Is Kevin Durant the NBA’s greatest scorer since Michael Jordan?

Kevin DurantIs Kevin Durant the NBA’s greatest scorer since Michael Jordan?

After Michael Jordan, the only multiple scoring title winners are Allen Iverson (4 times), Kobe Bryant (2 times), Tracy McGrady (2 times) and Kevin Durant (3 times). Durant is a lock to win his fourth scoring title this season, which leads us to our question: Is Kevin Durant the NBA’s greatest scorer since Michael Jordan?

To answer that, let us review the scoring statistics of those four scoring champions:

Scoring Averages

As per Basketballreference.com, the following are the career averages of those four NBA stars:

  Points Per Game          FG% 2PT%     3PT% FT%
Kevin Durant    27.4        .480  .509       .379 .882
Kobe Bryant    25.5        .454  .483       .335 .838
Tracy McGrady    19.6        .435  .434       .338 .746
Allen Iverson    26.7        .425  .448       .313 .780

 

Durant tops all of these greats in all categories, but let us note that Tracy McGrady played three seasons in Toronto and averaged just 11.1 points per game there before his career exploded in Orlando and Houston. Kobe Bryant also had a mediocre scoring average in his rookie season, averaging just 7.6 points per game. That being said, remember that Kobe and T-Mac made the leap from high school to the NBA, and this could’ve been a factor in their relatively slow start. On the other hand, Iverson played two seasons at Georgetown, where he averaged a school best 22.9 points per game. Durant meanwhile, played a single season at Texas and averaged 25.8 points per game.

Kobe and Iverson started their NBA careers together. McGrady and Durant are from a different era, so they may have not met each other at their primes. So matching their career averages head to head may not necessarily give us the correct results if we consider those factors.

That leads us to check now on who is the more efficient scorer.

Scoring Efficiency

The better scorer is not only the one who scores the most, but the one who is the most efficient. Let us go into advanced statistics and consider free throw shooting and three-point shooting.

True shooting percentage measures shooting efficiency by considering three-pointers, two-point shots and free throws. On the other hand, effective field goal percentage incorporates the fact that three pointers score one more point than a regular field goal. Let us also add other scoring greats to the equation, including his Airness himself.

Basketballreference.com tells us this:

      True shooting percentage Effective field goal percentage
Michael Jordan         .5686   .509
Kobe Bryant         .5552   .487
LeBron James         .5809   .530
Kevin Durant         .6003   .523
Allen Iverson         .5180   .452
Tracy McGrady         .5190   .470
Carmelo Anthony         .5180   .483

*updated as of April 06, 2014

While T-Mac and AI won scoring titles because they took volume shots, Durant has won his belts efficiently. McGrady attempted 24.2 and 23.4 shots per game in the two years he won. Iverson attempted 22, 25.5, 27.8 and 24.2 attempts per game during his four year reign. Kobe averaged 35.4 points per game in 2005-06 because he took 27.2 shots per game in his 2nd season without Shaq. Melo? Well Melo’s been always Melo. Anthony shot the ball 22.2 times per game while KD only threw up 17.7 shots per game last season. And yet Anthony’s points per game differential over Durant was only 0.6.  That says a lot.

The Legend of the Slim Reaper

Kevin Durant entered the NBA in 2007 as the 2nd overall pick behind Greg Oden. Durant won Rookie of the Year honors with the Seattle Supersonics at age 19. A year later, the Sonics moved to OKC and Durant had his breakthrough year. He improved his scoring average by five points. The following year, he was the youngest scoring champion in NBA history at 21 years of age.

And as the Oklahoma City Thunder were becoming a force to be reckoned with in the NBA, Durant kept scoring at will and remained as the NBA’s scoring champion for the next two years. As a team, the Thunder went to the 2102 NBA Finals, but lost to the Miami Heat in 5 games.

During the 2012-13 season, Durant’s thee year reign as the NBA’s top scorer was challenged by the Madison Square guardian Carmelo Anthony.

Bill Carey of SI Wire on April 17, 2013 reported:

“Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant would have needed 70 points in his final game of the season to surpass Anthony, but Durant announced on his Instagram account that he won’t play in the game.”

Kevin Durant’s Instagram read:

“SITTING OUT TONIGHT’S GAME, if you’re disappointed I didn’t try to go for the scoring title, oh well!!”

Carmelo Anthony upended Durant by averaging 28.7 points per game in one of the closest duels ever. 70 was nearly impossible to do, but Durant’s decision to sit it out proved that he’s in for the bigger stakes, not just individual recognition. Yet the Thunder failed to achieve that bigger goal last year, while Durant also lost to Lebron James in the MVP race.

This season it’s been clear that Durant has been on a mission. The Thunder have the second best record in the NBA and Durant is having a ridiculously sensational scoring season. He just recently broke Michael Jordan’s record for the most consecutive games with at least 25 points: MJ’s mark stood at 40, Durant’s streak just ended at 41. Only Wilt Chamberlain (106) and Oscar Robertson (47) are ahead of KD in that department.

But as we noted before, Kevin Durant isn’t about individual achievements.

FoxSports Southwest reported this on April 7:

“When asked about the streak, Durant replied, ‘I don’t really care about it. I wish it was over,’ according to The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry

Durant may be thinking about winning the title, but in order for the Thunder to do so, he has to be KD, and that is being the lethal scoring machine that he is. So expect to see many other scoring records fall in the coming years.

So do numbers tell the story?

Yes! Durant is undoubtedly the best scorer since Michael Jordan. As written by Jack Hamilton of Slate.com:

“Allow me to throw some numbers at you

48, 30, 33, 37, 36, 54, 30, 46, 36, 32, 41, 33, 26, 26, 31, 26, 29, 41, 36, 43, 28, 42, 28, 37, 28, 42, 34, 27, 42, 29, 30, 35, 35, 51, 27, 43, 29, 31, 28, 28, 38”

For Kevin Durant, these numbers speak for themselves.

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