Also known as the Slim Reaper, Kevin Durant is as talented as he is polarizing. Selected 2nd overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the now defunct Seattle SuperSonics, Durant has regularly exceeded expectations. Officially listed at 6’10”, Durant is a remarkably consistent scorer at the small forward position, winning four scoring titles in five years.
He is also a two-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, ten-time NBA All-Star, and has nine All-NBA team selections [six to the First team and three to the Second team].
With the ability score from seemingly anywhere on the court, efficient ball-handling skills, and above average passing acumen, Durant is unquestionably a generational talent. Hand-wringing and concern trolling about his lack of girth has proven irrelevant.
With all of Durant’s exceptional offensive abilities, it is easy to forget that he has transformed himself into an elite defender as well. Capitalizing on his length and lateral quickness, Durant has grown as both a one-on-one lockdown defender and as a weak side help defender and rim protector.
In his final game as a member of the Golden State Warrior, Kevin Durant suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon, causing him to miss his entire first season with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.
Considering that Durant recently turned 32, there are some legitimate concerns regarding his ability to return to his All-NBA form. Achilles tendon injuries tend to be career ending or career altering for most professional athletes. What would the prognosis be for the Nets’ superstar going forward?
The bad news for Durant is that he is on the wrong side of 30 and there has been no indication that he healed particularly well or better than average. Conversely, he is on the correct side of 35, which seems to be a more crucial measuring stick for an Achilles injury.
Successful return from an Achilles injury seems to be almost impossible after the age of 35, but wholly realistic prior to that age. Ironically however, as much as pundits opine on how athletic a player was prior to their injury, history seems to suggest that more athletic players [in the traditional sense] seem to recover from Achilles injury more effectively.
The classic example would be Dominique Wilkins rupturing his Achilles in the 1991-92 season, at the age of 32. The very next season Wilkins’ averages 29.9 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game and 3.2 assists per game. He would be selected to more All-Star teams after his injury.
Another less obvious example is Rudy Gay, who tore his Achilles in 2017. Though caution has seen a dip in the minutes he his given per game, his per 36 minutes production is largely unchanged since his return from that injury.
Durant obviously is not athletic in the classic sense that most think of. He is not explosive, a high leaper or blazingly fast. He does however possess above average lateral quickness for his height and is a decent leaper relative to his height.
So, what does this ultimately mean for his return? Will he come back a shell of himself or just as great as ever.
Probably neither. Realistically, Durant will have lost a step by the time he actually suits up for the Brooklyn Nets, however his game will have compensated in other ways. Whether he is more aware of creating openings for his teammates, has better post moves or just takes smarter shots, expect Durant’s game to adjust to his new reality more so than deteriorate. Durant has the basketball IQ and versatility to remain elite post injury. This combined with his relative youth and likely cautious approach he will bring going forward should inoculate him from a total landslide into irrelevance.