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Kevin Durant is figuring out how to lift the Warriors’ offense by himself

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Durant has struggled in the past without Stephen Curry by his side, but he’s making it work by changing his offense.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors aren’t the same offense without Stephen Curry. Kevin Durant, as talented a scorer as he is, just doesn’t run an offense that helps teammates as well as Curry does. It’s why in the past, Durant’s high-scoring performances have often led to disappointing outcomes for the team.

Finally, it looks like Durant has some comfort with the rest of the Warriors without Curry. He’s changed up his offense, become a better playmaker, and scored at a monster rate. The Warriors can learn from Durant’s current success even for when Steph returns, and continue the same strategies in Steph-less lineups.

KD has much improved in a short amount of time. During the four-game losing streak, Durant averaged 26.3 points per game on only 41.9% shooting. He hit only two of nineteen threes, and dished only 3.5 assists per contest. In the past three games, all wins, KD has averaged 41.7 points per game, hitting 52.5% of his shots and eight of twenty-three threes. He’s got to the free throw line at an awesome rate, and dished out 7.7 assists per game. It’s not a fluke that he’s doing so well—he’s altered how he runs the offense quite a bit.

In the past, KD has fallen in love with the midrange isolation. He’s one of the best in the world at it, but it’s stagnant: the rest of the offense doesn’t move, the pace is slow, and it’s prone to double-teams.

Against the Magic on Monday, Durant changed up his offensive style almost completely. Anytime he was isolated on the wing, he looked to pass first rather than score. The vast majority of his buckets were either from pushing the ball in transition or running the high pick-and-roll at the top of the key. This gave the offense the kind of motion and speed that Warriors basketball thrives on.

Take a look at KD’s highlights here: he’s always scoring within the rhythm of the offense. He’s getting to the rim more, and that leads to more foul shots. He looks simply unstoppable.

There is a huge difference between KD isolating on the wing versus him running the pick and roll at the top of the key. He starts his isolations in the midrange, which cramps the spacing and takes away motion. Running the pick and roll instead gives Durant enough room to both hit threes and drive to the basket.

If the defender goes under the screen, he can rise and shoot the open three. If the defender goes over, he can drive either all the way to the rim or to a nice midrange spot, where he is virtually unguardable. He’s a good enough passer to hit the roll man, and the Warriors have enough good shooters to keep the other defenders honest.

Ultimately, both Steph and KD should have ample spread pick-and-rolls within the offense. It unlocks the team’s sometimes shaky spacing, gives the stars plenty of room to make plays, and keeps the offense flowing. Slowly but surely, the Warriors are optimizing how to use Durant in their offense.