Sonics' Kevin Durant was a winner today in voting for NBA rookie of the year. He is the first Sonics player to win the award.
In the end, the rookie of the year debate wasn’t much of a debate at all.
Buoyed by gaudy scoring statistics, Kevin Durant overcame his team’s dismal record and a pedestrian class of first-year players to become the first Sonics player to win the award.
The 19-year-old shooting guard collected the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy this morning at a news conference at T-Mobile’s headquarters in Bellevue.
Durant, who was a college star as a freshman at Texas, was the second overall selection in the 2007. He received 90 of 125 possible first-place votes from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Atlanta forward Al Horford finished second and Houston forward Luis Scola was third.
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Even though Durant was the only player this season to win five of the six Western Conference rookie of the month honors, there had been doubts he’d collect the rookie of the year award because Horford and Scola were solid contributors for playoff teams.
The knock against Durant was the Sonics’ 20-62 record. Seattle suffered an 11-game decline from the previous season and had the worst record in the 41-year history of the franchise.
Portland’s Brandon Roy and New Orleans’ Chris Paul, both near-unanimous ROY selections the past two years, helped improve their team’s record as rookies. The Trail Blazers were 11 games better with Roy and the Hornets won 18 more games with Paul.
Durant didn’t prevent the Sonics from falling to unprecedented lows but his development as a torrential scorer and his late-game heroics were among the few bright spots in a disappointing season.
Twice he drained game-winning three-pointers in the final minute, including a buzzer beater at Atlanta. He canned three treys in the final seconds to force overtime and scored at least 30 points seven times, including a career high 42 in the regular-season finale at Golden State.
Without Portland center Greg Oden, the top pick in last year’s draft who suffered season-ending knee surgery, the ROY race became a chase to catch Durant.
Horford averaged 10.1 points and 9.7 rebounds and Scola averaged 10.3 and 6.4 but they weren’t as spectacular as Durant, who led all rookies in scoring with 20.3 points per game.
Durant’s average of 20.3 points per game is the highest for a rookie since Carmelo Anthony (21.0) and LeBron James (20.9) in the 2003-04 season. Just three of the past 10 ROY winners (Durant, James and Elton Brand) have averaged at least 20 points and only three teenagers (Durant, James and Anthony) have averaged at least 20 points.
In 80 games, Durant was also first among rookies in assists (192), free-throw percentage (87.3) and free throws attempted (448) and made (391). He was second in steals (78) and third in field-goal percentage (43.0), blocks per game (.84) and three-point field goals (59).
For wining the award, Durant will receive roughly $250,000 in bonuses through contracts with endorsers.
Durant is the first Sonics player to win a postseason individual award since Ray Allen received the Sportsmanship trophy in 2003.
Sonics postseason award winners
Year – Winner – Award
2002-03 Ray Allen – Sportsmanship
1998-99 Hersey Hawkins – Sportsmanship
1995-96 Gary Payton – Defensive player of the year
1993-94 Bob Whitsitt – Executive of the year
1986-87 Dale Ellis – Most improved player
1982-83 Zollie Volchok – Executive of the year
1975-76 Slick Watts – Citizenship