Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat

Durant to spend more time at point guard, power forward

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At the age of 21, Kevin Durant is already one of the best small forwards in basketball and arguably the best pure scorer in the NBA. However, that’s not enough for Durant or his coaches, who are working hard to add new wrinkles to Durant’s already-superb game.

According to Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman, the Thunder have been using the 6′ 9 Durant, who has a 7′ 4 wingspan, at a variety of different positions throughout the preseason:

Kevin Durant is now being deployed at different positions.

In the final weeks before his fourth regular season begins, Durant is working to become more dangerous by developing his skills at multiple spots on the floor. It’s a progression that could soon make the Thunder’s offense a terror and its defense more dynamic.Against Miami on Friday, Durant played all five positions. He started at his customary small forward spot, ran point guard late in the first quarter and slid to power forward midway through the second quarter.

“Kevin’s game is evolving,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He, like a lot of our guys, is not a finished product. He’s going to keep getting better. And there’s ways that I’m going to challenge him to get better… He has the ability to do a lot of things for us and do them well.”

Durant certainly has the size and rebounding acumen to play the 4 in this league. With “stretch fours” becoming more and more common and fewer teams using two post-up threats on the court at the same time, the chances of Durant getting exploited on the low block when he plays the four are fairly slim. After all, Durant isn’t all that much smaller than Jeff Green, the Thunder’s current starter at the four.

According to 82games.com, Durant played 6% of his minutes at power forward last season. During that limited time, Durant averaged 41.0 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per 48 minutes, and had a PER of 36.4 when he played at the power forward position. The sample size is far too small to be significant, but those are some promising numbers. Durant probably won’t play more than 10-15 minutes a game at power forward because of how much energy he would have to expend on the defensive end, but the Thunder will cause matchup nightmares when they set up on offense and Durant is on the low blocks or mid-post.

The Durant at point guard experiment is somewhat more unexpected, as Durant ranked 65th out of 67 qualified small forwards in “pure point” rating last season. For all Durant’s strengths as a player, he hasn’t been the best playmaker over the course of his career, and most players don’t significantly improve their playmaking skills over the course of their careers. Then again, most players aren’t Kevin Durant. We’ll see how this experiment plays out.

After two years off court, Joel Embiid says he “probably” will have minutes restrictions

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers takes a shot from the bench prior to the game against the Utah Jazz on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Joel Embiid could be the best player on the Philadelphia 76ers in a couple of years — many scouts had him the highest rated of all the first-round draft picks the Sixers have had in recent seasons.

But after two foot surgeries and two seasons sitting on the sidelines, we don’t know how good Embiid can be. We should find out starting in October when Embiid is part of the Sixers training camp. Embiid says he feels 100 percent, but he expects there will be restrictions on him at first, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com during the Sixers Beach Bash community event this weekend.

This is the smart move by the Sixers — they are not competing for a title, the games in November have minimal meaning long term, bring him along slowly and make sure he can make each step along the way. Let’s see what he can do, then worry about how much run he can get in games that matter.

It’s going to be interesting to watch how Embiid, Ben Simmons, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor all fit together up front — and which one of them gets traded this season.

Celtics’ Avery Bradley on defense: “Kyrie Irving, none of those guys scare me”

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 09:  Avery Bradley #0 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after scoring against the Memphis Grizzlies  during the first quarter at TD Garden on March 9, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.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 Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Avery Bradley was first-team NBA All-Defensive team last season, and his coach Brad Stevens lobbied for him to get the honor. Bradley picks up guys full court, pesters, and plays physical — we can debate if he is as good defensively as his reputation, but guys like Damian Lillard think he’s tough to go up against.

Bradley, for his part, says he has no fear going up against the best. Here is what he said to Tom Westerholm of Masslive.com.

“I love the challenge,” Bradley said on Friday, making an appearance at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “I love going up against the best players. I don’t care who it is. I don’t care about getting embarrassed. I don’t care. Kyrie Irving, none of those guys scare me. I know some players in the NBA probably get butterflies before the game, but not me. I’m licking my lips. I come excited. They need to prepare for me at the end of the day. That’s how I think.”

That’s exactly the attitude you want an elite defender to have.

Bradley injured his hamstring in the first game of the playoffs last April and sat the rest of the Celtics’ one series. Then this summer his name came up in potential Jimmy Butler trade rumors (that deal never actually came close to getting off the ground). Expect Bradley to put that all behind him by the time training camp opens.

Watch highlights of LeBron James’ playoffs, Finals run

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LeBron James was dominant — the clear best player on the planet — when the Cleveland Cavaliers needed him most. That’s the reason Cleveland got its first major sports title in 52 years.

It’s the dead part of the NBA season — training camps don’t even open for a month — so why not enjoy a look back at LeBron’s amazing run to a legacy-defining NBA ring. Like you don’t have 15 minutes for this. What are you going to do, watch more preseason football?

It’s Joel Embiid’s turn to swat a little kid’s shot (VIDEO)

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 03: Joel Embiid #11 of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2014 NBA rookie photo shoot at MSG Training Center on August 3, 2014 in Tarrytown, New York. 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 Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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It’s a summer tradition — tall NBA players swatting away the shots of young kids at camps/clinics.

Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has yet to step on an NBA court — this fall, finally? — but he is part of the youth tradition now, destroying this young man at the Sixers Beach Bash event Saturday.

This summer Embiid has arm wrestled Justin Bieber and looked good working out in an empty gym, and to add to that list here is Embiid overpowering an average guy at Beach Bash then throwing it down. The man at least provided a little more resistance than a chair.