Kevin Durant Makes Successful Debut with Phoenix Suns, Setting Up Championship Contenders
On Wednesday night, Kevin Durant made his highly anticipated debut for the Phoenix Suns against the Charlotte Hornets. It had been almost two months since the former MVP last took the court, having suffered a right MCL sprain on Jan. 8. Durant had been a valued member of the Brooklyn Nets for the first half of the season, averaging 30 points per game with a 67.5 true shooting percentage, plus adding 6.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists a night. The Suns, having added Chris Paul in the offseason to pair with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, were so confident in Durant's ability to fit in and make an impact, they traded for him on Feb.
The game was off to a good start, with Durant scoring his first points as a Sun on a driving layup off a pass from Paul. Durant went on to finish the night with 23 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 27 minutes. He shot 10-for-15 from the field and was a +13 while on the court.
Evidently, the Suns' starting lineup of Durant, Booker, Paul, Ayton and Josh Okogie is one of the most dangerous in the NBA. Booker scored 37 points, Ayton had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Paul added 11 assists. Okogie, who was signed to a minimum deal in the offseason, has been playing the best basketball of his career in Durant's absence, averaging 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 turnovers, 2.0 steals and 0.2 blocks per game while shooting 53.4% from the field, 48.6% at three-point range and 71.4% for free throws.
The Suns are now a championship favorite, as Durant's two-way play puts Phoenix on a contending tier. He is having one of his best defensive years ever and is having a ridiculous shooting season even by his own standards. With the addition of Durant, the Suns have the potential to reach a level of success they haven't seen since Charles Barkley in the early to mid-1990s.
The Suns have a long way to go before they reach the championship level they hope to attain, but Durant's successful debut is an encouraging start.
0. “Suns announce Durant expected to make debut Wednesday vs. Hornets” NBC Sports, 28 Feb. 2023, https://nba.nbcsports.com/2023/02/28/suns-announce-durant-expected-to-make-debut-wednesday-vs-hornets/
1. “It's early, but this Kevin Durant-led Suns team looks like it's about to get late for others' title hopes” CBS Sports, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/its-early-but-this-kevin-durant-led-suns-team-looks-like-its-about-to-get-late-for-others-title-hopes/
2. “Suns’ new dimensions flash in Kevin Durant’s debut, win over Hornets” Arizona Sports, 2 Mar. 2023, https://arizonasports.com/story/3514202/suns-new-dimensions-flash-in-kevin-durants-debut-win-over-hornets
3. “Game Recap: Kevin Durant dazzles in Suns debut, Phoenix wins, 105-91” Bright Side Of The Sun, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.brightsideofthesun.com/2023/3/1/23621350/game-recap-kevin-durant-dazzles-in-suns-debut-phoenix-wins-105-91
4. “Josh Okogie ‘looking like' fifth starter as Kevin Durant makes Phoenix Suns debut Wednesday” The Arizona Republic, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nba/suns/2023/02/28/josh-okogie-looks-to-be-fifth-starter-as-kevin-durant-makes-suns-debut/69956104007/
5. “WATCH: Kevin Durant announces Suns arrival with masterful two-way sequence vs. Hornets” CBS Sports, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/watch-kevin-durant-announces-suns-arrival-with-masterful-two-way-sequence-vs-hornets/
6. “NBA Notebook: As Durant era begins in Phoenix, expect Suns to shine” Sportsnet.ca, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.sportsnet.ca/nba/article/nba-notebook-as-durant-era-begins-in-phoenix-expect-suns-to-shine