Kevin Durant is playing big minutes in NBA Playoffs, but Suns fans shouldn't be concerned about his workload
Kevin Durant is playing big minutes in NBA Playoffs, but Suns fans shouldn't be concerned about his workload
Should Suns fans be concerned about Kevin Durant playing big minutes?

Kevin Durant's minutes have garnered increased scrutiny — and for good reason.

At 43.8 minutes per game, he's leading all players in the playoffs. He's 34 years old, and no player has averaged as many minutes at that age since Reggie Miller did it as a 35-year-old in 2001.

While there is plenty of hand-wringing going on, there are a few reasons why his minutes might not be a huge issue.

MORE: How KD is helping Devin Booker reach a new level of superstardom

Kevin Durant is capable of playing big minutes and still producing

Playing a ton of minutes in the playoffs is nothing new for Durant. He's averaged 40.5 minutes per game in the playoffs in his career, and he's been increasing his workload even more over the past few seasons. Last year, he led all players at 44.0 minutes per game.

Durant hasn't looked too fatigued in those minutes either. He averaged 28.4 points per game in the first round, shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 45.8 percent from 3-point range.

And if you ask him, the minutes are a non-issue.

Asked about how he's handling the heavier minutes, Kevin Durant asked, "How'd I look tonight?"

Chris Paul adds in: "Talk to 'em."

Durant finishes: "I missed a lot of time this season, so I want to be out there every minute. I wish I could've played all 48."

— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) April 22, 2023

Durant only played in 47 games during the regular season. His 1,672 minutes for the year was the third-lowest mark of his career and much less than his average of 2,412. That lack of wear and tear could theoretically allow him to go harder in the playoffs.

Kevin Durant can actually take a break during games

Durant is playing with a lot of talent in Phoenix, and the offensive burden that he has to carry is lower than at some of the other stops in his career.

Usage percentage is an estimate of the percentage of plays that a player used while on the floor. Durant's usage percentage is at 23.8 percent, way down from his career playoff average of 30.8 percent. (As a frame of reference, 23.8 percent is in line with role players like Malcolm Brogdon and Tyrese Maxey.)

That usage percentage illustrates how Durant hasn't had to do nearly as much carrying of the offense as in previous years. Per NBA Stats, he's isolating on 17.1 percent of his possessions. That's about the same number as Tobias Harris.

So, what has Durant been doing when he's not using offensive possessions? Mostly jogging to the corner and taking a breather.

While that seems like a waste of his talent, it's been very effective in opening up the floor for Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

Some might hate it, but Devin Booker high pick & rolls with Kevin Durant in the weakside corner are a nightmare for defenses

SOUND ON to hear Booker mention KD's gravity. You're either creating a dunk, or a wide-open three:

— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) April 26, 2023

The Suns need Kevin Durant to play a lot because their bench is… uh… yikes

In a perfect world, Durant probably would play less, but the Suns don't have that luxury.

Per Basketball Reference, they've outscored opponents by 9.9 points per 100 possessions when Durant has been on the floor. On the rare occasions when Durant has rested, they've gotten completely destroyed. They're minus-17.2 points per 100 possessions in those Durant-free minutes.

Monty Williams has not trusted his bench, and so all of the big four starters — Durant, Booker, Ayton and Chris Paul — have had to play a lot. Booker is second in the playoffs at 43.2 minutes per game.

The Suns are playing a short rotation because they traded away what depth they had in order to get Durant. Their seventh man, Bismack Biyombo, was almost out of the league a year ago. Their eighth man, Landry Shamet, has been targeted defensively and is shooting 21.4 percent from the field. And their ninth man, Damion Lee, barely played for the Warriors during their multiple years in the playoffs.

This team has championship aspirations, and those role players simply haven't been good enough to give the starters long stretches of rest. It's not ideal, but Williams has figured out a way to lessen the strain on Durant a bit.

That's the best chance that the Suns have to win it all.

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