Kevin Durant’s awaited debut for the Phoenix Suns happened on Wednesday as the Suns eclipsed the Charlotte Hornets 105-91 on the road.
On a minute restriction, Durant managed to score 23 points, shooting 66.7 percent from the field and making two out of four three-point attempts. With this, a new chapter has begun for Phoenix. Chris Paul’s leadership and basketball IQ, Devin Booker’s scoring ability, and DeAndre Ayton’s presence in the paint have been the foundation for this team. With the addition of Durant, who is undeniably one of the greatest scorers the game has seen, the Suns have reestablished themselves in the title picture. And if this game was an indicator of things to come, the title may very well be in the Valley come June.
Durant wasted no time making his presence felt. While we were reminded of how good he is and his ability to elevate any team he plays for, his opening minutes as Phoenix’s new number 35 reminded us that he is also human. His first touch led to a miss, and his second was a turnover. But it did not take him long after to get warmed up.
Durant stepped onto the floor for the first time since his MCL sprain in January, with a new team and the ever-heavy weight of expectations on his shoulder. There were plenty of adjustments to make, but it is no question that Durant will have more makes than misses and more impact than turnovers during his time in Phoenix, no matter how long it lasts.
Durant got his first points for the Suns in the form of a layup. It was followed by a block on Charlotte’s Mark Williams and a three on the other end.
Durant showed his true colors in his Suns debut. Despite not having the perfect start, he ended the night with six rebounds, two assists, and two blocks on top of his points in just 27 minutes of play.
If Durant can do this much damage playing just over half of the game’s duration, imagine what he can do if he played over forty minutes with this new company. Devin Booker played incredibly with 37 points for the evening. Having him and Durant in their best form spells trouble for the rest of the league. It is only a matter of time before the Suns to adjust to their new system and unleash their full potential. But this showing was an incredible place to start.
Meanwhile in Brooklyn
While Durant was rising with the Suns’ in his debut, his former team, the Brooklyn Nets, was on the receiving end of a beating in the hands of their neighbors in Madison Square Garden.
The Nets have gone from title favorites to a youth-driven and entertaining team with dark horse potential written all over them. Fun as they may be, the Nets are 3-8 since Durant and Kyrie Irving’s departures. The Suns gave away key pieces Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, along with a laundry list of picks to make room for the 13-time All-Star.
While Bridges and Johnson have acclimated well in Brooklyn and seem to be working well with Jacque Vaughn’s system, they are far from filling the void of KD and Kyrie. The Nets have slid to the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, and given the direction they’re trending towards, it would not be surprising if they are holding onto a thin thread in the play-in picture at the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Durant is starting his run with the Suns in the same position he left Brooklyn, fourth in their conference. The Western Conference is up for grabs at the moment. The top of the heap, where the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, and Sacramento Kings reside, has not moved for the better part of the season. The defending champions, Golden State Warriors, have recently emerged into the Playoff picture currently sitting fifth, while the surging LA Clippers and Dallas Mavericks are hungrily chasing them from behind.
The Suns have hit the ground running with Durant and have no time to waste in getting the title, as they went all in on this for this deal. One of the biggest threats to the Suns is their proneness to injury and lack of depth. But if they stay healthy and keep playing how they are, there are no excuses for them not to win the title.