Suns’ new dimensions flash in Kevin Durant’s debut, win over Hornets


UPDATED: MARCH 1, 2023 AT 8:49 PM

It was solely Kevin Durant’s first recreation with the Phoenix Suns and he was on a minutes restriction however the tantalizing upside of him within the Valley got here oozing out of Wednesday’s 105-91 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

In what’s going to be a multi-step course of and with Wednesday serving as nothing greater than a sneak peek in opposition to a nasty 20-44 Hornets workforce, the potential flashed. And not in the way in which we might discuss Dragan Bender or Josh Jackson flashing 5 years in the past.

Durant contributed 23 factors, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 27 minutes and was a +13 whereas taking pictures 10-for-15.

Offensively, one of many new dimensions is fairly easy.

The greatest scorer of all time can get to his shot at any time when he needs and leaves the protection hopeless.

Durant acquired to his pull-up jumper just a few completely different occasions within the first half.

Phoenix fed Durant within the publish a handful of occasions, which drew double-teams from the Hornets to attempt to keep away from stated hopelessness. Durant expectedly made the best play out of these conditions.

Over the approaching weeks, we’ll see the Suns layer on some Durant decoys into their intricate offense. Here is one instance, Durant screening for Chris Paul within the empty pick-and-rolls we previewed to set off a Durant post-up, just for the set to really be for Devin Booker, who explodes into an open 3 on the opposite wing.

The set begins with Booker operating down the ground and getting a display screen from Durant, so Booker was truly the primary decoy, an instance of how sophisticated the Suns could make this.

The prospects are simply as intriguing on protection, which shall be a shock for a lot of, however possibly they’re much less shocked after watching Durant function on Wednesday.

Durant introduced up throughout his introductory press convention how he loves for his protection to feed into his offense. You gained’t discover a higher instance of this than that.

Durant switches onto Charlotte middle Mark Williams, permitting for Ayton’s experience with perimeter protection to get a crack whereas Durant simply handles a end across the rim. That’s a possession beforehand the place somebody like Cam Johnson can be switched they usually’d be in a troublesome spot. Durant permits the protection in that kind of state of affairs to take care of its structural integrity.

His size creates choices.

The Suns experimented by means of a number of the first half with a much more aggressive defensive scheme. A number of that’s due to how freaking massive Durant is, and when guys like Torrey Craig and T.J. Warren are enjoying small ahead, that’s an enormous lineup.

Check out right here how Durant barely serving to clogs up a complete Hornets possession.

Phoenix often had their huge “show,” which means the Suns’ middle got here as much as the extent of a ball display screen to chop off the driving lane for the ball-handler. This shouldn’t be one thing head coach Monty Williams and his workers have accomplished a lot with Ayton up to now, however you understand what helps with that?

Another seven footer to guard the paint.

Suns gamers responded to the gameplan by enjoying terrific protection to be forward of Charlotte by as many as 19 factors within the first half.

The Hornets trickled again into the sport, although, trailing by simply six by means of three quarters.

Enter Durant.

After a uneven jiffy for Phoenix’s reserves, he self-stabilized the offense with 9 factors throughout 2:46 to maintain the Suns up 11.

Watch for the way in which he zooms out of his first step on the primary and final buckets of those clips.

Knee seems good to me!

And that was whereas Booker rested. Imagine that?

For the 12:15 of recreation time Durant was on the ground with out Booker, he was 7-of-9 for 16 factors and the Suns had been +12. They’ve by no means comes near that degree of safety when the face of the franchise sits.

Not unhealthy aid for Booker, the man that ended up with 37 factors, six rebounds, seven assists and one turnovers on 15-of-26 from the sector.

It was a return to type for the First Team All-NBA guard who had been averaging simply 23.3 factors per recreation throughout the six-game stretch since his first recreation again from damage, a stretch that lacked that high-end capability we’ve come to know.

And that’s what the presence of Durant can do. He’s dealt with the heaviest a great deal of strain throughout his profession, and that frees up his teammates. As a celebrity, all of the reward and criticism all the time comes his means first. That won’t change in Phoenix.

All everybody has been speaking about is Durant and when he was going to debut. He did, and through it, you had been primarily specializing in simply him, weren’t you?

Durant simplifies Deandre Ayton’s position rather a lot as properly and the large man was rock stable in Charlotte with 16 factors, 16 rebounds, 4 assists and a block with sound defensive play all through.

Josh Okogie acquired the nod because the fifth starter. He was a part of that defensive havoc and has two steals and a block to go together with 4 factors.

Durant’s minutes restriction and the absence of Terrence Ross (proper toe soreness) denied us an opportunity at readability for what the post-Durant Suns rotation seems like.

Durant performed roughly the primary six minutes of every quarter after which sat the remainder of the way in which apart from the final three of the sport. It was quarter-hour off the bench every for Craig, Jock Landale, Damion Lee and Cam Payne. While Ish Wainright was the second wing off the bench, Williams did flip to Warren for the primary time in three video games. Warren scored two factors in 13 minutes.

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