Kevin Durant is one scoring title away from being in the elite company of three of the NBA’s greatest players of all time: Michael Jordan, George Gervin and Wilt Chamberlain.
The reigning three-time scoring champion has proven that he is one of the best scorers in today’s game alongside (and often above) future Hall of Famers like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
And he is only 23 years old.
Durant is the complete scoring package, possessing the ability to knock down jumpers, threes, hit tough post shots and drive to the rim when he gets the mismatch. Like the seven-foot tall former MVP Dirk Nowitzki, Durant’s height and long wingspan are incredible assets for a scorer.
He can spot up outside against slower power forwards and post-up small guards if the match-up presents itself. Few defenders have the combination of size and speed to combat Durant’s offensive potency.
So where does Durant stack up against the all-time greats?
Looking at Gervin and Chamberlain, the scoring discrepancies are eye-catching but need to be considered in light of the different pace between now and then. Those players played in different eras than Durant is playing in.
While it may be difficult to compare the three because of the difference in pace of the game (or possessions per game), you can still get a glimpse of how they compare based on their performance compared to the rest of the league at the time.
The reality is that nobody is going to score 50 points per game like Chamberlain did in 1962. Even in Jordan’s highest scoring season he “only” averaged 37 points per game.
Scoring titles are a great place to look. While it is unfair to players like Chamberlain who spent decades scoring at a league elite level, Durant has managed to enter the conversation as a 23-year-old which shows the incredible accomplishments he has already achieved as well as room to improve—if it’s even possible to do so.
Right now, there are scorers that you would have to put ahead of Durant simply because their tenure in the league (Kobe Bryant, Jordan, Chamberlain, Gervin, Allen Iverson) . And Jordan’s ability to score over 30 points per game on over 50 percent shooting is video-game like. Durant probably will never match that.
But if he wins a couple more scoring titles and has a couple seasons where he hits 33-35 points per game there is no reason he should not be sitting right below Michael Jordan.
The main impediment to the former Texas star reaching his full potential as a scorer is teammate Russell Westbrook.
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Oklahoma City has had incredible success already with their talented young core but strictly in terms of scoring, Westbrook’s tendency to deviate from the traditional role of a point guard will hinder Durant to score 30+ a game. Even in the playoffs, the box score showed the stunning proof that Westbrook managed to take more shots than Durant.
If Durant had someone like Rajon Rondo or Steve Nash dishing to him, watch out. But he doesn’t and has still been doing well as it is.
Not only that, but the OKC star manages to appear unselfish even though he has won scoring title after scoring title.
With more than a decade left of basketball, Durant can shatter scoring records left and right—maybe even approach Jordan’s record of 10 scoring titles.