A major development has emerged for the Thunder this preseason, and it could be the most important thing to track as the exhibition schedule marches on.
Kevin Durant is now being deployed at different positions.
In the final weeks before his fourth regular season begins, Durant is working to become more dangerous by developing his skills at multiple spots on the floor. It's a progression that could soon make the Thunder's offense a terror and its defense more dynamic.
Against Miami on Friday, Durant played all five positions. He started at his customary small forward spot, ran point guard late in the first quarter and slid to power forward midway through the second quarter.
"Kevin's game is evolving," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "He, like a lot of our guys, is not a finished product. He's going to keep getting better. And there's ways that I'm going to challenge him to get better... He has the ability to do a lot of things for us and do them well."
It was the minutes Durant played at point guard and power forward that stood out most.
At 6-10, Durant is by far the league's tallest provisional point guard. His size allows him to see over the defense and read and react to whatever is thrown his way. And by initiating the offense, Durant nearly becomes unstoppable because of his shooting ability and improving playmaking skills. He had only one assist against the Heat, but Durant beat LeBron James off the dribble on several possessions, working his way into the lane where he created the option to either finish himself or dump off passes to cutting teammates.
"My ball-handling has gotten a lot better and I feel comfortable bringing the ball up and running the offense," Durant said. "It's just a matter of us continuing to finish plays."
Brooks said he wants to sprinkle in Durant at the lead guard position throughout games this season in an attempt to apply more pressure on opposing teams.
"He demands so much attention and people focus on him quite a bit at the top," Brooks said. "That's a hard position to guard. And he has the ability to get around people and make plays."
When Brooks employed Durant at power forward against the Heat, Durant was matched up with bruising big man Udonis Haslem. But the benefit was seen immediately as Durant played closer to the basket, putting him in a position to pull down more rebounds and instantly initiate the offense once the ball was in his hands. Durant also had a significant mismatch on the offensive end when he took Haslem out to the perimeter.
Having Durant at power forward also gives the Thunder a more athletic lineup that some teams inevitably will not be able to match.
And the best thing is Durant is eager to play more minutes at both point guard and power forward. He sees the impact his versatility will have on his team and is willing to spend time continuing to learn how to effectively play both positions.
"I think that I have an advantage with my quickness against some (power forwards)," Durant said. "It's going to be tougher for me on the defensive end because they're stronger and bigger than me... But I just got to make up for being skinny with my heart.
"And with me being a point guard... I got to try to make the right play. I'm still working on that. I've got to watch more film to try to make the right play. But all I can say is I'm going to try to work on it."