Instead of being No. 2 again in #NBArank, Durant is now No. 8.
Real life? Too real.
When it comes to title chances, MVP races and #NBArank, injuries hurt. That's what KD and his fans are finding out for the first time in his career after his Oct. 16 surgery for a Jones fracture in his right foot. Instead of shooting jumpers, he's shooting selfies.
Injuries involving casts often recast careers. If we go back just a couple of years, we can see how another reigning MVP -- Derrick Rose -- found his career profoundly sidetracked by misfortune.
Durant's rating then and now
In September, we asked our ESPN Forecast to predict this season's performance for each player, including "both the quality and the quantity of his expected contributions."
According to our forecast, Durant rated as almost a perfect 10. His rating of 9.94 was set to be the best ever for a second-place finisher.
Now? Durant is down to 8.84, putting him behind not just LeBron James but a handful of other, healthier superstars.
By the time the season ends, maybe Durant will reclaim his spot in the top two of the NBA's pecking order. But if we're predicting what his overall impact will be this season, top two is no longer a good bet.
ESPN Forecast panel's new perspective
Here are a few members of our panel on why they rated Durant as they did after his surgery:
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com (rated Durant 9 of 10): "Before this foot injury, Durant rivaled LeBron as the only player in the league who probably deserved a perfect rating without much debate. But expectations must be adjusted, albeit slightly, because Durant will need time to literally regain his dominant footing. Michael Jordan missed 64 games his second season to a broken foot. He got back to being MJ quickly, but it wasn't overnight. Expect Durant to follow a similar course."
Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight.com (rated Durant 6 of 10): "Durant rated as 9 for me before his injury (LeBron James was the only 10 I gave out), and that was under the assumption he'd play something like 80 games and 3,000 minutes. Now, ESPN's fantasy projections call for him to play only 50 games and about 1,900 minutes. In terms of "Real Plus-Minus Wins Above Replacement," that means he'll generate only about 60 percent of the value he would have had he played the full season. If the replacement level for #NBArank is a rating somewhere between 2 and 3, and Durant is losing 40 percent of his value above that level, it drops him to 6."
Zach Bradshaw, ESPN analytics specialist (rated Durant 10 of 10): "Although the quantity of Kevin Durant's expected contribution this season has decreased, the quality of his contribution is still the best of any player in the NBA. It is scary to think that Durant is just entering his prime and the quality of his contribution should continue to increase. Despite Durant's injury, the quality of his contribution is so significant that I did not lower his rating."
Sunny Saini, ESPN Stats & Info (rated Durant 8 of 10): "I gave Durant an 8 because of the potential of missing more than 6 to 8 weeks. Plus, he'll need to get in game shape and his minutes will be monitored for most of the season and rightfully so. OKC is better off developing Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb while KD slowly finds his rhythm. He looked exhausted during the playoffs last season, so having a healthy, rested and more dangerous KD should be the plan."
So, it's not a news flash to say that injuries matter. But the KD situation could be revealing about just how an injury can shape a season, a career, a reputation, a legacy.
Let's hope KD's foot surgery is a blip on the radar, and that this looks more like Jordan's injury in 1985 than Rose's in 2012. We don't need another MVP whose trajectory is limited by what his legs will give him. And after seeing the Thunder knock on the door for years, OKC fans don't need Durant to move one season closer to free agency without an NBA title.