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Kevin Durant's NBA Playoffs Resume: Two Championships With A Superteam Are Still Not Enough

Kevin Durant's NBA Playoffs Resume: Two Championships With A Superteam Are Still Not Enough

With the Boston Celtics sweeping the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, this has to go down as one of the worst playoff losses in Kevin Durant’s career. Durant was a frequent flier in the second round and on, but for the first time since 2010, Durant was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

It didn’t always use to be this way. The last two years have seen Durant come up short of greatness. This year, the Nets were picked as a favorite to come out of the East and fell on their face in the first round. Last year, Durant was one toe behind the three-point line from playing in the Conference Finals. When will Durant make it back to the NBA Finals? It’s starting to feel like quite a few years.

Let’s take a look at Durant’s playoff history, which was looking like a pretty solid resume despite Monday’s early exit.

2007-08 NBA Season - Did Not Appear

After being selected as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Seattle SuperSonics, Durant registered 18 points as a 19-year-old in the first game of his NBA career. Just a month later, Durant made his first game-winning shot of his career and the fans in the area grew in love with their star. To this day, Trail Blazers fans wonder what their life could have been had the team drafted him instead of Greg Oden.

At the end of the season, Durant was named Rookie of the Year with 20.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. Durant joined an exclusive group with Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James as the only teenagers to average over 20 points per game. The SuperSonics missed the playoffs as the team was rebuilding, but it gave the team hope for the future.

2008-09 NBA Season - Did Not Appear

After Durant’s first season, the team relocated to Oklahoma City. It was also the second straight year the team had a lottery pick. There, the SuperSonics drafted Russell Westbrook, which would grow into a super duo with Durant over the years. Meanwhile, Durant put on a show at the Rookie Challenge with a record of 46 points.

Durant averaged 25.3 points per game and was considered for Most Improved Player of the Year. Despite Durant’s rise to stardom, the Thunder were still not a complete team and the team missed the playoffs. That led to the Thunder having a lottery pick for the third year in a row, where the team drafted James Harden.

2009-10 NBA Season - Western Conference First Round

Result: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers 2-4

Stats: 25.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG

Durant would get a couple of firsts this season. For starters, Durant was selected for his first All-Star Game. With their new All-Star leading the way, the Thunder improved their record by 27 games. Durant also led the league in scoring, with 30.1 points per game average, which translated to Durant becoming the youngest scoring champion in NBA history.

With their All-NBA First Team selection at the front, the Thunder made the playoffs for the first time in Durant’s career. In his playoff debut, Durant scored 24 points in a loss to the Lakers. The Lakers would ultimately win the series in six games, but with a young trio of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden, the widespread belief around the league was that this team could grow into a title contender.

2010-11 NBA Season - Western Conference Finals

Result: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks 1-4

Stats: 28.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.1 BPG

For the second straight season, Durant led the league in scoring, living up to the five-year, $86 million contract extension that he signed before the season. Durant scored 27.7 points per game and the Thunder won 55 games to secure the fourth seed. The Thunder defeated the Nuggets and Grizzlies in the first round to make it to the Conference Finals for the first time in Durant’s career.

The eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks would take down the young squad. Dirk Nowitzki was lights out the entire playoffs, which led to him eventually winning Finals MVP. The Mavericks featured a core of strong veterans in Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, and Jason Kidd. This would be a true learning experience for the Thunder’s group.

2011-12 NBA Season - NBA Finals

Result: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat 1-4

Stats: 28.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.2 BPG

The season was condensed due to the lockout but that didn’t take away any opportunities from Durant. The season saw Durant score his first career 50-point game, scoring 51 points against the Nuggets. He would make the All-Star Game and win the MVP Award after scoring 36 points. With his season average of 28.0 points per game, Durant led the league in scoring for a third straight year.

The Thunder would make an improbable run to the Finals. Durant hit a game-winning shot for the first time in the playoffs over the Mavericks in the first round. The team would go through the Mavericks, Lakers, and Spurs to set up a date with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Heat in the Finals. The Thunder won Game 1 but then lost the next five games. Durant led all scorers with 30.6 points in five games.

2012-13 NBA Season - Western Conference Semifinals

Result: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies 1-4

Stats: 30.8 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.1 BPG

By now, Durant was an established All-Star in the league, and making the playoffs was the standard. Durant failed to win the scoring title for the fourth year in a row but led the Thunder to a 60-22 record to secure the No. 1 overall seed. The Thunder knocked off the Rockets in the first round, but the team saw Westbrook tear his meniscus in the series to force him to miss the rest of the playoffs.

That set up a match with the Grizzlies, who surprised everyone by winning the series in five games. The Grizzlies were led by Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol. The team boasted the No. 1 overall defense and was able to slow down Durant. With that said, Durant still averaged 30.8 points per game.

2013-14 NBA Season - Western Conference Finals

Result: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs 2-4

Stats: 29.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.3 BPG

Durant had a sensational season where he scored 30 or more points in 12 straight games in January. That included a career-high 54 points. He also broke Michael Jordan’s record for consecutive games with 25 points or more, which led to him winning the MVP. Durant was on a mission to get back to the NBA Finals, averaging 32.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in the season.

The Thunder struggled against the Grizzlies in the first round. The Thunder trailed the series at one point before closing out. In the second round, Durant was able to finish off the Clippers before playing the Spurs. Despite being an older group of veterans, the combination of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and a young pup named Kawhi Leonard was good enough to stop the one-seeded Thunder in six games.

2014-15 NBA Season - Did Not Appear

Before the year started, Durant suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot. This injury ruled him out for six to eight weeks. He missed the first 17 games of the season. Durant would later injure his ankle and miss two weeks. He also suffered a sprained left big toe, as well as going under a minor procedure to help relieve pain in his surgically repaired right foot.

In March, the Thunder decided to shut Durant down for the rest of the season. He averaged 25.4 points in just 27 games. The Thunder would miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009 but would go into the next season healthy.

2015-16 NBA Season - Western Conference Finals

Result: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Golden State Warriors 3-4

Stats: 28.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG

The duo of Durant and Westbrook looked like their former super duo selves. With the two All-Stars playing like a pair of MVP candidates, the Thunder won 55 games and landed the No. 3 seed. The Thunder were playing in a loaded Western Conference with the Rockets playing like a top team, while the Warriors set a record for wins with 73 in the regular season.

In the first round, the Thunder defeated the Mavericks despite shooting at a low percentage. The series saw Durant shoot 7 of 33 in a playoff game, which was the worst shooting performance of his career. In the second round, the Thunder defeated the Spurs after trailing 2-1 in the series. In the Conference Finals, the Thunder held a 3-1 lead on the Warriors but choked away three straight losses. It led to a historic movement that will be talked about for years to come.

2016-2017 NBA Season - NBA Champion

Result: Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1

Stats: 28.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.3 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.3 BPG

After failing to beat the Warriors, Durant famously joined the 73-win team. With Durant in the fold, the Warriors had a starting lineup that featured Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Durant, as well as the top bench pieces in 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. The Warriors would win 67 games and enter the playoffs with the best record.

Durant powered through a Grade 2 MCL sprain and tibial bone bruise which forced him to miss the final 19 games of the season. Durant was able to return in time for the playoffs and helped the Warriors become the first team in league history to start the postseason 12-0. The Warriors took on the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, and Durant outdueled the King to win Finals MVP. In the Finals, Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists while shooting 50-40-90 from the field.

2017-18 NBA Season - NBA Champion

Result: Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0

Stats: 29.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.2 BPG

Durant returned to the Warriors for another season and the core of starters and bench pieces looked to run it back. The Warriors' defense rubbed off on Durant as he set a career-high for blocks in a season. The Warriors were solid but finished runner-up to the Rockets, led by Harden and Chris Paul by seven games in the seeding.

That would set up an entertaining Conference Finals where the Warriors would go the distance with the Rockets. After five games, the Rockets held a 3-2 series lead, but the Warriors avoided elimination. Durant scored 34 points in Game 6 to send the Warriors back to the Finals after limiting Harden in Game 7. In the Finals, the Cavaliers were no match. Durant scored a playoff career-high 43 points in Game 3 as the Warriors easily swept the Cavaliers. In the Finals, Durant averaged 28.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 7.5 assists to clinch his second straight Finals MVP.

2018-19 NBA Season - NBA Finals

Result: Golden State Warriors vs. Toronto Raptors 2-4

Stats: 32.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG

With two championships in his pocket, Durant returned to try and become the first team to three-peat since the 2000-2022 Los Angeles Lakers. The Warriors started the season 10-1 and never looked back by securing the best record in the West. It still set up a tough series with the Clippers in the first round that went six games. The Warriors needed back-to-back career highs from Durant with 45 points in Game 5 and 50 points in Game 6 to close out the series.

In the semifinals, Durant suffered a right calf strain, but the Warriors were able to hold onto clinch the series and beat the Rockets 4-2. The Warriors managed to sweep the Trail Blazers without Durant next. In the Finals, Durant returned to action against the Toronto Raptors in Game 5. After scoring 11 points in the first quarter, Durant suffered an Achilles tendon injury that forced him to limp off the court and the rest of the series, where the Raptors closed out in six games.

2019-20 NBA Season - Did Not Appear

In the offseason, Durant left the Warriors to sign a deal with the Nets. With that said, the team knew that his Achilles injury would likely keep him out for the entire season. Durant did not appear in the 2019-20 season as he recovered from his injury.

2020-21 NBA Season - Eastern Conference Semifinals

Result: Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks 3-4

Stats: 34.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.6 BPG

After a year away, Durant looked like an MVP candidate before suffering a hamstring injury in February. It forced him to miss 23 games, but he made his return in April and the Nets finished 48-24. In the first round, Durant led the Nets to a five-game win over the Celtics that saw Durant score 42 points in Game 4 and 49 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists in Game 5.

The semi-finals felt like the Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. The series went back and forth and it eventually set up an epic Game 7. Durant scored 48 points, nine rebounds, and six assists but it wasn’t enough in the 115-111 loss. The game featured a game-tying two-pointer by Durant to send the game to overtime. His toe was just on the line and was inches away from giving the Nets the go-ahead win.

2021-22 NBA Season - Eastern Conference First Round

Result: Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics 0-4

Stats: 26.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG

During the season, Durant was leading the league in scoring and was considered a frontrunner for the MVP Award. However, Durant suffered a sprained MCL that kept him out for about two months. When he came back, Durant eventually scored a career-high 55 points on April 2, but the season was often overshadowed by distractions for Kyrie Irving, the trade with James Harden, and the drama around Ben Simmons.

The Nets dropped to the seventh seed. Many thought that the Nets could become the first seventh seed in NBA history to make the NBA Finals. Instead, the Celtics brought their top-ranked defense each night and Jayson Tatum limited Durant in scoring. That included shooting 37% from the field, as Durant was swept for the first time in his career.

Overall Playoff Resume

4 NBA Finals, 2 Championships

Stats: 29.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.2 BPG

While this last playoff appearance was not ideal, it does not diminish what Durant has done in the past. When he began with the Thunder, he helped the team’s relocation go flawlessly. The change could have gone south, but Durant brought in new fans as the Thunder were competitive. He led the team to an NBA Finals and nearly brought the team there on two more other occasions.

Many like to point to his choice of leaving OKC for a championship-winning team in the Warriors that didn’t need him. With that said, Durant won Finals MVPs in both seasons. Without Durant, the Rockets potentially lose to the Rockets in 2018. In 2019, the Warriors potentially lose to the eight-seeded Clippers. If Durant can win a title in Brooklyn, that will hush a lot of the naysayers. With the way that looks, it’s a real toss-up if that ever happens. 


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