Kevin Durant began working on the newest addition to his offensive arsenal back on Oct. 11 during a preseason game at Golden State.
Only now is he coming close to perfecting it.
Durant is now baiting defenders into fouls and getting an easy trip to the free throw line at least once a game by sweeping the ball through his defender’s arms. It’s a move that San Antonio forward Tim Duncan has patented and players like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and Dwight Howard routinely use to get easy points at the foul line.
“It’s a good move if the defender has an extended arm that’s not vertically raised,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Guys have to guard him close and squeeze up on him because he has such a nice (shooting) stroke. So when guys do that it gives him the ability to draw those fouls.”
Durant pulled the move against Golden State guard Stephen Jackson in the second half of the Thunder’s loss at Golden State last Saturday. He got Los Angeles Lakers forward Trevor Ariza with the move with 3:48 remaining Tuesday at the Ford Center.
“I’ve been watching guys hands and arms to see how close they are to my body, and if they’re all the way off that’s when I’ve got an opportunity to shoot my shot,” Durant said. ”If they’re on me too close, I sweep it through and try to get some free throws. I think that kind of gets me going a little bit.”
Durant credited Desmond Mason for teaching him the move back in the fall. Mason said he used the technique a ton during his time in Milwaukee.
“I just told him that if a guy sticks his hands in there just kind of sweep under because he’s blocking your path of shooting,” Mason said. “He turned it over a few times at first and I thought, ‘OK, well this ain’t working.’ But he stuck with it and he just kind of got it down. I think when he saw it started working he just continued to do it and got consistent at it. Now he’s pretty good at it. It just makes him even harder to guard.”
Durant said he still needs to get better at it. Brooks said he sometimes looks to go to the move too often.
“But he’s becoming a smart offensive player,” Brooks said. “One of the things I like about Kevin offensively is he’s setting his man up better. He’s getting better shots. He understands that he’s able to get easier shots by setting his man up and not just going isolation one-on-one and taking a tough shot.”
The swing through move has helped Durant boost his free-throw attempts from 5.9 per game in November to 8.7 per game in both January and February. It’s helped his efficiency and has become one of the reasons he has increased his scoring average each month and is currently pouring in a career-high 33.1 points per game this month.
Durant said the next step is to get strong enough to sweep all the way through the contact and make the shot instead of losing the ball on the way up.
“Sometimes I misread it and I’m not able to get that call,” Durant said. ”I’ve just got to continue to work on it. Hopefully I start to get that call more and more and start to get to the free throw line.”