OAKLAND -- Night after night and block by block, Kevin Durant is building a resume for a title that seemed beyond him or, maybe, beneath him.
Durant specializes in using his combination of length, agility and shooting skill to rip through the fabric of any defense he sees. He’s a four-time scoring champion with the ability to be a 10-time scoring champ.
And now, a decade into his career, this offensive machine is being hailed as a defensive force and, thus, a complete basketball player.
Happens to be the defensive player, according to Warriors teammate Draymond Green, who happens to be the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
“If I had a vote, I’d vote for him right now,” Green said of Durant’s DPOY candidacy.
Green was speaking after Durant once again produced on the defensive end. He blocked three shots and helped limit Utah’s starting forwards to 5-of-16 shooting in a 126-101 win over the Jazz.
Durant has blocked at least two shots in 10 consecutive games. Forgive Durant if he didn’t see this coming, even though the Warriors imagined it from the time they signed him nearly 18 months ago.
“I enjoy doing other things out there,” Durant said. “But when my number is called to score, that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. That’s what my whole game is based around, putting the ball in the basket.”
But the 6-foot-9 forward (OK, actually 6-11) continues to put up defensive numbers that have make observers take note. Durant is locking up opponents, defending multiple positions and battling Pacers center Myles Turner to lead the league in blocks this season.
After Durant blocked five shots in a win over Cleveland on Christmas Day, Mychal Thompson, Klay Thompson’s father and the color analyst on Lakers broadcasts, tweeted that Durant “looks like Bill Russell on defense.”
That’s high praise, and Durant knows it.
“It’s cool that people are starting to recognize me for more than just a scorer,” he said. “I’ve been trying to shake that rap since 2012. So when people start to notice what you do -- obviously it’s not all you do it for -- but you want people to appreciate what you bring to the table. It first starts with your teammates and coaches, and I got that from them. I feel good coming in every day knowing that they trust me on that side of the ball.
“But when fans are watching the game, anybody watching the game, you want them to see what you do. I try to impact the game as much as I can on both ends of the floor. Especially coming from a champ, like Mr. Thompson, it means I’m doing something right. I’ll take it.”
On the day he was introduced as the newest Warrior, assistant coach Ron Adams stood off to the side saying Durant had the tools to become a member of the All-Defensive Team.
At this stage, that’s a given.
At this stage, he’s at the top of the conversation for something higher, like DPOY.
“I think he is, if not the leading candidate,” Green said. “I don’t think it’s really a race right now. The way he’s been playing on the defensive side of the ball has been spectacular.
“It’s a thing now, which is impressive because it always seemed like it wasn’t possible to be a thing. But he’s getting more and more attention for that. And, obviously, he’s helping our defense tremendously with the way he’s playing on that side of the ball.”
The Warriors over the last 14 games have become the league’s best defense. With Green missing five games, Durant has been the anchor.
Oh, he’s scoring plenty, too, averaging 28.1 points during that stretch. But it’s the defense that taken him to this strange place where halfway through this season winning the DPOY award is a realistic possibility.