Hereâ€™s the skinny. There are two rookies in the NBA who look to be making a difference-Kevin Durant and Al Horford. Durant, the Seattle Sonicsâ€™ small forward, and Horford, the Atlanta center, have both made their marks and been difference makers in the NBA.
Kevin Durant, who spent only one year in college ball with the Texas Longhorns winning the NCAA MVP, is putting in 40-percent of his shots from the field for an average of 19.2 PPG. Heâ€™s managed about a block and a steal per contest. From the three-point line, heâ€™s hitting only 29% and from the field he connects 40% of the time. All of this is respectable and with a club like the Sonics, these stats are almost predictable. Durant is putting in 33.1 MPG. He leads the Sonics in scoring but his shooting percentages are relatively low.
For the Atlanta Hawks, Al Horford, late from two NCAA championships with Florida, is proving to be a fine contributor. With 9.8 RPG, he leads the club in that area. Heâ€™s also got great backup in the frontcourt with small forward Marvin Williams grabbing 5.8 RPG and power forward Josh Smith averaging 7.9 RPG. Williams is putting in 15.7 PPG and Smith is knocking in 17.7 PPG. Horford is putting in 9.1 PPG. Together, these three make for a formidable frontcourt.
The frontcourt of the Supersonics includes Johan Petro (4.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG) at center and Chris Wilcox (12.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG) at power forward. Nick Collision (9.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG) adds support and depth at the power position. The fact is that the Sonics, although improved, just donâ€™t have the bodies up front to get them to the second-season. These guys on the Sonics just donâ€™t offer as much as their Atlanta counterparts.
Additionally, the Hawks have a rugged and refined backcourt that can generate points and move the ball around. For the Sonics, Durant is it. For the Hawks, Horford is part of the overall attack. Heâ€™s one very talented player who does not have to take control of the game on the manner that Durant must.
Extra pressure on Durant means less steady growth for the Sonic rookie; mentoring and position playing by Horford means that he has the opportunity to develop and refine his raw talents.
Look for both to make a difference and for Horford to have a bit more influence on the playoff picture than Durant.