It’s early days, but this Kevin Durant-led Suns team looks like it’s getting late for others’ title hopes

The obvious played out on Wednesday night’s Kevin Durant’s glittering debut as a member of the Phoenix Suns, but the obvious doesn’t always play out with super teams, so let’s assume.

This Durant-led Suns team will be an absolute force going into the playoffs. They’re the Western Conference favorites. finalists. A sure top 3 NBA team in the making even if they come together at an oddly late point in the regular season.

Yes, a 105-91 win over the Charlotte Hornets is anything but a prime test. Charlotte was a bad basketball team even before LaMelo Ball broke his ankle and ended his season this week. And even though Phoenix only gave us a 27-minute sample size of KD-as-Sun, what we saw was scary for any other NBA team still aspiring to be NBA champions this year.

Durant, who had been sidelined since Jan. 8 with an MCL sprain, looked incredible. He was with Brooklyn then, he’s with Phoenix now, but little else has changed. Rust and a New Part of the Country didn’t mix up any of his basketball gifts.

Durant missed his first shot – then the flashes unfolded of how seamlessly he was able to integrate into this team.

There was Durant with a ride layup after a pass from new teammate Chris Paul for the first two points of his Suns career. There was Durant, who blocked a shot on defense, then found the ball on the other side of the floor and pocketed a silky three, a sequence that — again the obvious — flashed just how great he is and will be with his new team .

Over the course of the game, Durant made 10 of his 15 shots. He scored 23 points. He pulled down six rebounds. He blocked two shots. He looked like he had been playing trouble free for months. All on the ground in just under 27 minutes.

Beyond that, it was easy to peek into a pretty bad basketball game and see how a fairly transcendent player had already convinced rival general managers and Las Vegas that Phoenix is ​​a contender today. how-will-everything-come-together-worry the fuck.

If this feels like a master of the obvious moment, just consider what the League often keeps so clear that a great idea often becomes nebulous, confusing, sterile, and disastrous.

Ask the Brooklyn Nets. They can give you several examples of this fact. Ask the Los Angeles Clippers in 2020 when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard came to town. And you can ask them again now after they add Russell Westbrook which proves the axiom that winning in this league is very difficult.

The same can be said for the Mavericks, who are 2-5 and 1-4 in games with Irving and Luka Doncic since Kyrie Irving’s debut in Dallas. Or the Lakers who genuinely thought the good days would return this season.

Ask the Atlanta Hawks or any Memphis team that’s suddenly dealing with enough off-court headlines about Ja Morant to make them queasy.

There are many other examples of sure things not being so sure, but the suns are not one of them.

Far beyond Durant’s individual stat line, the signs were everywhere on Wednesday night.

Devin Booker’s 37 points bode well for the future. Yes, Booker has always been a prolific scorer who could excel himself, but Durant’s presence on this team, as happened against Charlotte, will give the young Suns star so many easy shots and so much diminished defensive attention.

As an accomplice, think of what a sane Steph Curry has done for an in-form Klay Thompson over the years.

The effect for Chirs Paul was also there in a completely different way. Before KD, the idea of ​​the Suns going deep without Paul playing well was a farce. But this game offered a glimpse of a new possible reality where a brutally fighting CP3, at least in terms of his shooting, doesn’t doom the Sun’s odds.

Despite 11 assists, Paul was 1 of 8 out of the field and only scored two points. Perhaps Durant’s presence will ease things enough for Paul to regain some of his own greatness in the coming weeks. But it’s equally possible that Durant can be great enough for both of them if Paul can’t get back to the level that shaped his career.

Durant will influence all of these things. He will put players in much easier situations so they can use their talents. He’ll help put a lot of the pressure on his own shoulders. He can cover up days off or even weeks off. He should add a level of absolute talent that is just too good when mixed with Booker, Paul and DeAndre Ayton to be anything but a top team.

it was a game It was against a poor team that lacked their best player and had no real ground general. It’s early in the KD experiment.

But all overreactions will age well.

If the Suns stay healthy, every team that faces them will not have a good chance in the postseason.

The excitement was spot on: KD to the Suns is an automatic contender. The glimpse of that fact on Wednesday was too clear to chalk up anything other than inevitability.

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