Thunder 113, Wolves 103: I want a Kevin Durant for Christmas

Zach Harper —  December 2, 2013 — 12 Comments

KD

Tickle Me Elmo can go kick rocks. I want a Kevin Durant for Christmas. How do you get one of those? Are they harder to find than a PS4 right now? Does anybody know where I can get a PS4 and a Kevin Durant right now?

I firmly believe Kevin Love is a star in this league and capable of leading a really good team deep into the playoffs. I’m not sure I believe he’s that guy on a true title contender, but Love is certainly good enough to get a team toward the end of the second round. Maybe if you get a road like the Memphis Grizzlies had last year, you could see Love getting a shot in the Western Conference finals in the future with a team like the Wolves have put around him. There are plenty of detractors when it comes to Love as a franchise piece. Personally, I think it’s crazy to look at what he does on a basketball court and say he isn’t a number one guy.

His skill set is sort of unmatched in the NBA. He has a unique blend of finesse and power in his game and we all know he allegedly does the most with the least. He can score inside, outside, midrange, and get his team easy buckets with his passing ability. He’s the top rebounder in the NBA. And the team is actually significantly better defensively with him on the floor this season than when he’s out of the game. Whether that’s by coincidence or production, I’m not sure we have enough evidence to say just quite yet.

However, there are number one players on a franchise team and then there is Kevin Durant. 

Other than LeBron James, there isn’t a single player I would even consider taking over Kevin Durant right now. I know this is shocking, groundbreaking basketball talk here but I think sometimes we forget just how absurd Kevin Durant is. He’s a 6’11” wing player with a 7’4″ wingspan that can shoot the lights out from anywhere on the floor. Not only that but he’s capable of putting the ball on the floor to create room for a jumper, drop the defender and get straight to the rim, or create a scoring chance for a teammate. He gets to the free throw line seemingly whenever he wants to. It’s almost impossible to take away a shot he wants to take and you’re left with hoping you’ve contested him enough to screw up his shooting motion.

We watched the Wolves get a lead against the Thunder Sunday night and they held it for a pretty long time. Considering the Thunder are whole again (not like we saw them in the second game of the season when they were missing Russell Westbrook) and clicking like they were last season, to hold that lead or win the game in Oklahoma City would have been a huge feat. Since trading James Harden, the Thunder are 43-7 at home, 9-0 this season after beating the Wolves. It doesn’t mean the Wolves shouldn’t win that game, but I understand why the lead was bending and then finally broke, only not to be fixed again.

The Wolves worked really hard to take Durant away from scoring in the second half and instead of forcing the action, he accepted his fate. He still scored 12 points on 5/10 shooting in the second half, but he absorbed the help defense of the Wolves and dished out nine assists after halftime. The Thunder seemed to adjust to what the Wolves were doing much better than what the Wolves did against the Thunder. The Wolves took advantage of turnovers by the Thunder in the first half and it was how they built their lead, despite surrendering 58.1% shooting from the field.

The second half was a different story. The Thunder kept shooting at a high percentage (54.5%) but stopped turning the ball over. Without the constant chaos fueling the Wolves attack, they got sucked into a halfcourt game. The Thunder are one of the five best defensive teams in the league. If you get sucked into a halfcourt game against them, you have to be exceptional to break their defense, especially at home. The Wolves were hardly perfect in that respect.

Kevin Love was 1/8 in the second half. Kevin Martin was 1/7 and Corey Brewer was 1/5. You just can’t have those three guys be so ineffective scoring the ball from the field and expect to pull off the upset on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. Nikola Pekovic was incredibly effective in the second half of that game, scoring 14 points on eight shot attempts but it wasn’t enough. When you compare the fact that Martin-Love-Brewer accounted for 18 points after halftime compared to Durant’s 22 points just off passing (34 points overall in the second half), it shouldn’t shock anybody that the Wolves dropped this game.

The Wolves should have won this game. They were set up to win this game with a strong effort through the first three quarters. A 35-20 fourth quarter turned this from a winnable game to another frustrating loss. I’m not sure if JJ Barea playing so long into the fourth quarter was the reason they lost as some on Twitter decided after the final buzzer. Rotations on the second night of a back-to-back can be odd and I’d rather look big picture than worry too much about losses this early in the season. Other people will disagree with that and that’s fine with me.

I saw Kevin Durant play like only one other guy in the world can play. He racked up 32 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, four blocks, and four steals. He shot 66.7% from the field and had just two turnovers. Kevin Durant was an elite superstar Sunday night and the Wolves didn’t have enough to match that on the road. On a lot of nights, I believe Kevin Love can battle against this Thunder team and do more to give his team a shot to win this ball game. We’ve seen him put them in position against the Thunder before. That didn’t happen Sunday night.

Kevin Durant happened. I want one.

Zach Harper

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12 responses to Thunder 113, Wolves 103: I want a Kevin Durant for Christmas

  1. Totally agree. Durant was absolutely filthy and Reggie Jackson blacked out during the start of the fourth quarter. In general the wolves played three solid quarters and one dud. The bench continues to give me acid reflux and the rotations weren’t managed the best in the 4th (saying this with my zero years of coaching experience). That being said, can you discuss the wolves difficult schedule thus far? I am bias but damn it when do we play Utah? Our back to backs have already consisted of 2nd night games against the clips twice and the thunder last night. And next up my personal favorite a “home game”in Mexico City against the San Antonio Spurs. I passed geography in 8th grade and I am pretty sure that doesn’t make a lot sense. Could be wrong though, I specialized in state capitols.

  2. They had a black friday sale on Kevin Durants at Wal-Mart, but they sold out early. I think they still have a few Michael Beasley’s on the clearance rack, though.

  3. Good article. I think every Wolves fan would love to see a Kevin Durant sitting under the tree this Christmas. But I doubt he will be there so they need to find some more scoring depth coming off the bench. I see the real problem is on the road and on back to backs the Wolves are awful. They can get a lead but they can’t hang on to it. I know Adleman lovess J.J. but I still see him as a killer with the 2nd unit. If he were to get less mintues I would be fine with it but with Alexy struggling I don’t see that happening. I feel they should trade J.J. and see if they can’t get a Jamal Crawford type of 6th man. Alexy can still handle the ball and be more of a point gaurd scorer and let someone else jack it up who can be more consistant. But there lays the problem. I think if there was that type of player out there they would have gotten him in the D-Will trade. Flip has done a good job of making a good starting unit and with some tinkering of the bench and getting Buddinger back the Wolves should be able to finish these games off with wins by the end of the season.

    Zach- do you see Flip doing anything else , or leaving the team as it is, settle for an 7th,8th seed and make some more moves over the summer?

  4. “I think every Wolves fan would love to see a Kevin Durant sitting under the tree this Christmas.” – Eric

    “You’re gonna need a bigger tree.” – Roy Scheider

  5. Eric, as a reforming NBA Trade Machine addict. I am betting nothing gets done before the 15th. That’s when all of the FA signings are eligible to be traded.

    Having said that I think there will be some decent bench upgrades available after that. I’m just not sure what we have to offer back.

  6. We had a shot at an ultra-young, and ultra-talented, teenager this past draft. We took Shabbazz instead. Who would be a better end-of-the-bench stash for this franchise? An undersized, overrated swing man in Muhammed? Or the still-growing freak of nature that is Giannis Antetokumnpo? Since neither would contribute this season, a logical person would take the teenager with unlimited potential instead of the waste that has become Shabbaz Muhammed. Another big miss for the Wolves on draft day.

  7. Matt: I also like to declare picks a giant miss a quarter into the first season. That is absolutely the point where you know if the player will ever work out.

    I don’t care if you would have preferred Giannis, he looks like he has a bright future, but I am tired of hearing that Shabazz was a wasted pick. No one knows where he will end up, but to view him as a finished product already is beyond stupid. Why not give him some time and see if he improves before you rule it a “wasted pick”.

    Giannis has more opportunity to play on a far inferior Bucks team, but for some reason you see guaranteed success from 5 points a game? That comes while shooting 12% better from beyond the arc then he ever did overseas, but our guy does not get to play due to depth on a good team and he is already a bust?

  8. Jordan, your points are valid but I tend to agree with Matt that Muhammad is almost certainly a wasted pick for this team and in particular, this coach. Muhammad isn’t picking up all those DNP-CDs for no reason – the Wolves are not so good that they can’t find 10-15 minutes every game for a young guy they want to develop. If the Thunder can do it for Steven Adams, the Blazers can do it for Thomas Robinson and the Rockets can develop Terrence Jones as their starting PF in a trial by fire, the Wolves could figure out a way to work Muhammad into the rotation. And considering they traded Derrick Williams, haven’t had Budinger all season and the bricklaying ghosts of Shved and Hummel’s PERs combined add up to a markedly sub-replacement level player, I don’t buy that Minnesota’s “depth” keeps Shabazz from getting playing time at the two and three. If you can’t beat out the murderer’s row of Brewer, Shved and Hummel for a few minutes of burn (and it is not like Adelman wants to play the historically brittle K-Mart 36 minutes a game if he thought he had any choice in the matter without watching the team go down in flames), you are objectively among the very worst swingmen in the league, or at least your coach believes you are. And that is where Shabazz is at right now. You know what happens when you give one of the very worst players at the most fungible position in the league more time? Chances are, nothing.

    Which is why I can’t agree with you that it is ridiculous for Matt to write Muhammad off – it is early, but why is it necessarily unreasonable? Adelman clearly has no interest playing him and it seems like once Adelman decides a guy isn’t his type of player and won’t help him win, he is done with him. Adelman has never cared whether the front office would like to see him develop their pet projects (see Williams, Derrick, Beasley, Michael, Johnson, Wesley, Ellington, Wayne, Lee, Malcolm, or for that matter, Shved, Alexey). And none of those guys were initially in Adelman’s doghouse as deeply as Muhammad seems to be in there now. I think it has been evident pretty much from day 1 that Adelman didn’t think much of the Muhammad pick and time has not swayed his low opinion of him – what can we conceive of that will change his mind dramatically during the course of this season? Which is not to say Adelman would play Giannis a ton if they had drafted him but he certainly could not play him any less, the only players on the Wolves roster who have logged fewer minutes than Muhammad (including Mbah a Moute) are Budinger who has been on IR, and Turiaf who has been injured for all but 2 games, and yet has only seen 5 fewer minutes of total court time than Muhammad. In fact, take away two garbage time stints against the Thunder and the Cavs and Muhammad has averaged 30 seconds of action per game. I imagine Adelman would be able to find 30 seconds a game for Giannis. He could probably find 30 seconds a game for Crunch the Wolf.

    I am not saying Muhammad will be a total bust in the NBA but I just don’t see anything happening for him with the Wolves so long as Adelman is in charge (assuming he doesn’t come back as a dramatically improved, much more mature player next year – and why would we assume that?), which means the Wolves probably will have to trade him for the rights to some 28-year old in Europe to dump his salary next year ergo, wasted pick for this particular team.

  9. Mac, you chose 3 REALLY poor players to make your case there.

    First Thomas Robinson and Terrence Jones are not rookies. Thomas Robinson was a top 5 pick that got traded twice within the first year, the second in a salary dump.

    Terrence Jones is the perfect example of what I mean when I say you can’t give up on a rookie already. His rookie year he played 19 games total. He could not get minutes from Patrick Patterson, Donatus Montejunas, and…Thomas Robinson. So year 2 he is contributing on a regular basis. What makes you think Muhammad can’t do that?

    Steven Adams was considered a viable option for the 1st overall pick in this draft at one point, but he needed foot surgery and could not workout for teams leading up to the draft and he slipped down, and he could not have gone to a better team to get instant minutes. He is competing for minutes against Kendrick Perkins and Hasheem Thabeet. I don’t think those 2 have one viable basketball skill between them.

    You are correct that Adelman will player guys that work within his system over other players, and that is how Hummel gets those minutes. He puts in an effort on defense, and plays within the system. Muhammad’s entire career he has been the go to scorer for his team, I imagine that is would be a very difficult transition to go from #1 option to system guy. I think once he figures out the change he will be just as deadly on cuts as Brewer and Martin are. The other side is he never learns to do that like DWill. If he can’t adjust to being a role player then he will not make it. It is just way too soon to say he won’t.

  10. Believe whatever you want, Jordan. This team has missed on a ton of draft picks. Muhammed is the latest miss. I like Dieng, but Muhammed wont see the court. Therefore, the pick was stupid. My gut tells me Giannis Antetokumnpo will be a far better NBA player in time. Shabazz is Derrick Williams all over again.. This team had wayy too many swingmen to waste the 14th pick on another one.

  11. Do you have a precedent for your belief that does not contain the past failures of someone who is not with the team anymore?

    I agree that Antetokummpo will probably end up having a better career; I just don’t understand why you think that Shabazz will never produce anything at all. The idea that he will end up being a solid rotation player is not crazy at all. Getting a rotation player for the 14th pick in a very weak draft is not wasted.

  12. Alphabet is already a solid NBA starter at 2-guard. Shabazz is a big miss – or a DNP machine. Whatever you prefer. It was an obvious f-up on draft day – IMO. Shabazz will never live up to the hype his father created for him.

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