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Just The Sports: Durant, Love, And Beasley

Just The Sports

Monday, February 04, 2008

Durant, Love, And Beasley

With the NBA changing their draft age criteria so as to make eligible only those players who are 19 and one year removed from high school, the college basketball landscape has seen and will continue to see better and more dominant freshmen excel for their respective colleges. Since last year's season was the first that the new draft rule was in place, and it was still a new and unique experience for college basketball observers, perhaps too much praise was heaped upon last year's freshman class, not realizing that as long as the rule is in place, the freshmen play is not an anomaly, but will actually become commonplace. One of the players who benefited from college basketball aficionados was former Texas freshman Kevin Durant, upon whom all sorts of praise, accolades, and hyperbolic comments were heaped. As UCLA freshman Kevin Love and Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley have shown this season, Durant may not have been one of the greatest freshmen to ever play college basketball, but only the first in line of many great college basketball freshmen to come.

The first thing that separates Durant from Kevin Love is the number of shots each is inclined to take during the game. Durant dominated the ball on the offensive level to the point where referring to him as a black hole would not have been off base in describing his style of play. Surely, the Nike's NBA Fun Police, who just wanted people to pass the ball, would have taken umbrage with the fact Durant took 30% of his team's field goal attempts and only possessed a 5.1 assist rate during his freshman season. However, Love tries to fit in with his teammates on the offensive level, has a current 11.0 assist rate, and has only taken 17.5% of UCLA's field goal attempts. In fact, nine out of twenty-two games in which Love has played, he attempted less then ten field goals; Durant only had one such game in his thirty-five games last season. Since he is more discriminate about how many shots he takes, Love is a superior offensive efficient player. He has a 69.9% true shooting percentage on 1.40 points per shot attempt on the way to averaging 17.8 points per game; Durant's respective numbers were 59.4 TS% and 1.19 points per shot attempt and 25.8 points per game. Love is also a much better rebounder than Durant, who received too much credit in that facet of the game. Love's rebound rate is 27.3 while Durant's was only 18.2 last year.

Michael Beasley comes closer than Love to approximating how much Durant dominated the ball during his one season of college basketball and probably would have received a visit from Nike's NBA Fun Police, but even he has only attempted 26% of Kansas State's field goals. Even so, he is still better at making his shots count more with his 63.1 TS% and 1.26 points per shot attempt and 24.7 points per game. This is mostly because he does not love the three-point line as much as Durant did and does not fall victim to as much inconsistency. Like Love, Beasley is also a more proficient rebounder than Durant, which becomes obvious after comparing Beasley's 24.0 rebound rate to Durant's 18.2. At the very least, Beasley has been as equally good if not a little better than Kevin Durant was in college.

As easy as it may be to become overly excited about the prowess of current freshmen, that excitement should be tempered by the knowledge that each year one will be able to observe another class of freshmen that can put up the same staggering numbers.



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