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FutureStarr5 Takeaways As Phoenix Suns Beat OKC Thunder 124-115
On Friday night, the Phoenix Suns upset Oklahoma City Thunder 124-115 before an electric 17,071 fans at Footprint Center. Everyone inside was riveted as Thunder star Kevin Durant did his pregame workout for what turned out to be a sellout crowd of 17.07.
There are a few key lessons the Suns can draw from their first game back after the All-Star break that they can apply as they prepare for their next contest.
Kevin Durant's trade to the Phoenix Suns was one of the biggest events in NBA history and put them among the favorites to win the championship.
It was also a decision that alarmed many fans, particularly those from Oklahoma City. Durant wanted more freedom than what he was used to having in OKC and this decision demonstrated his frustration with the organization's decision.
Additionally, Durant made the move in order to spend more time with his teammates and become even more invested in the organization. Williams has been an integral part of that process.
Williams has had to endure many hardships during his tenure as head coach of the Phoenix Suns, beginning with losing his wife in a tragic car accident in February 2016. But that wasn't even close to being his biggest challenge yet; many obstacles have presented themselves along the way, including injuries sustained while coaching in Afghanistan in 2012.
But it was this experience that helped him grow as a leader and shape his coaching style, making him more thoughtful and attentive to the needs of his players.
The second obstacle has been integrating new players into the lineup. Durant is coming back from a knee injury, so Williams must figure out how to accommodate him in the lineup.
While Durant's return is encouraging, it will take some time for Williams to determine where Durant fits into the rotation. It appears that Durant will need plenty of experience playing alongside other starters before he feels confident about where he belongs in the lineup.
Williams is certain Durant can help the team win, especially since he will be an integral part of their offense. He expects Durant to bring lots of energy and excitement to their offense, as well as provide leadership and direction to their players.
Since returning from an ankle injury, Ayton has been averaging a double-double. His recent performance against the Nets shows he's on track for making an immense impact during his first year with Phoenix.
The 6-foot-7 center was a top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and has quickly emerged as an integral part of Phoenix's success. Last season he ranked second in the league in rebounds per game, giving him an excellent chance at becoming their starting center moving forward.
Durant boasts a towering frame to work with and is an impressive shot-blocker, averaging 1.5 blocks per game more than Ayton (0.7).
Williams will likely be watching how Durant's presence on the court affects their team. Specifically, how his 7-foot-5 frame helps smaller teammates open up space in the paint and creates chances for him to score.
Another factor that will be critical for Phoenix is their depth on the floor. To replace Mikal Bridges, they traded for Josh Okogie and Torrey Craig - both possessing exceptional length who play strong point-of-attack defense.
Williams has several options for using Durant in his lineup with Ayton, Booker and Paul at the four. He could position Booker at the four with Durant and Paul flanking him on either side, creating a two-guard lineup with plenty of potential.
Ayton will gain from working with Durant, as it will give him space to create for his smaller teammates. With another scoring option on the floor, opposing teams may adjust their defensive assignments to allow Durant more opportunities in the paint and give the Suns an edge in tight games.
Last week, the Phoenix Suns traded for Kevin Durant and vaulted to +450 title odds - becoming one of the favorites in the Western Conference. With their two-time NBA champion on board, Phoenix can take advantage of a weaker conference, making it harder for teams like Milwaukee Bucks to beat them in the playoffs.
For the first time ever, the Phoenix Suns are legitimate title contenders and Durant's presence on the court will have a tremendous effect on how this team plays. He can open up the floor, create space for teammates, and make everyone else's job easier.
He'll bring a fresh perspective to the Suns' offense, which has been largely stagnant since the start of the season. Durant's ability to create chemistry with Booker, Paul and Ayton will be key in their quest for their first NBA championship in franchise history.
Devin Booker has never shied away from taking on the NBA elite, which is why he was selected with the 13th overall pick in 2015. Though he began his career slowly, Booker eventually blossomed into a star within the league.
His success has only fuelled his desire for competition, and the tenacity he displays on the court serves as an inspiration to others to strive as well. Even through injuries in his young career, his enthusiasm for playing has never wavered.
It's evident that Durant still has much to learn about the game and playing for the Suns, but he makes for an excellent pick to help improve their chances at winning a championship this year. Although he may not deliver the same kind of immediate success that Kyrie Irving experienced in Brooklyn, Durant brings valuable experience and talent to their roster that could shape how they play for years to come.
On Thursday afternoon, Kevin Durant made his first public appearance since joining the Phoenix Suns from Brooklyn Nets. It was an exciting milestone for Durant as he shared his enthusiasm for joining this franchise that had recently given him a home. It had been two and a half weeks since Durant had made headlines with two-time NBA Finals MVP and 13-time All-Star introduction at Footprint Center's packed crowd - and fans couldn't help but share in his joy at finally meeting his new teammates!
He told reporters he had followed Phoenix for years, and now that he was finally part of this team he couldn't be happier. He believes the Suns possess many pieces that can make them successful, and hopes to contribute towards making that happen.
The Suns are one of the best teams in the Western Conference, and now they boast one of basketball's greatest stars in Kevin Durant. He will join Chris Paul as a pass-first point guard and Deandre Ayton as one of basketball's premier centers. With these pieces around him, Durant can only become better over time.
It's difficult to predict exactly how Durant will fit into the team's offense, but he should be able to make an impact. His high-volume scoring capabilities and ball-handling prowess have already been demonstrated.
Durant will have the benefit of playing with an improved Booker, who has shown he can be an effective scorer despite his age, and an emerging Ayton. Furthermore, Durant will be joined by pass-first point forward Paul who is developing into an excellent defensive leader.
Durant is the kind of player who can propel a team to success and revolutionize how the NBA operates. With the right teammates behind him, Durant could give the Suns an incredible opportunity to win an NBA championship.
On Tuesday night, Kevin Durant made his return to the court in Phoenix Suns' 120-109 win against Sacramento Kings - an encouraging sign for a team that hadn't made the playoffs in four seasons. Durant's presence on the floor made an immense difference for the Suns' win, particularly since Oklahoma City Thunder lost key bench players like Randy Foye and Dion Waiters via free agency.
The Thunder still have the talent to reach the NBA Finals with their young core of Durant, Russell Westbrook and Alex Abrines, but losing Foye and Waiters could make things tougher this season. Additionally, Serge Ibaka was a reliable offensive threat on both ends of the floor as well as an encouraging presence in the locker room. With these losses, there's no guarantee what this season holds for Oklahoma City.
That said, Durant has already demonstrated his potential as a key factor in this team's success. He led the Golden State Warriors to two titles during his first two years with them and possesses an impressive work ethic, great passing skillset, and remarkable resilience when under duress. His leadership skillset will no doubt continue to be tested over time as this young man develops.
He will likely be an integral part of the Suns' rebuild. As a veteran leader, his presence will motivate other players to keep playing at their highest level.
The Suns possess a talented young core with plenty of potential, but they must find a way to add veteran players in order to compete with the other top teams in the NBA. While they have room for improvement through draft and free agency, they must do more than simply acquire another star player.