles. He’s 13th all-time in career points. He’s one of the greatest scorers in NBA history and a stout defender. He’s Kevin FREAKING Durant. Put simply, he’s one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Durant’s greatness should also make the game easier for his teammates. The need for defenses to focus on him necessarily means some focus leaves others. This is particularly the case when he and Booker are on the court together and is a concept that was on display at times this season. We would see defenses would sag away from the corner and dare whoever stood in that corner to beat them (the above-referenced Mavs game comes to mind). Now, it is up to James Jones and company to put people in those corners who can hit shots consistently.

Biggest Weakness

Injuries. Kevin Durant is one of the greatest, but that only matters when he is on the floor and his history shows that he has a difficult time staying healthy. He, of course, missed the entire 2019-20 season with a torn Achilles. Even prior to that, Durant had four season where he missed at least 14 games. And in the three seasons since his return from the Achilles injury, he has played just 35, 55, and 47 games, respectively.

Durant is 34 and will be 35 before the start of the 2023-24 season. The Suns are certainly hanging the franchise’s hopes on this weakness not becoming more pronounced in the coming seasons.

Contract Details

  • Entering the second year of a 4-year, $194 million contract.

Overall Grade

  • Overall grade as an NBA player: A+
  • Relative grade to preseason expectations: A+ (considering my preseason expectations did not include Kevin Durant being on the Phoenix Suns)

Poll

How would you grade Kevin Durant’s year, including Playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    A
    (74 votes)
  • 44%
    B
    (89 votes)
  • 13%
    C
    (26 votes)
  • 2%
    D
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (5 votes)
198 votes total Vote Now

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