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Might Thunder look to reduce Kevin Durant’s minutes next season?

Aug 10, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Orlando Magic Getty Images

No player played more total minutes last season than Kevin Durant, 3,122 in the regular season, averaging 38.5 a night for 81 games. Then you can tack on another 815 minutes in 19 playoff games (almost 43 minutes a game).

Now Durant has pulled out of Team USA citing physical and mental exhaustion.

While you can count me in the group that thinks there is more at play than just that here, certainly the Thunder are asking a lot of their superstar. Maybe it’s time to back off the minutes for KD.

Darnell Mayberry at the Oklahoman makes that suggestion it is time to ease up on the MVP.

With 20,717 total (regular season minutes in seven seasons), Durant ranks 17th in minutes played among players in their first seven seasons. He’s logged the eighth most among seven-year veterans who made their debut after 1980. The seven ahead of him are James, Larry Bird, David Robinson, Karl Malone, Michael Finley, Andre Iguodala and Antoine Walker….

“As we go forward there’s no question that’s something we want to look at and understand,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said about Durant’s minutes at the end of the season. “Not only for the long term, but to also make sure we are getting the most out of the minutes that are played during one particular game or another…I can’t tell you what comes of it.”

The Thunder have one key reason they should be able to keep Durant’s minutes down next season — a healthy Russell Westbrook. He has missed almost half the season last year due to knee surgeries and that put added strain on Durant, this season Westbrook should be around the full season.

The Thunder again will be hesitant to sacrifice regular season wins in the middle of a tough Western conference, but it could come to that at times. The top coaches like Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers do it at points, and Scott Brooks is going to have to consider it.

Or, better yet, they could get quality depth and Brooks could trust it. What the best teams also do is get wins without just riding their stars every night.

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