There’s only one person that could be our last player preview for the 2023-24 season. Is it because he’s the biggest name on the team? Maybe. Is it because he’s the best player on the team? That’s a part of it. Is it because he’s a symbolism of a new era of Suns basketball? That’s also a reason too. That’s enough of this loquacious intro, it’s time. Kevin Durant, the Slim Reaper’s player preview.
Forward, 6’10” 240 pounds, 34-years old
Two-time champion, two-time Finals MVP, 2014 NBA MVP, 13-time All-Star, Kevin Durant is one of the greatest basketball players to ever live. Going into his sixteenth season lighting up the league every moment in between he’s inside the 94 feet, Durant is going into his first full season as a member of the Phoenix Suns, hoping to bring the valley their first championship in franchise history.
Durant signed a four-year, $194 million contract extension while with the Brooklyn Nets in 202, which he is now going into the second year of. Durant does not have a player option for the final year of the deal, dissimilar to most star player contracts, keeping him under Phoenix’s control until the end of the 2025-2026 season.
It’s Kevin Durant. There isn’t a player like him. A terrific scorer at all three-levels of the court. You Leave him open from deep? Three points for Phoenix. Leave him open from 18-feet out? Funny. Let him drive to the basket? He’ll find a way to score or get to the line, where he shoots a ridiculous 88.6 percent, good for 14th-best all time.
There’s many nice things one can say about Kevin Durant, he’s all-time great and has a career flooded with all-time great moments. You probably know that if you’re reading this a month plus out from the start of the season on a Phoenix Suns fan page. However, what usually gets lost in the sauce with great players is their ability to make their team perennial contenders, independent of the roster around them. Per basketball reference, the last six years where Durant has entered the season healthy, his team has been the favorite 66 percent of them to win it all in the preseason. In the years Durant’s team wasn’t the favorite when he has been healthy since the 2016-2017 season, his team has remained in the top 5. That’s what elite players do and Durant is no exception.
We can all fuss about everything great that KD does, but the biggest compliment that you can give him is no matter the year or squad around him, his team is a threat to be holding up the Larry O’Brien Trophy when the season ends.
Durant truly is an essentially flawless basketball player. However, as the years have gone by and the clock has ticked, the only thing that has stopped the future hall-of-famer is availability. After returning from suffering a torn achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals, Durant has played in only 137 of his team’s 236 regular season games, a measly 58 percent.
Durant did average the most minutes per game out of all players in the playoffs last season with 42.4 per game. It would be ideal if Frank Vogel can find a way to keep his minutes down during the regular season to prevent him from having any injuries, and to keep him as fresh as possible for the playoffs once again.
One Key Factor
Durant has played with many stars with many different play styles in his career. It is already apparent that he and Devin Booker are a lethal duo and Bradley Beal, similarly to Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving, is someone who knows how to put the ball in the hoop at an effective rate. There should be little to no concern about his fit with Beal or that he and new head coach Frank Vogel won’t see eye to eye.
As long as the Suns’ big four gets enough experience in the regular season to learn how to play cohesively with each other, there should be no fear about their ability to play well together. Durant just needs to do his part and stay healthy to the best of his abilities. As apparent with recent NBA champions such as the Bucks and Nuggets, it is important for a team to establish strong rapport with each other before April comes around.
This was one of Durant’s most normal offseason’s since he left the Warriors. No drama, no pandemic, no trade requests. I expect him to be a dominant defensive player this year, something that he was in Golden State and in the playoffs last year for Phoenix. With the offensive burden on him lessening even more with Beal in town and with defensive-minded Frank Vogel in charge, his defensive chops will be on display frequently.
As long as the Slim reaper stays healthy, I expect him to be his dominant, efficient self, helping lead the Suns to win 50 games.