Jan 22, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts after a shot during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT

Kevin Durant And The Top Scorers In NBA History


Jan 21, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) attempts a shot against the Portland Trail Blazers during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant is having a pretty good January. He is averaging 36.9 points per game for the month with ridiculously efficient 52.4/39.7/88.6 shooting splits, and  also has an equally amazing 66.6 True Shooting Percentage for the month. After his 36-point performance against the Spurs Wednesday night, he now has scored more than 30 points in nine straight games — one short of the record — scoring 40 or more in three of those games and 40 or more in four of his last 10 games. He also has a 54-point performance in those nine games and has continued remained efficient — posting almost identical shooting splits and True Shooting Percentages.

This recent scoring binge has brought about two trains of thought for me, regarding Durant. First, is he at a point where he is more valuable (or equally valuable) than LeBron James — something we will address on this week’s edition of the Step In The Lane Podcast. And second, where exactly does Durant rank among the greatest scorers of all time.

So I decided to do a special edition of my (typically) bi-weekly top scorers rankings and take a look at some of the best scoring seasons of all time and the NBA’s top career scorers to see where Durant and his best scoring years rank among them:

The Best Scoring Seasons In NBA History

Since the NBA adopted the ABA’s idea of a 3-point line (the 1979-80 season, commonly referred to as the start of the NBA’s modern era) only 19 players have averaged more than 30 points per game in a season, and those players did so 37 times. Of those 37 30-point performances, only six players managed to earn a True Shooting Percentage over 0.6, and those players have done so 10 times. Here are those 10 single season performances, along with Durant’s performance so far this season, which I would call the 11 greatest scoring seasons of all time (ordered by True Shooting Percentage):

Player Season Age Tm PPG TS% USG%
Adrian Dantley 1983-84 27 UTA 30.6 0.652 28.2
Kevin Durant 2013-14 25 OKC 30.9 0.639 31.8
Adrian Dantley 1981-82 25 UTA 30.3 0.631 27.9
Adrian Dantley 1985-86 29 UTA 29.8 0.629 30.0
Karl Malone 1989-90 26 UTA 31.0 0.626 32.6
Michael Jordan 1988-89 25 CHI 32.5 0.614 32.1
Larry Bird 1987-88 31 BOS 29.9 0.608 30.2
Kevin Durant 2009-10 21 OKC 30.1 0.607 32.0
Michael Jordan 1989-90 26 CHI 33.6 0.606 33.7
Michael Jordan 1990-91 27 CHI 31.5 0.605 32.9
LeBron James 2009-10 25 CLE 29.7 0.604 33.5
Michael Jordan 1987-88 24 CHI 35.0 0.603 34.1

Things To Note: Michael Jordan appears on the list four times and Adrian Dantley appears three times — with Dantley also logging the highest True Shooting Percentages on the list for completed seasons. And Adrian Dantley just may be the most underrated scorer in NBA history. His ability to score the ball so efficiently without ever having a solid 3-point stroke is just amazing and his efficiency combined with the high rate at which he scored it definitely makes him one of the greatest scorers of all time.

The Durant Of It: If KD manages to maintain his scoring and efficiency numbers this year, he will join Jordan and Dantley as the only players to meet the list’s requirements more than once and his True Shooting Percentage of 0.634 would be quite clearly better than any 30-point scorer besides the wildly efficient Dantley. Overall his appearance on the list is a good argument for Kevin Durant already being one of the greatest scorers of all time; and if he is able to replicate this year’s success in one or two more seasons, he may go down as the greatest scorer of all time.

The Best Career Scorers In NBA History

But Durant’s resume is built up even more by where he stands among the NBA’s top career scorers. Here are the 20 NBA players who averaged 24 points per game for their careers, also ordered by True Shooting Percentage:

Player PPG TS% USG%
Adrian Dantley 24.3 0.617 26.1
Kevin Durant 27.0 0.597 30.2
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 24.6 0.592 24.3
Shaquille O’Neal 23.7 0.586 29.5
LeBron James 27.5 0.579 31.6
Karl Malone 25.0 0.577 29.4
Michael Jordan 30.1 0.569 33.3
Dwyane Wade 24.5 0.567 32.0
George Gervin 26.2 0.564 29.6
Oscar Robertson 25.7 0.564 N/A
Larry Bird 24.3 0.564 26.5
Kobe Bryant 25.5 0.555 31.8
Jerry West 27.0 0.550 N/A
Wilt Chamberlain 30.1 0.547 N/A
Carmelo Anthony 25.1 0.545 31.6
Dominique Wilkins 24.8 0.536 30.3
Allen Iverson 26.7 0.518 31.8
Bob Pettit 26.4 0.511 N/A
Pete Maravich 24.2 0.500 29.2
Elgin Baylor 27.4 0.494 N/A

Things To Note: Obviously Adrian Dantley deserves a nod for being the only player on the list who managed a True Shooting Percentage over 0.6. The fact that Oscar Robertson and Jerry West were able to put up such a high True Shooting Percentages despite not having a 3-point line is quite amazing. Ditto for Shaq, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone, who played with the 3-point line but did not necessarily use it that much. Also, Dwyane Wade and Michael Jordan deserve nods for being the only players on the list to put up usage rates higher than 32 percent, yet still managing highly effective 0.567 and 0.569 True Shooting Percentages, respectively.

The Durant Of It: The fact that Durant is second on the list and has been a more efficient scorer than Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — probably the best offensive big men of all time, playing at positions where it can be easier to be efficient — says plenty about just how efficient Durant is as scorer. The fact that Durant also ranks sixth on the per game scoring list makes his efficiency that much more impressive and it is hard to come up with a list of more than two or three players that are better scorers than Durant right now. Considering we are just beginning to see him peak as a scorer, there is a pretty good chance Durant can go down as the greatest scorer of all time.

Tags: Adrian Dantley Kevin Durant Top Scorers Of All Time