One week ago, in a game against Denver, we saw glimpses of what could soon become the newest dimension in Thunder forward Kevin Durant's growing offensive arsenal.
His latest weapon originates from the left block.
Against the Nuggets, it started with a post-up against guard J.R. Smith. Durant gave Smith a bump, dribbled once, turned over his right shoulder, rose and swished a smooth jump shot. Durant then duplicated the quick move against Arron Afflalo.
It marked the makings of Durant's post-up game.
“It's coming along well, I think,” Durant said.
The move Durant displayed against Denver is one he took from Boston forward Kevin Garnett. It's Garnett's footwork from the baseline and his nearly indefensible high release that Durant wants to incorporate.
When Durant gets it down pat, it could have a wide-ranging effect on the Thunder's offensive attack. Durant, for one, could become an even more efficient scorer through getting higher-percentage shots from in close. As Durant blossoms on the block, the Thunder will find it's a more reliable means of scoring compared to what is currently primarily a jump-shooting squad. And with Durant already commanding double teams, his passing out of the post to spot-up shooters and cutters should create more open shots.
“Every year, you're going to see improved post play out of him,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He's going to get stronger and smarter … But you can just see the confidence grows each time he goes down there. We have to do a better job of finding him more opportunities throughout the game.”
Brooks wants to see Durant develop a countermove to the one turnaround jumper he's already becoming deadly with. Durant said an up-and-under is the natural counter to his turnaround. But Durant added that his height and length make it virtually impossible for defenders to stop his turnaround.
“I want to eventually get an array of moves down there. I don't want to be predictable,” Durant said. “Right now, I just want to have one move I can go to down there instead of doing too much and taking too much time.”
One wrinkle Brooks suggests is for Durant to turn over his left shoulder and shoot jump hooks from the painted area. Durant said he's drilling on that behind the scenes as well but must adjust to double teams coming from that area of the floor.
“I don't want to force a bad shot,” Durant said.
So far, Durant has been surprisingly effective at working out of the post. When Durant grew a hot hand against Denver, forcing the Nuggets to bring double and triple teams, he effectively found open teammates. Against Atlanta on Friday, Durant commanded a double team as he began to post up smaller Hawks guard Mike Bibby. When an Atlanta defender doubled down off James Harden, Durant calmly kicked out a pass to Harden at the top of the key for a wide-open 3-pointer.
“That's improving,” Brooks said. “He cares about passing. It's not like he just wants to lead the league in scoring and not worry about making his teammates better. He wants to be complete. That's what makes him who he is.”