The question for Steve Nash and the Brooklyn Nets so far this season is “how much can Kevin Durant take?”. He’s played in 20 of Brooklyn’s 21 games and is averaging 35.8 minutes, the most since the 2015-16 season when he was still playing for Oklahoma City. KD’s one of the best scorers of all time, but it’s concerning that the Nets are having to rely on him so heavily this early on.
Durant’s led the Nets to a 15-6 record, the best in the Eastern Conference. He’s averaging 28.6 points per game, tied with Steph Curry for the most in the NBA. KD’s done just about everything that he can do for Brooklyn in Kyrie Irving’s absence.
If you look at Durant’s stats, nothing’s concerning. He’s playing excellent basketball. The issue is that the Nets are only a fourth of the way through the 2021-22 season, and he’s already being put into overdrive. The only players ahead of him in minutes per game are Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, LeBron James (who’s only played 11 games), Jayson Tatum, Anthony Edwards, Russell Westbrook, Miles Bridges and Bradley Beal. With James Harden averaging 35.5 (13th in the NBA), there’s no reason Durant should continue to be taxed at this rate.
On Nov. 19, Durant sat out against Orlando due to shoulder soreness, but Brooklyn only won by two points without him against one of the worst teams in the league. In the Nets’ past two games against Phoenix and New York, he logged over 40 minutes. How does Nash feel about overloading his star player?
Steve Nash says that the Brooklyn Nets can’t afford to not play Kevin Durant.
Uh, that’s concerning. And if you’re a Nets fan, you know that Nash isn’t exactly wrong. There’s a problem with this team’s depth and Irving’s absence has created a gap in elite production.
However, Nash should consider betting managing Durant’s minutes. If Brooklyn wants him to be at his best by the time the playoffs start, that’s what it’s going to take unless Irving comes back. If that doesn’t happen, and the Nets don’t make a trade before the Feb. 10 deadline, Durant’s longevity on the court will be even more of a question. Don’t bank on an impactful trade happening, either, because the team’s assets are mostly depleted.
Then again, looking at the flip side, Durant isn’t concerned with his workload thus far. In fact, he’s loving it.
Every Nets fan wants Durant out on the court for 48 minutes too, but that isn’t practical. The end goal is bringing a trophy back to Brooklyn, and that can’t be done if he’s on his last leg in May. Right now, it may not seem like much of an issue to him, but there’s still 75% of the regular season left to be played. And he’s in his age-33 season having played only 55 total games since the start of 2019-2020 season.
There’s a bright spot, though. In Tuesday’s 112-110 win over the Knicks, Durant didn’t have his best game. He shot 9-of-23 from the field for 27 points. Harden’s the one who took over the game for the Nets, scoring 34 points. Could Harden’s performance be a sign of what’s to come in the future?
For KD’s sake, we sure do hope so.