With the pre-season still far off in the future, and with not much else on the go, I thought I’d start taking a look at what we can expect from the Sonics this year. Naturally, the first guy on the docket is Kevin Durant. Heck, who else did you expect me to write about, Zabian Dowdell? (Okay, I admit it, I considered Little Z first, but that would have been going too far).
Durant is a tough guy to predict – he’s as tall as most power forwards, but he’s got the ability to play shooting guard. He can dunk, shoot 3’s, rebound (allegedly), and run the break with equal aplomb. He’s also 19 and as is so thin he looks like he could squeeze through the bars of a jail cell without too much difficulty. Can he withstand the banging and pounding that is (less so now, but still) so commonplace in the NBA?
The other problem with predicting Durant is that he has no obvious comparisons. Carmelo Anthony is similar, but not really. Dirk Nowitzki is one possibility, but Dirk was a European who no experience in North America his rookie season, and a teenager to boot. LeBron is another option, but he spent no time in college, and their bodies are completely different.
With that in mind, here are the 3 most-recent superstars to emerge from the draft, and how they did their rookie seasons as compared to their freshman years in college (with the obvious exception of LBJ:
Freshman Year: 45%, 33%, 22 ppg, 10 rpg, 36 mpg
Rookie Year: 43%, 32%, 21 ppg, 6 rpg, 36 mpg
Freshman Year: 49%, 35%, 17.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 32 mpg
Rookie Year: 47%, 30%, 16.2 ppg, 4 rpg, 35 mpg
Rookie Year: 42%, 29%, 21 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 40 mpg
Freshman Year: 47%, 40%, 26 ppg, 11 rpg, 36 mpg
(The percentages are FG and 3FG, respectively)
Once again, Durant defies comparison. His numbers are better across the board compared to those guys. You might be surprised – as I was – to see how similar Wade and Anthony were in their rookie years to their freshman seasons. Naturally, I don’t expect Durant to put up a 26-11 this season (especially since he won’t have a 20’ 3-pointer as an option this year), but considering that both Wade and Anthony played at about 90% of their levels their rookie seasons, is it that unreasonable to expect Durant to put up about 22-7 this year? I don’t think so.
Plus, if Durant stays at the 2-guard this year, as many expect, he’s going to come close to matching his block totals from Texas (2 per game) just from the simple reason of guarding much smaller players.
I think it’s safe to say that the Sonics will be looking not only at someone who will be the odds-on favorite to be Rookie of the Year, but someone who could very well contend for a spot on the All-Star Team this year. That last claim might be overly optimistic, but I’d certainly say there’s a 50% chance he does it. First, he has no competition on his team when it comes to shot attempts, and, second, his college numbers were so good you have to expect him to register something pretty impressive this year.
Now, about that 185-pound bench press ...