Kevin Durant is one of the game’s greatest players. The Slim Reaper is a 4-time scoring champion with a career PPG average of 28.7 that ranks 4th all-time. Adding to that fact, Durant is a 2-time NBA champion and 2 Finals MVPs.
But Durant only recently earned rings on his fingers and before he joined the Golden State Warriors, he was ringless. As great as Kevin Durant is, his playoff record before he joined the Warriors and now the superteam Nets is nothing to be proud of. Here is how Kevin Durant’s playoff record looks like from his rookie season until 2020.
2008 NBA Season: Missed Playoffs
The Seattle Supersonics (which became the Oklahoma City Thunder after the 2008 season) drafted Kevin Durant with the No. 2 overall pick. Of course, he won the Rookie of the Year Award after averaging 20.3 PPG and 4.4 RPG as an extremely raw 19-year old. Durant showed flashes of brilliance, and he would kick-off as a superstar very soon.
The Supersonics were just a team filled with young talent including a young Russell Westbrook who averaged 15.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 5.3 APG on only 39.8% shooting from the field. The Sonics had zero expectations in 2008 and that meant Durant missed the Playoffs in his rookie campaign.
2009 NBA Season: Missed Playoffs
Durant’s second season as a 20-year old was extremely impressive. Durant averaged 25.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, only 2.8 APG. Durant already showed he was a scoring phenom in his second season but his all-around game and especially his passing game needed work.
Still, Durant was a special offensive player. He averaged 25.3 PPG on 47.6% from the field and 42.2% from three. Durant exceeded expectations as a player and he would break through to become an All-Star and make the playoffs the following season.
2010 First Round: Loss 4-2 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The first time Durant made the playoffs was in 2010 against the eventual champion Lakers. Durant was only 21 years old but captured the scoring title after averaging 30.1 PPG on 47.6% shooting. Durant and the Thunder made it to the playoffs and had a tough test ahead of them as they were only the 8th seed facing the 1st seed.
Durant was impressive, averaging 25.0 PPG albeit at a poor 35.0% shooting percentage. With Kobe Bryant dropping 23.5 PPG and Pau Gasol chipping in 18.0 PPG and 12.2 RPG, the Lakers defeated the young and athletic Thunder in 6 games.
2011 Western Conference Finals: Loss 4-1 vs. Dallas Mavericks
In 2011, Durant was 22 years old and one of the best players in the league already. Durant averaged a league-leading 27.7 PPG, and his scoring ability was something special to witness only one season removed from his first scoring title.
Durant and the Thunder made it to the Western Conference Finals to face the eventual champions led by Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks had a great team, but Dirk was a man on a mission. Nowitzki averaged 32.2 PPG to make quick work of the Thunder, while Durant shot a poor 42.9% during the series.
2012 NBA Finals: Loss 4-1 vs. Miami Heat
This team Kevin Durant was on might be the most talented squad he has ever had in Oklahoma City. Durant led the league in scoring at 28.0 PPG during the lockout-shortened 2012 season, with the Thunder finishing 2nd in the Western Conference.
The Thunder had Russell Westbrook (23.6 PPG and 5.5 APG during the season) and James Harden (16.8 PPG and won the 6th Man of the Year) alongside Kevin Durant, while Serge Ibaka blossomed into a solid defensive player as well (3.7 BPG). They were the most talented team in the West, and that’s why they made the NBA Finals.
Unfortunately for Durant, the Miami Heat made quick work of the Thunder by winning 4-1 in the series. Durant held his own averaging 30.6 PPG on 54.8% shooting, but James Harden laid an egg in the series while LeBron James ran away with Finals MVP.
2013 Western Conference Semi-Finals: Loss 4-1 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
One year later, the Oklahoma City Thunder finished with the best record in the Western Conference (60-22). They also had the second-best record in the entire NBA, behind the Miami Heat (66-16).
Durant averaged 28.1 PPG and 7.9 RPG that season while showcasing an improved playmaking and defensive ability. Durant averaged 4.1 APG and 1.2 BPG. Westbrook also chipped in with 23.2 PPG and 6.5 APG, but unfortunately, James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets.
The Thunder were not as good as last year, but they still had an All-Star duo and an improved Serge Ibaka (13.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 3.0 BPG). But the Thunder had a very poor postseason, losing in 5 games to the Memphis Grizzlies. Russell Westbrook missed the postseason with an injury, and Durant averaged 28.8 PPG and 10.4 RPG in the series but it wasn’t enough.
2014 Western Conference Finals: Loss 4-2 vs. San Antonio Spurs
The following year, the Thunder had a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook determined to make the NBA Finals again. Kevin Durant captured the regular-season MVP by averaging 32.0 PPG and 7.4 RPG and also led the league in scoring.
The Thunder survived a grueling 7 games against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, before finishing the Clippers in 6 games. But during the Western Conference Finals, something very strange happened. Kevin Durant looked passive and let Russell Westbrook take control for the majority of the series, which was to the detriment of the Thunder.
The San Antonio Spurs finished Oklahoma City in 6 games, and they would become the eventual NBA champions. During the series, Westbrook averaged 26.8 PPG on 40.7% shooting, while Durant averaged 25.8 PPG on 47.5% shooting. There is no defending how Durant didn’t lead his team in scoring and looking at his efficiency, this was a major crime.
2015 Missed The Playoffs: Team Record 45-37
The 2015 season was a difficult year for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant especially. Durant only played 27 games during the season before leaving Russell Westbrook alone to fend for himself thanks to an unfortunate injury. Westbrook led the league in scoring at 28.1 PPG, but he couldn’t guide the Thunder to the playoffs alone.
The Thunder finished with a 45-37 record which was tied with the Pelicans, but the tiebreaker went the way of New Orleans and Durant would have to sit through another year without making an NBA Finals. Durant still held his own by averaging 25.4 PPG through 27 games, but the real test came the following season.
2016 Western Conference Finals: Loss 4-3 vs. Golden State Warriors
In possibly the biggest opportunity for Kevin Durant to capture an NBA title with the Oklahoma City Thunder, 2016 was also the biggest turning point in his career.
The Thunder finished with the 3rd best record in the West, behind the 67-win Spurs and the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. The Warriors and Spurs were the favorites that year, but the Thunder shocked the world in the playoffs. They defeated the Mavericks in the first round and went head-to-head with the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
Durant averaged 28.5 PPG while Westbrook chipped in with 25.2 PPG and 10.5 APG to lead the Thunder to an impressive win in 6 games. That meant a Western Conference Finals showdown with the best team in history, the 73-9 Warriors.
The Thunder were up 3-1 against the Warriors, with 3 chances to put them away once and for all and return to the Finals. But neither Kevin Durant nor Russell Westbrook could seal the deal. The Warriors won 3 straight games thanks to 31 by Stephen Curry in Game 5, 41 by Klay Thompson in Game 6, and 36 by Stephen Curry in Game 7.
Kevin Durant, averaging 30.0 PPG for the series, could not win a single game to put the Warriors away. While there is no shame in losing to the 73-9 Warriors, this was a perfect opportunity to win a chip they matched up well with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
Kevin Durant After He Joined The Warriors: 2 Championships, 2 Finals MVP
2017 NBA Finals: Win 4-1 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Unfortunately for Thunder Nation, Durant left to join the same team that beat him the next year and would win 2 out of the next 3 championships. His first Finals victory came in 2017 when Durant was the third Splash Brother alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Durant led the Warriors to battle against LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love.
Durant averaged 35.2 PPG for the series, while Curry dropped 26.8 PPG as well. The Warriors were simply better than the Cavaliers on both ends of the floor, and the “Death Lineup” featuring Draymond Green at center was too much to handle. Durant won his first NBA title with the superteam the very first season.
2018 NBA Finals: Win 4-0 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Durant’s second NBA title came one year later when the Warriors were still the most talented team in the NBA. Of course, the Eastern Conference had no other dominant team other than LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Unfortunately for the Cavs, Kyrie Irving left Cleveland leaving LeBron and Kevin Love to fight the Warriors alone in the Finals.
Durant was once again the most dominant player in the series, averaging 28.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 7.5 APG. Durant had too much help and LeBron James didn’t. It was that simple, and the Warriors swept the Cavaliers. With Durant winning his second straight Finals MVP, Thunder fans squirmed in their seats of what they missed.
2019 NBA Finals: Loss 4-2 vs. Toronto Raptors
Of course, this was a sad season for the great Kevin Durant. He won back-to-back titles with the Warriors and were the absolute favorites to complete a 3-peat and solidify their standing as one of the NBA’s greatest dynasties. But Durant, having suffered injuries during the playoffs, decided to play in Game 5 in the NBA Finals to help his team.
After all, a 3rd straight ring and Finals MVP were on the line. But Durant popped his Achilles, a career-ending injury for the majority of players, and did not play the rest of the series. With the Warriors losing Klay Thompson shortly after, the Raptors took advantage and won the series.
2020 NBA Season: Missed Season Due To Injury
Kevin Durant was still recovering from a horrific Achilles injury during the previous year’s playoffs. As a result, he missed the entire first season with his new team the Brooklyn Nets. Kyrie Irving, the player he decided to join forces with, only played 20 games.
Durant was expected to miss the season to recover 100% and come back next season with a healthy Kyrie Irving beside him. Of course, they would get plenty more help the following season and now has the most talented team in the world in 2021.
Looking back at Durant’s playoff career, one thing sticks out. Kevin Durant suffered a lot of failures before forming arguably the most talented team in NBA history. Kevin Durant is a Hall of Famer and one of the best players to have ever lived, but his track record before joining the juggernaut Warriors and later the superteam Brooklyn Nets is very eye-opening.
Of course, winning 3 straight rings and 3 straight Finals MVPs would have shut up a ton of critics about his decision to join Golden State, but he suffered a catastrophic injury yet returned to 100% this season. Durant deserves a ton of credit for being one of the game’s greatest scorers and even working hard to come back to superstar status after the injury, but there is no question he has had the best teammates in NBA history.
The fact that Durant could not get it done with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City is a shame especially when they were up 3-1 vs. the Warriors in 2016. If Durant can add another 2 rings to his collection with Brooklyn, that should be enough to shut up critics once and for all about forming superteams. Because in the end, the proof will be there that it works.
Credit for idea: Basketball Highlights Official/Instagram