The apparent performed out Wednesday night time in Kevin Durant’s glittering debut as a member of the Phoenix Suns, however the apparent would not at all times come to play with superteams, so let’s embrace it.
This Suns crew, with Durant at its helm, goes to be an absolute pressure by the point the playoffs roll round. They’re Western Conference favorites. Finals contenders. A sure-thing top-three NBA crew within the making, even when they’re coming collectively at a weirdly late time within the common season.
Yes, a 105-91 win over the Charlotte Hornets is much from a top-tier check. Charlotte was a foul basketball crew even earlier than LaMelo Ball fractured his ankle this week and noticed his season come to an finish. And regardless that Phoenix solely gave us a 27-minute pattern measurement of KD-as-Sun what we did see was scary for each different NBA crew nonetheless aspiring to grow to be NBA champions this 12 months.
Durant, who’d been sidelined with an MCL sprain since Jan. 8, appeared unimaginable. He was with Brooklyn then, he is with Phoenix now, however little else has modified. Rust and a brand new a part of the nation did not scramble any of his basketball presents.
Durant missed his first shot — then the flashes of simply how seamlessly he may combine into this crew unfurled.
There was Durant, with a driving layup off a cross from new teammate Chris Paul, for the primary two factors of his Suns profession. There was Durant, blocking a shot on protection, then discovering the ball on the opposite facet of the ground and sinking a silky three, a sequence that — the apparent once more — flashed simply how nice he’s, and shall be, along with his new crew.
Over the course of the sport, Durant made 10 of his 15 pictures. He scored 23 factors. He pulled down six rebounds. He blocked two pictures. He appeared like he’d been taking part in with out a hitch for months. All in just below 27 minutes on the ground.
Beyond that, it was straightforward to look right into a relatively dangerous basketball recreation and see how a relatively transcendent participant has already satisfied rival common managers and Las Vegas that Phoenix is a contender, right now. How-will-it-all-come-together issues be damned.
If this appears like a master-of-the-obvious form of second, simply keep in mind what the league usually holds as clearly an amazing thought usually turns nebulous, perplexing, unfruitful and disastrous.
Ask the Brooklyn Nets. They’ve may give you many examples of this truth. Ask the Los Angeles Clippers in 2020, when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard got here to city. And you possibly can ask them once more, proper now, after they added Russell Westbrook, proving the axiom that it is rather tough to win on this league.
Ditto the Mavericks, who’re 2-5 since Kyrie Irving debuted in Dallas, and 1-4 in video games which have featured Irving and Luka Doncic. Or the Lakers, who actually thought the great days had been going to return this season.
Ask the Atlanta Hawks, or a Memphis crew all of a sudden coping with sufficient off-the-court headlines about Ja Morant that they need to be a bit queasy.
There are many extra examples of certain issues being not-so-sure, however the Suns aren’t going to be one in every of them.
Well past Durant’s particular person stat line, the indicators of that had been all over the place Wednesday night time.
Devin Booker’s 37 factors are an indication of issues to come back. Yes, Booker has at all times been a prolific scorer able to excellence in his personal proper, however Durant’s presence on that crew, as occurred in opposition to Charlotte, will create so many straightforward pictures and a lot decreased defensive consideration for the Suns younger star.
As a comp, assume what a wholesome Steph Curry has finished through the years for an in-form Klay Thompson.
The affect for Chirs Paul was there, too, in a really completely different approach. Before KD, the concept of the Suns advancing deep with out Paul taking part in properly was farcical. But this recreation provided a glimpse of a brand new attainable actuality, one the place a brutally struggling CP3, a minimum of when it comes to his capturing, doesn’t doom the Suns probabilities.
Despite 11 assists, Paul was 1 of 8 from the sphere and scored simply two factors. Perhaps Durant’s presence will ease issues sufficient that Paul can reclaim a few of his personal greatness within the weeks forward. But it is equally attainable that if Paul cannot get again to the extent of play that is marked his profession, Durant may be nice sufficient for the each of them.
Durant will affect all of these items. He’ll put gamers in a lot simpler conditions to permit them to faucet into their abilities. He’ll assist shift a lot of the stress to his personal shoulders. He can cowl up for off days, and even off weeks. He ought to add a degree of utter expertise that is simply too good when blended with Booker, Paul and DeAndre Ayton to be something aside from a high crew.
It was one recreation. It was in opposition to a foul crew lacking its finest participant and with no actual ground common. It’s early within the KD experiment.
But any and all overreactions are going to age simply superb.
If the Suns keep wholesome, the probabilities of each crew that faces them come the postseason will not be.
The buzz was spot on: KD to the Suns equals an automated contender. The glimpse of that truth was too clear Wednesday to chalk as much as something aside from inevitability.
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