Back on July 4, 2016 — the day Kevin Durant decided to take his talents to the Bay Area and join forces with the already loaded Golden State Warriors — we knew how lethal he was on the offensive end of the floor.
The slender seven-foot assassin can do all things offensively: Pull-up for 3-pointers off the dribble, fluster defenders with his unblockable mid-range fadeaway and dazzle with his deft playmaking ability.
What we didn’t know was how dominant Durant could be defensively. Since that day, we’ve seen him flourish as a rim-protector in Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams’ scheme.
Durant is now the most complete player in the NBA. He’s overtaken LeBron James as the best player — which isn’t easy to admit.
In the 2016 NBA playoffs — Durant’s last season in Oklahoma City — we saw a glimpse of how good he could be on the defensive end. He erased Kawhi Leonard’s offensive contributions to the San Antonio Spurs and basically made Draymond Green invisible in the Western Conference Finals.
Durant now leads the league in blocked shots with 67 as he makes his case to win Defensive Player of the Year.
But there’s something I’ve come full circle on Durant when it comes to the ‘best player in the NBA’ debate.
Greg Papa and I argue about the deadline on our show on 95.7 The Game. Papa sides with Durant, but I’ve been on record backing LeBron — even after Durant drilled a three in James’ grill in Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals.
However, after watching Durant check James on Christmas Day while Jae Crowder had to defend KD, it’s clear Durant has snatched the torch from LeBron.
Since Stephen Curry was sidelined with a sprained right ankle injury, the Warriors are 8-1 and it’s because Durant has gone into kill-mode.
He’s averaged 29.9 points per game while grabbing 8.8 rebounds, throwing 5.5 assists and blocking 3 shots. Meanwhile, the Warriors have reclaimed their spot as the best shot blocking team in the league.
James is not the defensive stalwart he once was and he never was a better shooter than Durant. It was the mental edge that separated the two in the ‘best player in the world’ argument.
Now in Golden State, playing for savvy head coach Steve Kerr and with junkyard dog Draymond Green, Durant’s full skillset has been unlocked.
Papa will laugh at me for finally admitting this, but Durant is the best player in the NBA. He’s surpassed James. This is his league.
Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from noon to 3 p.m. on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, he is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner, and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill.