Breaking Down Kevin Durant's Evolving Game and What It Means for Thunder

Nick LantzCorrespondent IIJanuary 30, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 14:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder posts up LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat in the third quarter in Game Two of the 2012 NBA Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena on June 14, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In his sixth season in the NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant is taking his already stellar game to another level in more ways than just scoring. The former Texas Longhorn has improved certain parts of his game both offensively and defensively as the NBA season reaches its midpoint.

Durant is currently the NBA's leading scorer, pouring in 29.6 points per game. He is arguably the best shooter in the game today. What many fans haven't noticed is the fact that he has improved his play on the defensive end and is passing the ball more effectively.

On defense, Durant has increased his average number of steals and blocks in comparison to his career numbers. For his career, the young swingman is averaging 1.3 steals and one block per game. Midway through the 2013 season KD is swatting 1.2 blocks and taking away 1.6 steals per contest.

Durant's activity on defense is part of the reason why Oklahoma City is near the top of the league in those two defensive categories. OKC is No. 2 in the league in blocks per game and is No. 12 in steals per game.

Perhaps an even greater strength in Durant's game this season is his passing ability. He has never been known for his passing, but that is starting to change this season. His 4.4 assists per game are the most of his young career. He is second on the team in assists after Russell Westbrook.

After posting a career-high 3.5 assists average last season, Durant has already dished out more assists this season (199) than his entire rookie season, where he collected a total of 192. With the departure of James Harden, the 6'9" sharpshooter has stepped up his passing game.

Watching Kevin Durant stroke a three-pointer is something special to see. His scoring ability rare among basketball players. This season, Durant is racking up nearly 30 points per game, but more importantly he is shooting the ball more efficiently.

His field-goal, free-throw and three-point percentages are all higher this season than his career averages. If the season ended today, Durant's 51.7-percent field-goal percentage would be a career-high. What is astonishing is the fact that Durant is actually taking slightly less shots, while shooting better. He is putting up 18.5 shots per game, the lowest amount since he took just 17.1 a game as a rookie.

He is also getting to the free-throw line more often this season, attempting 9.4 foul shots a game. Durant is making the most of his trips to the line, converting a career-high 91 percent of his foul shots. This is a major reason why Oklahoma City tops the league with a team free-throw percentage of nearly 84 percent.

Durant is also shooting from three-point range very efficiently. He is making nearly 42 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. Again, Durant has been slightly lowering the number of three-point attempts this season than in the previous two seasons. Two seasons, ago Durant hoisted 5.3 three-point shots per game, and then 5.2 last season. In 2013, Durant is hitting from outside with strength while attempting 4.7 a game.

KD is the biggest reason why the Thunder are in the top three in three of the major offensive categories this season. Not surprisingly, OKC is the highest-scoring team in the NBA, putting up an average of 105.7 points each game.

They are also No. 3 in team field-goal percentage at 48 percent on the season. Oklahoma City is No. 2 in three-point percentage in the league as well, hitting over 38 percent. Durant's improved shooting has the Thunder as the top-scoring offensive squad in the NBA and one of the most accurate in shooting.

Kevin Durant brings so much to the table for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Last season he won his third straight NBA scoring title and is on pace to possibly do so again this season. Durant is only 24 years of age, and perhaps his best days are still ahead of him.

This season, Durant is taking his amazing game to another level after winning the gold medal with team USA in the Olympics. Durant gives Oklahoma City a strong chance to win an NBA title.