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OKC Thunder: Kevin Durant's playmaking overlooked during 10-game winning streak

Durant's month of January will be remembered for what he did putting the ball in the basket. But let's not forget the job he did putting the ball in his teammates' hands.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: February 2, 2014
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photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, left, moves around Brooklyn Nets' Shaun Livingston during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, left, moves around Brooklyn Nets' Shaun Livingston during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Kevin Durant's month of January will be remembered for what he did putting the ball in the basket.

But let's not forget the job he did putting the ball in his teammates' hands.

Durant averaged 6.1 assists in January, the most of any full month in his career.

While he was carving up opponents with his highly publicized scoring spree, Durant also was displaying his most precision yet as a passer. His scoring sparked so much fear into opponents that Durant began feasting off double teams and making everybody else more dangerous. With his ability and willingness to orchestrate the offense and create easy scoring opportunities for teammates, Durant quickly became a dual threat.

And his playmaking became perhaps the most overlooked factor in the Thunder's recent 10-game winning streak.

“It hasn't only been Durant,” said Brooklyn forward Paul Pierce of the Thunder following OKC's 25-point drubbing of the Nets. “Durant has been the guy getting the headlines, but if you look across during the winning streak, they've had a number of guys step up. (Serge) Ibaka has definitely been one of them, and so are some of their other guys. That's just a great player making his other teammates better.”

Durant dished 97 assists in January, 14 more than his previous high in any month. It's no coincidence that Ibaka, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb all enjoyed career-high scoring averages for any month in January. Derek Fisher, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha, meanwhile, all enjoyed season-high scoring averages in the month.

Certainly, some of that spike is a direct correlation to Russell Westbrook missing the entire month, as well as the natural progression of young players. But it's also a reflection of the impact Durant had on his teammates, many of whom, remember, did not step up their scoring production in the absence of Westbrook in last year's postseason.

How much better is Durant making his mates?

“It's hard to say, but I think a lot better,” said Sefolosha. “It's tough to put any type of numbers to it or anything like that. But I think we are all getting open shots because (defenders) have to double team, triple team sometimes. So it makes everybody's job a lot easier to play with a guy like Kevin.”

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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