OKC Thunder: Scoring title or not, Kevin Durant is happy with regular-season finish

Durant's all-around improvement, not his 28-point average, is what has him satisfied with what he accomplished this year. Now it's on to the playoffs.
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Modified: April 27, 2012 at 11:11 am •  Published: April 26, 2012

Even if he hadn't secured his third straight scoring title, Kevin Durant would have been satisfied with his 2011-12 regular season.

In fact, the Thunder's star proudly points to it as his best yet.

“To think back on everything I've done this season, I've gotten better. I've improved in every area I wanted to improve in,” Durant said. “I scored a few points, but I think as a defender and as a facilitator I got better and that was the whole thing.”

Durant edged Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant by .17 hundredths of a point to become the first player since Michael Jordan from 1996-98 to win three consecutive scoring titles. Durant is only the seventh player to win three straight scoring crowns, joining Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, George Gervin, Bob McAdoo and Neil Johnston. At 23, Durant is the youngest player to lead the league in scoring three straight seasons.

But Durant's all-around improvement, not his 28-point average, is what has him satisfied with what he accomplished this year. It's also what has catapulted Durant into a two-man conversation for this year's MVP award alongside Miami's LeBron James.

“I think this probably was my best year as an individual,” Durant said. “If I don't win any awards that's cool with me. I just want to grow as a player. Hopefully they start to come later in my career.”

In his fifth season, Durant averaged career-highs in rebounds, assists, blocked shots and field-goal percentage. He also averaged a career-high 3.76 turnovers — ranking second-to-last in the league — but those giveaways were a byproduct of Durant having the ball in his hands more than ever and evolving into a legitimate playmaker.

In other words, Durant did everything that was asked of him.

“Kevin's had a terrific year,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We challenged him to become more of a playmaker and his assist total has increased. We challenged him to rebound the basketball and that has increased. His field-goal percentage is right at 50 percent, and his 3-point percentage is good and he gets to the basket and makes free throws…And he's blocking some shots. He's stealing the ball one and a half times a game. He's done a great job of improving every year.”

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