Harrison Barnes' role when he was a Warrior was simple: stand and wait for a pass. He'd knock down corner threes and jam the occasional dunk on an opponent's head but he wasn't asked to do much more than. When Barnes left and Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors, people didn't know what to expect from the new small forward. You can't just throw a top 3 player in the corner to wait for a pass, he'll complain. You also can't give him the ball every time down the floor, the rest of the team will complain. Luckily, Coach Steve Kerr is a phenomenal basketball coach and knows exactly when to stick KD in a corner and when to let him loose.
So far, Durant has enjoyed this multi-faceted role on the team and we can see that from both the huge grin on his face when he plays and by his elevated stats this year.
As a member of the Thunder, Durant had the ball in his hands a lot. Yes, Russell Westbrook would hog it from time to time but KD was certainly an alpha dog as well, so he definitely got his turns going one-on-one with the ball. Thanks to his size and ball handling skills, Durant was able to convert on a lot of those isolation plays. Now isos are the least efficient play in basketball because you will most likely have a hand in your face when you release the shot (unless you've got moves like Iverson, then go ahead and shoot a wide open jumper over your fallen opponent). Moving the ball constantly to find the better shot, which is what Golden State tries to do, is a much more efficient offense because it creates mismatches and confusion for defenses. The thing that's great about having Durant on your team is that while he's a great isolation player and can regularly produce in such an offense, his stats only elevate when he plays on a team such as the Warriors. He fits in perfectly with what they're trying to do and the results this season have been incredible, both individually for Durant and for the team as a whole.
Durant was recently named Player of the Week, leading Golden State last week to a 4-0 record while posting these numbers: 24.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 2.8 blocks. He shot 50% from three point range and a staggering 63% overall from the floor. If we take a look at Durant's advanced shooting statistics for this season and compare them to last season, we can see what a difference playing team basketball makes.
When KD doesn't have the ball, he's either playing the Harrison Barnes role on the side or he's in the midst of a screen, either setting one or running off of one. He did similar things in OKC but he's just so much more efficient at them in Oakland. He was a catch-and-shoot shooter 25% of the time in OKC and he's seen that trend slightly upward as a member of the Warriors, where he's catching-and-shooting 30% of the time. Now as I stated before, Durant is a very good isolation player but he should be used more as a catch-and-shoot player because of the threat of his jumper. He'll either catch the ball off a pass and drain the shot or Durant's man will be so worried about him that he'll defend him closely and give Steph and Draymond, or whoever has the ball, more room to work with. KD is shooting at almost a 50% clip off catch-and-shoots from the floor and 45% from three, compared to 44% FG and 40% 3P FG as a member of the Thunder.
The statistic that really stands out to me when comparing Durant in OKC and Durant in Oakland are his shots off the dribble statistics. In Oklahoma City, 13% of the time Durant would shoot after dribbling the ball 7+ times while in Oakland, he's only done that 6% of the time. We're so used to seeing Durant in a Thunder uniform dribbling the ball but the Warriors' gameplan has forced him to be patient and wait for a pass from a teammate. Just like how Lebron could average 30 points per game if he shot every shot, Durant could average 40 a night if he iso'd every play. For both Lebron and Durant, they've figured out the best way to play on their respective teams. Lebron is the main distributor of the Cavaliers and takes over when he needs to. For Durant, he's another great basketball player on a great basketball team and all the Warriors need him to do is to trust his new environment and new coaches so they can win as a team.
There might actually be more alpha dogs on the Warriors now than in Oklahoma City the past 9 years. The only difference is that Golden State has figured out the best way to use Durant. Don't change anything about the team, throw him the Harrison Barnes role, and he will be fine. Durant will catch-and-shoot when he needs to, he'll set screens when he needs to, and if Curry isn't feeling it one night, Durant can go one-on-one when he needs to. If you force him to dribble, dribble and shoot too much, it will have a serious effect on wins and losses.