When Kevin Durant tore his Achilles during the 2019 NBA Finals just weeks after suffering a calf injury, some feared it could be the beginning of the end of him being a legitimate superstar.
He left the Golden State Warriors shortly afterward to join the Brooklyn Nets, and he missed the entire 2019-20 season in order to rehab from his injury.
When he returned for the 2020-21 campaign, Durant impressed everyone by putting up big numbers: 26.9 points on 53.7 percent shooting from the field and 45.0 percent from 3-point range, 7.1 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game.
This season, he continued his post-injury excellence by averaging 29.9 points, his highest scoring average since 2014 when he won the league MVP award, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.4 assists.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 31, 2021
Durant will be 34 next season, but he seems to be aging gracefully, and if what LeBron James and Chris Paul have been doing deep into their mid-30s is any indication, he could have a few more elite years left in him.
Is that a safe bet if he stays healthy?
Durant Has Been Dinged Up The Last Two Years
Although he has made a full recovery from an injury that has virtually ended the careers of just about every other NBA player who has suffered it, Durant has had some trouble remaining healthy lately.
In his first season back, he played in just 35 out of 72 contests, and this season he missed 27 games.
There is always the lingering concern that Durant’s body has been compromised a bit from the Achilles injury, and that it could lead to him suffering another significant injury soon that could all but end his viability.
For an example, one could look at the late Kobe Bryant.
He tore his Achilles at the end of the 2012-13 season, and he returned in December of 2013.
He had been back for six games when it looked like he was starting to get his game back, but he then suffered a lateral tibial plateau fracture that knocked him out for the remainder of the season.
When Bryant returned for the 2014-15, he was a very faint shadow of who he used to be, and in his final two seasons, he was unable to shoot 38 percent from the field.
Every athlete’s body starts breaking down at a different point, and the Nets have to make sure that the games Durant has missed the last two years are simply because of routine injuries and not because he is almost at his expiration date.
The Big Advantage He Has
Unlike some wings, Durant doesn’t really rely on his athleticism or leaping ability to do what he does.
He does rely somewhat on his quickness, but he is mostly a skill, finesse player, and that will allow him to age well if he avoids any major injuries.
— Nets Republic (@NetsRepublic) December 31, 2021
Durant is one of the smoothest players the NBA has ever seen, and his shooting, ball-handling and passing abilities should last for quite a bit.
The Nets still have plenty of potential moving forward, despite what many naysayers seem to think, and Durant is the biggest reason why.