Back in 2007, Kevin Durant’s strength—or lack of it—was a matter of concern when he was coming out of the University of Texas. The fact he couldn’t do one rep of the standard 185-pound bench press, despite having a 6ft 9in frame, was a bit of a shock for some; but why should it matter as long as he can put the ball through the hoop?
Over his seven-year career, Durant has shown he is one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA by wining NBA Rookie of the Year, becoming a four time NBA scoring champion, and of course, earning the 2014 NBA MVP award. However, these first two rounds of the playoffs have shown Durant has become a victim of his own success.
He has accomplished almost everything a player of his caliber can—except for winning an NBA championship. Now, I know Durant is only twenty-five years old, he still has room for growth and maturation, but one major flaw that has been apparent in these playoffs is his physical weakness.
In game four of the conference semifinals versus the Los Angeles Clippers, Chris Paul exploited Durant’s Achilles heel: his lack of strength. This has resulted in his inability to create a post up game, and ultimately may end up leading to the Thunder falling short of a championship once again.
The absence of post up strength for Durant was a catalyst for the Clippers’ breathtaking comeback win. Chris Paul is listed at 6ft even, which means he gives up nine inches to Durant. Yet, coach Doc Rivers had no problem with matching the smaller Paul one-on-one with the bigger player. Yes, Durant scored an impressive forty points in the game, but he also had eight turnovers including a crucial one late in the fourth quarter.
The Memphis Grizzlies did something similar in the first round of the playoffs when coach David Joerger matched 6ft 4in Tony Allen against this years MVP. In that series, Durant turned the ball over a total of twenty-eight times through seven games. Through four games with the Clippers, Durant has a total of seventeen turnovers. It’s not a coincidence that coaches are matching up smaller players on Durant. It’s happening because coaches know Durant can’t muscle smaller players out of the way. This has resulted in the double-team having an easier time rotating over, forcing turnovers, and keeping the Thunder from closing out games by making Durant give up the ball; Sunday’s game four against the Clippers being a good example.
All great players have developed a post up game at some point in their career. Both Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan realized this was an important skill to add to their toolbox. Even LeBron James didn’t win a championship until he was able to master the art. I think if Durant and company falls short of a championship once again, Durant must seriously consider a change by gaining muscle and using his 6ft 9in frame more to his advantage in order to help himself and the others around him get better. Durant doesn’t need to resemble Sampson or Hercules, but he needs to show he will not be bullied and pushed around by smaller players. Time after time I’ve seen Durant try to body up an opposing defender in vain, when is he finally going to consider expanding his physique and game?