OAKLAND – Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams is practically rubbing his hands. His eyes are lighting up. With camp about a month away, his mind is spinning with creative ideas, inventive ways to use Kevin Durant.
On defense, that is.
“Ron can’t wait,” Leah Adams, wife of the veteran assistant, tells CSNBayArea.com, “to integrate Kevin into that defense.”
Understand, now, that Ron and Leah have known Durant since 2008, when he was entering his second NBA season – and first in Oklahoma City, where Adams was an assistant coach. They have history together, as Adams spent two seasons in OKC. So Durant’s decision to join the Warriors is something of a reunion.
Just as Adams focused on defense for the Thunder, he does now for the Warriors, who last season finished third in field-goal percentage defense. The coach most responsible for schemes, he is both tactician and critic, citing video to point out every missed assignment, including the subtle errors others won’t even see, much less understand.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr describes Adams as often appearing “distraught” just because an opponent found a way to score.
Now that Durant is a veteran steeped in the NBA game, the “small” forward represents quite the intriguing lab project for Adams. He’s listed at 6-foot-9, but is closer to 7 feet. His wingspan is 7-5. He’s an eager and capable defender, as the Warriors learned in the Western Conference Finals against Durant’s former team.
“His versatility is outstanding,” Ron Adams says of Durant. “He’s a terrific defender, who played with great defensive consistency in our playoff series. We will expect a lot out of him in that regard.”
Durant’s versatility is perfect for the schemes devised by Adams, who believes the new roster will continue to be suited for switching on defense. The Warriors last season switched on 24 percent of screens, by far the most in the league. Durant’s defensive metrics on switches are vastly superior to those of former Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes.
“He can, if necessary, guard all five positions – and do it effectively,” Adams says of Durant, who spent most of the conference finals smothering Warriors forward Draymond Green.
“He’s a really good rim protector, in a non-traditional way,” Kerr says. “When he played the ‘four’ against us in the playoffs, he was brilliant. He blocked some shots and he scored a bunch of times. So he’ll play a lot of ‘four’ for us, for sure.”
Though Durant led all NBA small forwards in rebounding and ranked third – behind Philadelphia’s Jerami Grant and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo – in blocked shots, he is known mostly for his ability to score. That’s a label of earned by winning four NBA scoring titles.
And, yes, Adams also appreciates what Durant will bring on offense.
“I personally think he will really blossom here as a playmaker,” Adams says of Durant, who finished behind only LeBron James for assists among small forwards. “He can play the point; he played point a lot for Oklahoma City over the years. He likes involving his teammates.
“I don’t know how you rank him in the pantheon of current players,” Adams adds. “But no matter how you do it, he’s certainly in the top three in the world.”
Durant looks forward to his reunion with Adams, even joking that Adams is the reason he chose to sign with the Warriors. He ought to remember, however, that no matter how well he defends there will be days when the coach will find fault.