Phoenix Suns Await the Debut of Kevin Durant

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Posted on: February 24, 2023, 09:49h. 

Last updated on: February 24, 2023, 12:48h.

All-Star forward Kevin Durant has yet to play a game with the Phoenix Suns since they acquired him two weeks ago in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets. Durant is expected to make his debut with the Suns during an upcoming road trip, which could happen as early as this Sunday afternoon.

Kevin Durant Phoenix Suns debut owner Mat Ishbia trade
Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia (left) and general manager James Jones (right) join Kevin Durant (center) at the introductory press conference after the Brooklyn Nets traded Durant to the Suns. (Image: USA Today Sports)

Durant has been nursing a sprained right knee. He last suited up for the Nets in the first week of January before he sustained an MCL sprain.

In 39 games with the Nets this season, Durant averaged 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. He shot 55.9% from the floor and 37.6% from 3-point range. He’s also shooting a career-high 93.4% from the free-throw line.

Durant had a full-contact practice with the Suns this week. But head coach Monty Williams ruled him out for Friday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Suns begin a four-game road trip on Sunday with a nationally televised game against the Milwaukee Bucks. It’s a rematch of the 2021 NBA Finals, and some prognosticators think both teams could meet again in the 2023 NBA Finals.

If the Suns want to give Durant a couple more days of rest, he could make his debut next Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets on March 1.

The Big ‘D’ in KD

Durant joined the Suns in practice this week, including in a full-blown scrimmage on Thursday. His new teammates were impressed with his defense, which is one of the most underrated aspects of his game. Everyone knows Durant is one of the best offensive players in the NBA, a shooter who is nearly impossible to defend. But the Suns were quickly reminded that Durant excels on both ends of the court.

People forget KD is really a two-way superstar,” said center Deandre Ayton. “The dude can defend. He’s just a competitor. He’s not gonna just let you score this f—ing ball. He’s taller than you think he is, his arms are long as hell. It’s just crazy.”

Durant is listed at 6-foot-10, but he has the length of a seven-footer. He has the size to defend all three frontline positions, but also has the quickness to defend guards on the perimeter.

“It’s always tough because he can give you a little bit of space and you feel like you have room to shoot and he can still get a good contest on it or get a finger on it,” said shooting guard Devin Booker. “It’s really tough to score on him.”

Durant averages more blocked shots (1.5) than Ayton (0.7) this season.

“When you think of rim protection, you think of a 5,” said Williams. “It’s rare that you think of a guy that can play 2, 3, 4, who can close out and block shots and contest shots, but can also go to the rim and stop guys from scoring at the rim with [a] hard contest or even blocking shots.”

The Suns need every bit of Durant’s defense, because they gave up their top defender, forward Mikal Bridges, to acquire Durant from the Nets.

Betting the Suns After the Durant Trade

Bettors haven’t been shy about backing the Suns since they acquired Durant at the trade deadline. The Suns are now the second betting favorite on DraftKings’ NBA futures board at +425 odds to win the 2022-23 championship. Prior to the trade deadline, the Suns were +1800 odds to win the title.

The Suns are in fifth place in the Western Conference standings with a 32-28 record. They’re the outright favorite to win the Western Conference at +225 odds with Durant in the lineup.

The Denver Nuggets (42-16) have the best record in the West and the second-best record in the NBA. With a 10-game lead over the Suns, the Nuggets should secure the #1 playoff seed in the Western Conference. The Nuggets will need home-court advantage in the postseason if they expect to fend off Durant and the Suns.

The Pacific Division has the tightest divisional race in the NBA during the final quarter of the season. Six games separate the Sacramento Kings (33-25) in first place and the Los Angeles Lakers (28-32) in fifth place. The third-place Suns are two games out of first place, but just a half-game behind the LA Clippers (33-28) in second place. The defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors (29-30) occupy fourth place in the division.

The Suns are the betting favorite to win the Pacific Division at -130 odds, followed by the Clippers (+220), Kings (+450), Warriors (+3000), and Lakers (+5500).

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