Despite First-Round Flameout, KD Is Still An All-Time Great Player | But He Is A Horrendous General Manager

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Kevin Durant is on the verge of being swept for the first time in his illustrious career. The Brooklyn Nets are down 0-3 to the Boston Celtics in their first-round best-of-seven series, and it’s just a matter of formality how it ends.

This series loss will mark only the second time in KD’s career that he’s failed to advance past the first round. The poor showing has many talking heads and social media users debating KD’s legacy as a player. But that’s not what’s in question.

KD is one of the greatest players of all time. 12-time All-Star, nine-time All-NBA, four-time scoring champ, two-time Finals MVP, league MVP, and Rookie of the Year. He is a member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.

The casual fan points to 2017, when he was a member of the Golden State Warriors, as the only time KD has “won anything.” The NBA title is a team award not an individual one, contrary to popular belief.

Before joining the Warriors, KD was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. In nine seasons with the franchise he made the playoffs six times. The 2014-15 season would have been seven, had he not suffered a Jones fracture and missed almost the entire season.

In those six playoff runs KD’s Thunder made four conference finals appearances and an NBA Finals appearance.

His first playoff appearance was a round one loss in six games to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers at 21. In that Finals appearance the young Thunder went up against the juggernaut Miami Heat and peak LeBron James. KD averaged 30 points per game in those Finals on 54/39/83 splits.

KD did plenty of winning before joining the Warriors, his team just never won the title. Lots of really good teams and elite players don’t win titles.

He joins the Warriors and they make three straight Finals appearances winning two, where KD was Finals MVP both times. In the third trip KD suffer a torn Achilles tendon, and his time with the Dubs ended.

KD decided to team up with best friend, Kyrie Irving, in Brooklyn during the summer of 2019. KD missed the entire first year, rehabbing his Achilles injury. Irving only played 20 games that initial season as he dealt with a shoulder injury.

The plan from the two friends was to build something organic and unique in Brooklyn. Both men were champions and thought they could establish a championship team on their terms.

But that’s the thing about building a championship team. You need leadership, a foundation, a culture of inclusion, and an ethos that fosters growth in every section of an organization.

That’s the part that KD the “general manager” doesn’t get. All that time in OKC and the Bay and he was unable to take away any learnings on how you really build something? It’s not just about getting the best talent or names. That’s been proven.

Each member of that roster, from the first guy to the last, has to feel invested in the mission, and it’s on the leaders to breathe that type of spirit into their teammates.

In that respect, KD has failed miserably.

The James Harden trade was a disaster. He never played a complete season plus playoffs, and the Nets dealt Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, Rodions Kurucs, as well as three first-round draft picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) and four first-round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027) to acquire him.

The Nets traded away young talent and control of their draft for the next six years, for one playoff series with Harden? That’s a pretty steep price and not a lot in return.

Just like LeBron James is being maligned for orchestrating that terrible Lakers roster this season, so too must KD receive some blame for what’s happened and is happening in Brooklyn.

Despite the poor games in the Celtics series, KD still remains one of the most proven playoff performers ever. He had a poor series after carrying a heavy load on a surgically repaired Achilles and a shaky MCL in his knee.

But it didn’t have to be this way. KD didn’t have to carry this heavy a burden.

He could have stayed in Golden State with the Warriors.

Or, he could have trusted general manager Sean Marks, and then head coach Kenny Atkinson and the amazing culture they built in Brooklyn. The culture that attracted KD in the first place. Given the front office and the coaching staff the opportunity to develop young players and make strategic acquisitions to maximize a championship window.

KD turns 34 next season and is under contract for four more years. Ben Simmons, who was acquired when Harden was traded to Philadelphia, will be 26 next season and is under contract for three more years.

That leaves the mercurial Irving, the other big fish. He’ll be 30 next season and can opt out of that last year and seek a max contract extension. This is a flashpoint for the future of the organization and KD’s chances at winning another title.

Both KD and the organization have to realize they cannot depend on Irving. He is an unreliable teammate. If it wasn’t the COVID-19 vaccine mandate it would be something else.

In 11 NBA seasons, Irving has played 65 games or more only four times. That’s not a recipe for success from one of your most important players.

KD the player has an impeccable résumé. KD the general manager, not so much.