OKC Thunder: Kevin Durant's defensive versatility an added bonus

Thunder coach Scott Brooks feels comfortable enough, at some point in each game, to let Durant have a crack at defending players such as Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Marc Gasol. That’s four superstars with four completely different skill sets, styles and positions.
by Anthony Slater Published: March 5, 2014
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Here’s a brief list of some of Kevin Durant’s defensive assignments during the Thunder’s recent six-game homestand:

•Blake Griffin, the Clippers’ hyper-athletic nightmare of a power forward.

•LeBron James, the Heat’s do-everything small forward.

•Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers’ lightning quick 6-foot point guard.

•And Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies’ behemoth 7-foot bruising center.

That’s four superstars with four completely different skill sets, styles and positions. And Thunder coach Scott Brooks felt comfortable enough, at some point in each game, to let Durant have a crack at them one-on-one.

“No,” Brooks said, when asked if there was anyone in the NBA he wouldn’t feel comfortable with Durant guarding. “There’s some bigs, some centers, where he might need a little help. But his length...Kevin, he can guard 1-through-5 on certain possessions.”

The success rate varies. Durant played Irving and Griffin decent in brief stretches, he forced Gasol into a big miss down the stretch and he got lit up by James in one of OKC’s worst performances of the season.

But the simple fact that Durant is trusted enough to guard all four – and anyone else – puts him in rarefied company.

James is well known for that capability, and Paul George can likely be clumped into that category. But beyond that? You’d be hard-pressed to find another 1-through-5 type player.

“The unique, special thing about him is his size on the defensive end,” teammate Nick Collison said of Durant. “He’s probably not the most comfortable (guarding big men), but he’s capable because of his size.”

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by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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