Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Durant To Win Rookie of the Year

According to several sources, Kevin Durant will be named the 2008 Rookie of the Year tomorrow. A great award for Durant, it comes as a surprise to just about no one. In a ROY battle that was hyped to be a season long duel between Kevin Durant and Greg Oden, it fizzled quite short, pretty much since Oden missed the entire season due to injury.

Without Oden, the 2008 rookie class looks rather pedestrian, as Al Horford, who had an impressive season for the Atlanta Hawks, finished second in the voting. Outside of Durant and Horford, the second and third selections overall, no one in the Top 10 probably even got a vote. Greg Oden (#1/POR), Mike Conley (#4/MEM), Jeff Green (#5/SEA), Yi Jianlian (#6/MIL), Corey Brewer (#7/MIN), Brandan Wright (#8/LAC), Joakim Noah (#9/CHI), and Spencer Hawes (#10/SAC) all either were limited in playing time or positive impacts with their teams.

Rather, the other rookie contenders came from out in left field. Luis Scola (HOU/28 yrs. old/2002 draft/2nd round, #57 by SAS), Thaddeus Young (#12/PHI), Carl Landry (HOU/2nd round, #31 by SEA), and Jamario Moon (TOR/UDFA). And can you even count Scola? Just because he was killing it in another country and not in this country doesn't mean he's a rookie. With the closest competition having no pre-season pub, it pretty much made it a contest between Durant and Horford. While Al Horford is a great player and has had a great season, he's not the type of player that is a certainty to put up the kind of numbers that will bring hardware and fan fare.

Which pretty much leaves Durant. While Durant still would have won the award by simply taking more shots than everyone else in the competition, Durant actually progressed a lot during the season, to the point that he actually deserved the award. He spent the first half of the season taking too many shots and too many bad shots. His defense was atrocious and he didn't do enough other things on the court.

While his defense still needs improvement, and his other areas of his game are still emerging, Durant played much better in the second half of the season. His shot selection and his shooting percentage both sky rocketed in the second half of the year. However, Durant probably locked up the award with the way he played in his last games as a Seattle SuperSonic. In a city that was having its basketball taken away from them, Durant played like a man that wanted to win games for his city. They may have been meaningless to the NBA, but to Durant and the city of Seattle, they were their Championship games. And Durant poured his heart and soul into winning them that Championship. He showed why many think he will one day be a star in this league.

In his final game for Seattle, on the road at Golden State, Durant had 42 points on 18-25 shooting (1-2 3P; 5-6 FT), 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks in a 126-121 victory. Two days before that, in his final game in Seattle, Durant scored twice in the final 45 seconds as the Sonics overcame a 6 point deficit in the final 3 minutes to defeat the Mavericks 99-95. Durant showed the kind of ability and passion that it takes to make a champion.

On the season Durant posted 20.3 ppg on 43% shooting. He had a dismal 28% 3P%, but posted a respectable 4.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, and nearly a steal and block per game. Durant earned the rookie of the year award and showed all the makings of the star that many believed he would be. He also made the best of a situation where he had minimal talent around him, smack dab in the middle of a strange quagmire of a city having its team stolen from them and shipped to Oklahoma City.

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