Upon Further Review: The Best Players in NBA History, #25
In what will become a daily entry over the course of the next month, Waiver Wire writers Greg Kaplan and Vinny Ginardi will release a list of the the 25 players who they believe to be the best in NBA history. Players were judged on their careers as a whole rather than short stretches of dominance (for example, Bill Walton didn’t make the list due to injuries cutting his career short).
VG: Okay, so we already cheated our own system a little bit. If Kevin Durant retired or suffered a career-ending injury today, his career would undoubtedly not be considered to be one of the 25 best ever. But that’s because he’s only played for five years and still has his best years ahead of him.
In his five years, the 23-year-old Durant already has three scoring titles (that’s as many as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James combined) and has already made three All-NBA first teams and was the 2008 Rookie of the Year. He’s been to two Western Conference Finals and one NBA Finals, and his Oklahoma City Thunder are in great position to come out of the West again next season, if not the next five to ten seasons.. He’s one of the best scorers the league has ever had, and again, he’s still only 23 years old.
So yes, his sample size might be too small to include him on this list already. But by forecasting what his career will most likely look like, Greg and I agreed that will Durant will finish as one of the top 25 players in NBA history.
GK: Kevin Durant is literally our only exception on this list, and it became more and more difficult to even keep him in the Top 25 the more we debated all of the players that were necessary for consideration.
However, no active player who we haven’t selected to be on this list (you’ll see) profiles to crack the list in the sense that the Durantula can. Vinny has mentioned many of his career accolades above, but one in particular that is worth repeating, with emphasis:
Kevin Durant is only 23-years old.
Durant has accomplished so much on the court already, serving as the team leader for one of the most exciting and youngest teams in the NBA. Furthermore, he’s also proven his worth in gold on the international circuit. He was the unquestioned dominating force on the USA’s 2010 World Championship squad, and plays arguably one of the most important roles on the 2012 USA Olympic team.
He’s a proven scorer with touch from beyond the arc, can thrash his way to the basket against any defender, can create his own shot and his pinpoint accuracy from the free throw line. If today, you were asked to construct a new NBA team from scratch with the ability to choose any current player in the league from any team without compensation needed in return, Durant is one of the first two players picked, with LeBron James being the only other star you’d consider in the same sentence.
If Durant a Top 25 player right now? Probably not. But, given his current career arc, even if Durant just posts “average” years according to his already high standards, he won’t just make this list.
He’ll climb to the near top of it.