OAKLAND – Andre Iguodala, resident Golden State Warriors veteran and would-be analyst, isn’t one for platitudes.
So when the 32-year-old whose career began alongside Allen Iverson in Philadelphia says that Kevin Durant is only going to get better in his new basketball home, it’s worth taking note.
“KD has been just about as good as you can possibly be (but) I don’t think he’s really scratched the surface as far as what he can do,” Iguodala said this week after the Warriors improved to a league-best 16-2 with a win over the Atlanta Hawks. “He’s kind of holding back on everyone else, so I’m looking forward for him to step on that pedal as we continue.”
The record scratches…
Wait, what?! The same Durant whose numbers are on par with his MVP season, who has somehow managed to be just as special while surrounded by All-Stars in Oakland as he was in Oklahoma City, is going to get better?
“I’m telling you, he’s got a crazy arsenal,” Iguodala continued. “He’s one of the best scorers of all time as far as finding a way to score. It’s (like) peeling layers – it’s kind of like an onion. It’s crazy. It’s amazing. You guys will see it, and you’ll enjoy it … I think sometimes he’s trying to make sure he doesn’t shoot too many shots, but we’re trying to let him know that it’s impossible for him to shoot too many shots.”
In most other years, production like this would dominate the headlines. Durant, who so many assumed would have to sacrifice production when he signed with the Warriors in July, is on pace to have the most efficient season of all time for a player averaging at least 25 points a game (his true shooting percentage, which combines overall, three-point and free-throw marks, is a career-high .681). His overall production has been tremendous, too. He is stepping up as a badly needed rim protector on defense and posting an overall player efficiency rating of 30.83, also a career high.
But this is a special kind of season for the NBA’s best stars, with players like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and others upping their games in familiar locations at a time when Durant is still trying to get comfortable in his new home. Durant’s situation is different in that way. He has had to find that balance between playing as himself and fitting in with the likes of back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry and fellow all-stars like Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Iguodala.
Simply said, it’s absurd how well it is going so far – on and off the floor.
Durant and his former agent-turned-business partner, Rich Kleiman, have been making good use of the new landscape. One day it’s a meeting about the latest investment opportunity with a startup company, another it’s an evening watching the Presidential Election with Apple executives/Warriors fans Tim Cook and Eddie Cue. So it goes in Silicon Valley.
Still, Durant’s best development yet has taken place inside Oracle Arena.
While the efficiency shouldn’t surprise anyone, Durant’s level of production – given the new context – is another matter entirely. With Green focusing on defense, the Warriors’ three perimeter scorers – Durant, Curry and Thompson – have had the kind of balance most thought impossible (Curry a team-high 17.8 shots a game, Durant 16.9 and Thompson 16.7).
As opposed to super teams of the past, squads like the Miami Heat of LeBron James lore who saw all-stars like Chris Bosh taking a backseat, the Warriors are somehow maximizing all their main guys. The Warriors, who lead the league in scoring at 117.6 points a game, are on pace to have the most prolific offense since the 1991-92 Warriors.
“I wasn’t lying when I said I wasn’t sacrificing, you know?” joked Thompson, who has seen only a marginal decline in shot attempts (he averaged 17.3 last season).
For Curry’s part, he downplays the notion Durant’s teammates have done anything out of the ordinary to help him learn the Warriors’ ways.
“There was a little awareness of (them needing help Durant get comfortable), but for the most part when we got to the regular season, we egged each other on just telling each other ‘be aggressive,’” Curry said. “We don’t need to sacrifice, or play on our heels or do anything different than what me and him have done our whole career. We’ve talked about, we’re going to each get shots, get Klay involved too, and we need each other to be who we are and be aggressive.”
The key, as Durant sees it? Stop thinking, and just play the right way.
“I try to think about so much when I’m playing, but sometimes you’ve just to say ‘Forget it’ and just go,” Durant admitted. “Who cares who shoots? Our offense is so freeflowing that the ball is going to find the open guys. If you move, you get open, you’re going to get shots. Some nights I might have it, some nights Steph might have it or Klay might have it, but I don’t think any one of us really cares if someone shoots more shots than us.”