By official count, Kevin Durant had 12 assists last Tuesday against the Sixers, which, if it was the regular season, would have been a career-high.
Problem is, Kevin Durant didn’t really have 12 assists in that game. He only had 11. The scorekeeper erroneously and strangely credited Durant with an assist early in the third quarter, when Serge Ibaka scored on a straight post-up while KD was on the opposite side of the court.
But whatever. Even without that convenient boost, Durant’s smooth 11-assist stat-line only confirmed what seemed clear to the naked eye: He has looked like a markedly improved playmaker and facilitator during training camp.
It’s a trend that Darnell Mayberry examined in Monday’s Oklahoman (you can read that story by clicking here) and seems to have sprouted up out of necessity with Russell Westbrook, the Thunder’s leading assist man, sidelined with lingering knee issues.
And because this is something we can likely expect more of early in the season, let’s take a closer look at all 11 of his assists in that game, which he had already piled up midway through the third quarter of an efficient 33-minute night, in this week’s film room:
-The Durant-Ibaka two-man game
With Westbrook out, Serge Ibaka is thrust into the crucial role of OKC’s second scoring option. But within Ibaka’s developing offensive game, he still remains far more effective when others are creating open looks for him. In the Philly game, the chemistry between he and Durant was as good as we’ve seen it. Take a look at the four plays below, all Ibaka jumpers, created by simple yet smart passes by KD, hitting Ibaka in his sweet spots.
-Passing out of the double-team
One area where Durant has steadily improved over the past couple seasons is passing out of double-teams. When you can drop 30 points in your sleep, multiple defenders will naturally gravitate your way. Increasingly, he seems to be recognizing, inviting and exploiting those overloaded looks. Here’s a great example, as he sags toward the baseline on a quick post-up, luring away Reggie Jackson’s man, before firing an on-target pass to his point guard for a wide-open three.
-Breaking defenses down off the dribble
You gotta feel for former Oklahoma State guard James Anderson in this next clip. Already a shooting threat once he passes halfcourt, Durant instead decides to take Anderson off the dribble, shredding him with a pair of unfair crossovers, forcing the rest of the defense to collapse and leave Perry Jones wide open for an easy three. 6-foot-10 dudes aren’t supposed to be able to dribble like that.
-Fitting it into tight windows
I can hear Kyrie Irving’s alter-ego Uncle Drew yelling it right now: ”That’s a pocket pass!!”
-Good decisions on the fastbreak
He’s always been unselfish and smart in the open court, finding the easiest shot.
-Good court awareness
Here are the final two assists. Nothing special, just a pair of intelligent plays.