Kevin Durant's sneak preview arriving on Oakland stage

ByRoyce Young via ESPN logo
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It often happens without you even noticing it. It'll be the middle of the third quarter, the game is progressing without much happening of note, and you'll glance at the box score and see it.

Kevin Durant, 20 points.

Durant is arguably the world's best scorer, and that has been increasingly clear over the past five years or so. He owns four of the past six scoring titles.

What makes him so special is his consistency. Last season, he scored at least 20 in every single game he played, except for one -- at the Washington Wizards, in which he pulled a hamstring late in the second quarter and played only a half. He finished the regular season sitting on a streak of 66 straight games with at least 20 points. You could pencil him in for at least 20 before tipoff.

As Durant transitions to the Bay Area to play with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, he'll face an adjustment period of learning his new teammates and how his scoring talents fit in the free-flowing Golden State Warriors system. He might get fewer shots. He might see the ball less in crunch time. But even with the changes, Durant is going to do what he does -- he's still going to score, and he's going to make 25 a night look as easy as it possibly can.

When Team USA plays China on Tuesday, Durant will play his first game at Oracle Arena since becoming a Warrior. The fans in Oakland will get their initial glimpse of the Kevin Durant experience. Here are six other things that are part of it:

  • He's a microwave. Everyone has seen the Rucker Park video, right? It's almost scientific at this point: Durant needs two shots to go in, consecutively, to be hot. It wasn't unusual for him to shoot 2-of-9 in a first half, then drip to 2-of-11 in the third quarter. But either with a pull-up 3, or a pretty floating jumper off a pindown screen, once Durant gets a couple to drop, he's recalibrated. A 2-of-9 start will be a 10-of-19 finish.That even works in the clutch, too. Like last December in a ho-hum game against the Sacramento Kings. Durant had a triple-double -- 20 points, 10 rebounds and ... 10 turnovers. He struggled shooting, looking disinterested and disjointed. He played terribly, by his own admission. That's the word he used to describe his night postgame.But in the final 90 seconds, he hit two clutch jumpers, including the go-ahead game winner with 23 seconds left. That's Durant. Even when it looks as if he's off and it's just "one of those nights," he'll show up and pop a few jumpers and win you a game.Oh, and you can bank on this: If he hits consecutive 3s, a third one is going up, no matter what.
  • He cares about his numbers. He often likes to pretend he doesn't. But he definitely does. Durant obsessively tracked his shooting numbers in games, and he would routinely check with Thunder scorekeepers to be sure he had it right. He'd sometimes go to them and try to talk them into counting a bad shot attempt that airballed as a turnover. He'd grab printed out box scores between quarters and scour them.Not unrelated: Durant avoids taking long-distance, end-of-quarter shots. Warriors fans love watching Curry unleash those soaring 60-footers that inexplicably seem to go in all the time, but don't expect to see that much from Durant. He's a serial buzzer clutcher. He has even admitted to it."It depends on what I'm shooting from the field," he said in 2013. "First quarter if I'm 4-for-4, I let it go. Third quarter if I'm like 10-for-16, or 10-for-17, I might let it go. But if I'm like 8-for-19, I'm going to go ahead and dribble one more second and let that buzzer go off and then throw it up there. So it depends on how the game's going."Curry has kind of made it his thing to let it fly, so maybe Durant will happily find him in those situations. Or maybe he'll start caring less.
  • He's a better defender than he gets credit for. Using his obscene length and size, Durant grabbed a lot of defensive attention in the postseason, when the Thunder would play "small" with him at the power forward spot. But Durant has long been playing stellar defense, especially in one-on-one situations. He knows how to use his length, taking away jumpers and forcing drives from smaller players.He's not necessarily a big shot-blocker or steal guy, but it's difficult to score on him in isolation situations. He can guard 1-through-5 and relishes big matchups against other top-scoring small forwards.With the Warriors, Durant will likely have less of a responsibility to score, and he can focus on creating more havoc on the defensive end. And maybe start building that reputation.
  • Put him on the block and it's near-automatic points. Durant isn't known for being a great back-to-the-basket post-up guy, but get him the ball with single coverage on either block, and the chance of him scoring is nearly guaranteed.Durant especially likes turning over on his outside shoulder toward the baseline and fading a bit on it. If the defense doesn't bring help, Durant gets that off against anyone.
  • He has a temper. Durant doesn't mind picking up a technical foul. He'll snap at officials after perceived missed calls. He had eight techs last season, which was way down from his 16 in 2013-14. His go-to complain move is to throw both arms in the air with his palms open toward the sky.
  • He can pass. Durant regularly unleashes the kind of pass that makes you go "oooooh" and bring a hand halfway up to your mouth. He loves throwing backdoor bounce passes but knows how to fire the fancy no-lookers, too. His playmaking has been one of his biggest improvements the past few years, going from a big guy with a soft handle and iffy passing instincts to having the ball completely on a string with a high-level drive and dish ability.Durant does get a little weak with the ball, though. In the postseason, he called himself out for too many soft one-handed passes, and when he gets trapped or doubled, he'll often react poorly and throw a lazy pass. The Warriors hit him with traps often, and Durant saw his turnovers jump in the Western Conference finals. Guess he won't have to worry about that as much now.

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